Tag Archives: watercolor

The Synthesis of Memory

Junipers, the Steens Mountains, Oregon – watercolor by Cheryl Renee Long
Cliff Swallows, Canyonland, Utah,- watercolor by Cheryl Renee Long

Many artists notice that their best work emerges long after a visit or an experience.  Two paintings above are a synthesis of my memories. I did not use a photo reference, preferring instead to see what colors, what shapes emerged just from remembering. I did not use just one scene, Junipers is a composite. The landscape shows a repeating pattern of dotted  sagebrush, always a good element for a composition. I have many Juniper stories.  I remember the Pariah Canyon country; a juniper loaded with opalescent pale blue berries fluoresced in the starlight. I see junipers as sacred trees and possibly sentient in some way.

Cliff Swallows continue to be a persistent image for many years. We call these long term pictures in our minds Source Imagery.  I seem to have a thing for repeating dot patterns. I have seen these nests in Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and Washington. I am not sure why they hold such appeal for me. Cliff Swallows are free and beautiful birds. Their flight pattern is fascinating and they build nests from  permanent materials, and high on the cliffs, far from predators. I resonate with that.

Lake and Mountain

This is an overview of my current art journal page. It's a landscape-oriented big watercolor Moleskine book.
This is an overview of my current art journal page. It’s a landscape-oriented big watercolor Moleskine book.
This is the right hand page of Lake and Mountains
This is the right hand page of Lake and Mountains
This is the left hand side of Lake and Mountains.
This is the left hand side of Lake and Mountains.

Lake and Mountains

I just finished reading the 1980 Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe by Laurie Lisle, which I highly recommend for anyone just wanting to wrap their head around the life and legend of this phenomenal artist.

I just returned from a pilgrimage to her two houses in New Mexico, one at Ghost Ranch where we stayed a few days to explore and photograph “O’Keeffe Country.” Then we visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. It was there that I bought the book as well as many prints, cards, and additional art books focusing on this artist.

My trip was so visually rich that I have been floundering, trying to figure out how to integrate all the visual and intellectual information I’ve taken in. One thing I did was buy a big landscape view watercolor Moleskine sketchbook and began art journaling.

I title all my journals, and this one is called “Working Into My Own,” with an O’Keeffe quote that is meaningful to me at this stage of my life:

“I was alone and singularly free, working into my own–no one to satisfy but myself.” —Georgia O’Keeffe Some Memories of Drawings

Now that I’ve finished the biography, I am looking deeply at her paintings. For this art journal page, I was studying the composition of her “Lake and Mountains” because I was fascinated by the egg shape. It took me a long time to figure out it was supposed to be a lake:

O'Keeffe Lake and Mountains
By trying to copy O’Keeffe’s composition and color scheme in “Lake and Mountains,” I was trying to learn from her about soft rounded shapes pushed up against sharper, jagged shapes.


O’Keeffe is the Queen of Simplicity, of smooth, pared-down abstractions and a flawless surface application of paint, all of which I admire but do not personally aspire to.

I added mysterious dark shapes into my landscape using torn tissue paper. I love the spontaneous, unexpected effects of torn paper and the full range of playful collage tools and techniques that typify the art journal aesthetic.

Have you been doing any art lately? Discovered ay new artists or fun techniques?

Core Landscapes: Glass Butte, Eastern Oregon

Glass Butte, Eastern Oregon, September 2014. This painting is pretty good size, 15 x 23 painted on 300# Arches watercolor paper. I painted it plein air this last September 2014. I set up my supplies in the shade of a large juniper tree and just gave in to the sheer joy of being in high desert. 

If it is true that we each have a core landscape that brings us alive, then for me the high desert is it. I love junipers, pinion pines, sage brush; I have an affinity for skeletal rocks devoid of growth. I look for shapes, darks, lights, color and texture. 

Glass Butte is essentially a mountain of black obsidian. Obsidian is glassy, sharp enough to puncture a car tire, and exquisitely beautiful with colors ranging from the darkest shiny black to reds and grays. This painting is for me because


it takes me back to a September afternoon of sunshine, serenity, no time.

–Cheryl Renee Long
For fine arts watercolors of nature and birds at affordable prices, go to cherylrlong.com 

What is YOUR Core Landscape?

In this blog post, Cheryl talks about the concept of a “core landscape.” What do you think about the idea of a core landscape–do you have an interior space or exterior place that always calls you to your most essential self?

What is it? Leave your insights and ideas in the comment box, and don’t forget to leave your e-mail in the box at the right if you want to keep track of the upcoming conversation on this fascinating topic.

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