Bryce Canyon, sunset. “When we enter the landscape to learn something, we are obligated to pay attention rather than constantly to pose questions. To approach the land as we would a person, by opening an intelligent conversation. And to stay in one place, to make of that one, long observation a fully dilated experience. We will always be rewarded if we give the land credit for more than we imagine, and if we imagine it as being more complex even than language. In these ways we begin to find a home, to sense how to fit a place.” – Barry Lopez, as quoted in Molly Hashimoto’s marvelous Colors of the West: An Artist’s Guide to Nature’s Palette
I found Molly Hashimoto’s luscious book in one of the national park bookstores I browsed on our road trip across the country. It was a great companion as we toured the Southwest, even though I did no painting or sketching – just hiking and exploring.
Molly teaches at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, the North Cascades Institute, and Yellowstone Forever Institute.
Molly devotes a chapter to each color: green, blue, gold, red, orange, and violet.
Molly Hashimoto had an epiphany that led to her artistic vision after encountering the work of Thomas Moran:
“This rendezvous with Moran compelled me to reconsider what it meant to be an artist – how to work, where ideas are generated, the purpose of art. I felt that I, too, had to create work in the field, to keep sketchbooks and journals to record my own experiences in the outdoors. Of course, I had a few doubts. After all, this awakening occurred in what I then felt was middle age, and I wondered if it wasn’t just a little late to be undertaking this new project. But enthusiasm won the day. And now I always tell my students it is never too late to start keeping sketchbooks.”
Each national park, and every natural place, has a palette, says Molly Hashimoto. This is Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park. This watercolor painting appears in Molly’s “blue” chapter. “The deeper blue becomes, the more urgently it summons man towards the infinite…” – Wassily Kandinsky
I love Molly’s instructions for palettes of different landscapes:
Clear: Use a very weak phthalo blue red shade. The zenith may be a redder, more intense blue, so try adding carbazole violet or cobalt blue to that part of the sky.
Dawn and sunset: Permanent alizarin crimson, hansa yellow, pyrrol orange, perylene red, carbazole violet, phthalo blue red shade, indanthrone blue and quinacridone burnt orange are all colors that may capture the varied shades seen at these hours.
Sea Stacks and Rocks:
Dark rocks seen in silhouette: Use phthalo blue red shade mixed with quinacridone burnt orange and carbazole violet. Or try ultramarine blue plus quinacridone burnt orange plus carbazole violet.
This is Sedona, Arizona and the view just down the street from the home of family members we visited on our cross country road trip. What a stunning palette of colors…..
Molly includes color instructions for trees and forests, rivers, creeks, tarns, and lakes, glaciers and snowfields, cliffs and rocks, summer coastal prairies and meadows, sand, ocean water, and autumn hues.
Red Rock Ranger District, Coconino National Forest, Sedona.
Grand Canyon South Rim, late afternoon. It has many moods and an infinite number of palettes depending on the time of day, the season, the weather, and a host of other variables.
Another view of the Grand Canyon, a different time of day. “Traveling and sketching in the off-season—when children and college students have returned to school and many people are back at work—feels so much more like the earlier artists’ and travelers’ experience of our national parks and monuments. The sense of discovery is keener when there are fewer people. And the visual thrill of brilliant fall colors is augmented by all our senses: the silence, the fragrance of dry leaves, the feeling of the chill morning air. Beyond that, we know that the shorter days mean that winter is coming, so we value these hours even more.” – Molly Hashimoto. (I agree. My husband and I explored these parks and places in November, which turned out to be gloriously warm with many sun-filled days. And not many people.)
Bryce Canyon. “Ochres and siennas are colors made from earth compounds tinted with iron oxides and are found in some of the earliest art….” Molly Hashimoto
We met an artist and her husband. She was painting with oils.
Life on the edge. This is a limber pine (pinus flexilis)
The huge fireplace in El Tovar Lodge at the Grand Canyon. In the afternoon, after we’d hiked part of the South Rim, it got chilly and I appreciated this roaring fire. I sat on one of the comfy sofas and read a book.
Do you have a favorite national park? Do you keep a nature journal or sketchbook, or do you paint what you encounter in nature?