Creosote With Bullion Mountains and Squirrel Holes
2000. Pastel and charcoal on sandpaper. 8-3/4 x 6-3/4 in.
We finally took this small painting in for framing last week. It’s been sitting in a drawer, carefully wrapped in glassine, for 20 years. I’m very patient with these things; having created it is the primary source of satisfaction, and I don’t need to look at it all the time after that. And I knew I would never agree to sell it; it’s a key piece of my work, plus I dearly love it. My partner, who loves it also, is not as patient as I am, and she had found a frame that was suitable. She wants it on the wall.
I drew the original charcoal sketch out behind the house I was living in at the time, about half a mile from where I am now. It’s the view facing north, with a creosote bush, the distant Bullion Mountains on the Marine base, and some ground-squirrel dens amid the swells of sand and dried grasses.
I liked the swingy gestural feel of the large sketch, and some time later I reduced it with the scanner and transferred it to a piece of Ersta sandpaper. The pastel technique I was using at the time involved building up layers of color and value with scribbly line, which can give a lot of depth and complexity but also breathing space while still retaining the sparkle and intensity of the pigments. Recreating the charcoal line was a challenge, a kind of task I had plenty of opportunity to practice over many more years of drawing and painting in pastel.
This would have been around the time I acquired my studio, when I was working mainly with Rembrandt pastels. Soon after I would have bought my full set of Senneliers, which are much softer, and eventually began working the surface with my brush technique and left this scribbly style behind. But the fact is I miss it and often think I need to pick it up again. It has its own unique potential and satisfactions. Someday.