Painting the Bluff

I painted this painting during the Go Paint Chippewa Valley event and I painted it over the course of 2 afternoons, September 27 and September 29, 2022, in Altoona, WI. I painted with my mother on the south bank of the Eau Claire River looking at the north bank which is a rocky bluff composed of what I believe to be sandstone. In the afternoon sun, the side of the rocks facing the sun were a sandy yellow color while portions of the same rock not in the sun were a blueish grey. The bluff is very tall — taller than the trees growing on top. Since it is hard for the sunshine to reach the lower portions of the bluff, those rocks only receive the strong sun for about 2 hours in the afternoon. By 3 PM, they were already in the shade, so my window of time for painting each afternoon was short. Here is the painting at the end of the first afternoon. I have blocked out the portions of the canvas that are sky, forest, solid rock and water. There is an intermediate portion of the bluff with vines and small trees that I didn’t have time to address. One of my goals was to establish where the sun-lit golden rocks were before the sun moved.

Unfinished River Bluff Painting

Here is the finished painting. I painted this during two afternoons. At the beginning of each painting session the sun was nearly straight above me and most of the bluff was fully lit. As the afternoon wore on, the sunlight did not reach into the river gorge as far, and each afternoon around 4 PM the bluff was fully in shadow. As the light change happens, the rocks undergo a sharp transition in color. The rock hue changes from a sandy yellow hue to a dull grey one. I find rocks fascinating to study and paint. This painting has more rocks than any other work that I have done. The sun light from above also higlights the trees and vines nicely and creates vibrant reflections in the river.

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