Monday, March 3, 2008

wild turkeys abundant



Across the Valley
Pastel on Canson paper
10 x 10.5"

This was painted on a driveway in Glen Ellen a few years back for one of the weeklong plein air events. I had been painting for a few days, and driving back to the house, I kept noticing that the view on the opposite side of the valley made a striking light and shadow pattern in what appeared to be a steep canyon. I checked the time that I could see this arrangement and made plans to be ready to paint it on one of my remaining days as a guest on that property. A few days later, I got back early enough, and hiked up the drive to the spot and set to work. The zig zag shadow pattern was already prominent, and the foreground soon went into shadow, which I desired. The color range of the hillside kept getting warmer and warmer, completely departing from a sense of green, into a range of yellow and ruddy hues. The blue shadow in the canyon was a jagged slash. The whole image was more like a graphic travel poster in its simplicity. I settled in, working on the sunlit regions, as they were going to be swallowed up inevitably by the shadow that would be crawling up the mountain.

This post is titled 'wild turkeys abundant' for a good reason. They were. I had wandered about the property a few times before painting this, and had found more turkey feathers than I cared to pick up. After about 10 of them, the next 50 one can see within a few yards become less intriguing. But I had only found feathers, not turkeys. However, as I set to work on this piece, the turkeys, whose castoff clothes littered the grounds, appeared at the head of the driveway, up the hill to my left. Once they spotted me, they gathered in a flock a few hundred feet away and held a noisy debate. Their course of action determined, they slowly advanced down the drive towards me, the whole time scolding, and cooing away, before angling off the road behind me up into the oak forest, . They moved in halting, jerking steps, and were inclined to march single file, thereby creating a lengthy procession of bickering plumage in my peripheral vision. After awhile, I could hear their wings flapping behind me as they, one by one, flew into their roosting tree, and settled down for the evening. I was greatly entertained by this 'fowl drama' unfolding around me as I worked. Sit still in a forest, and you never know what critters will come around, minding their own business, to find you standing in their way. The last area of the painting I worked on was the foreground shadowed trees. Once I focussed on them, I could see temperature and value shifts in their canopies that I hadn't noticed before, as I tried to separate the mass of trees with those variables. It was that jagged slash across the valley that made me want to paint, but it is the turkeys marching off to bed that I will always remember this image by.

5 comments:

Kate said...

Hahaha! That's the best turkey story ever! And I love your light and shadow. :-)

PleinEric said...

Now that is some beautiful color work!

Bravo!

Eduardo Pacheco said...

That's really cool stuff, Bill.

I saw your pastels at the Gallery during the reception. Beautiful, loved the one with blue rocks in the valley.

Leighton Hickman said...

Gorgeous, I love the color in this one especially, it’s like a one two punch with the cool foreground and the blue on the hills. Sweet!

Anonymous said...

Bill, great work!