53. Autumn Cottonwoods

Ghost Ranch, the former home and retreat of the painter Georgia O’Keefe, rests high in the foothills of the Jimenez Mountains of norther New Mexico. On my visit to Ghost Ranch in October of 2019, I took a late afternoon hike through one of the canyons above the main ranch. It was a perfectly cloudless autumn afternoon. The stark sunlight lit up every tree in that canyon, especially the big cottonwoods of the valley floor. I took several photos from that hike – it seemed that every photo had been washed in a bright yellow tint. The cottonwood trees shimmered in bronze and gold, as if every leaf had been hammered out of metal.


In this piece, I paid attention to creating the various depths of field – sky, cliffs, trees, understory – and to render them in a way to lead the viewers eye forward & backward through the painting. I exaggerated the afternoon sky, bringing in the violet light of the high altitude New Mexico mountains. I wanted the sky to appear stark, as if we were looking directly into space (which I suppose we are.) For the leaves of the cottonwoods, I created several intermediate layers of color – base layers of tan, rose and bronze metallics that I overlaid with bright yellow and gold metallic. Because of the stark light, the photographs from which I worked showed a foreground of black shapes – junipers and sagebrush which had their own textures that I wanted the piece to capture.  I used a palette knife over the pastels to “carve” their textures into the paper.   


This piece is part of my #ArtForGood project, where all proceeds from art sales are donated to a suitable nonprofit. For this piece, I will donate funds to the Sierra Club Foundation, the fiscal sponsor of the Sierra Club’s charitable environmental programs.


  • Medium Sennelier oil pastels on Arches Oil Paper, 140lb.
  • Dimensions 8″ x 10″, mounted, double-matte (in colors, as shown), 11″ x 14″, unframed, cello-bagged
  • Donation US$150, shipping included
  • Status Available beginning March 30, 2020, enquiries please email contact@onehundredpaintings.art

~ by Delfino on 2020/02/07.

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