The third painting in my series Last Days of Summer – or places you want visit one more time. This is a view along the lower trail at Purgatory Chasm, a local state park situated on a geological fault line in Central Massachusetts. One trail forms a loop around the top, with views down into the chasm. Or, you can take the trail that descends into the chasm – not particularly accessible once ice and snow season begins. Enjoy.
Side trips to Purgatory Chasm are a prerequisite for many summer days – the rock walls are just so wonderful to paint. This view, from across the chasm, shows the beginnings of fall color. What’s not to love?
The Tao, the way – I think of these words as I climb. The view from the top is not the goal. The experience of walking the trail, listening to every sound around me, smelling the damp of shadowed stone – this is the purpose of the walk. I am another creature in this world.
At least I hope I am still on my way up. Hiking, like life, can be full unexpected moments – sometimes good, sometimes dreadful. But oh, the way is still where I want to be.
The tumble and erosion along this geologic fault exposes so many mysteries. I walked here once with a geologist, and the complications from ancient mountain building, compression, folding, and slipping, followed by ice age scraping, and rebound, leave traces and layering that are a marvel to see and paint. All manner of sparkles and exposed quartz in some areas. Nearby, a sheet of fine gray granite. Don’t even ask about the various lichens and mosses that pile up during damp weather. It is all fabulous. I start to look up what I’m seeing, then get side-tracked by the beauty and return to just plain painting. Oh joy!
New England’s ancient mountains and old fault lines yield wonderfully complex geology – and great places to learn some rock climbing. As kids, we scrambled around, embracing the rough stone and glorying in the feeling of strength and power that came with conquering each new outcrop. This spot was a favorite for beginners. Such unadulterated pleasure!
I started a group of Chasm studies on tinted paper in March, just before the covid virus stopped everything. It’s time to go back and finish them! Climbing Up was painted on a soft tan prepared paper, with the hope that some of the warmth would show through the transparent oil paint colors. Enjoy.
Some trails become a habit. Maybe it’s because they are close-by. I tend to think it’s because they always provide a boost to the spirit and something new to appreciate. I particularly enjoy learning and recording the changes that seasons bring, then incorporating these details into my paintings. Below, you’ll find a few photos showing the development of this piece. Enjoy.
On the first day of painting, I strive to block in the major values and textures. I use a roller to apply thinned oil paint, then manipulate it with mineral spirits and paper towels. I want the feel and gesture of the forms to be established.
The second day started with blocking in the sky and defining the trees. Compositionally, I liked the stalwart tree almost dead center as a focus and contrast to all the diagonals of the granite ledge and uplifted tree boughs. On the third day, I worked on the pattern of light on the granite, and refined the detail in the stone.
On the last day, I decided to bring more light and air into the trees, and lightened the distant ridge so it would recede.
More light and saturated color were added to the overhanging foliage, and reds and violets were glazed onto the ledge in the shadows.
I also glazed more warmth into the stone granite at the bottom of the painting. Finished!