21 x 16 in | 53.3 x 40.6 cm
After a long day hiking in the mountains my wife, Joyce, and I were talking about dinner and sleep. We hoped to be out of the narrow, winding mountain roads before dark. Although the colors of the setting sun were beautiful, we were worried that, if we stopped to take photos, we would be driving in the dark. “Let’s not stop” I said, just as we passed a section of tall pines mixed with spruces through which the sun was shining, imparting a blaze of colors to the clouds, from violet, through orange to yellow. Then I changed my mind. Maybe just one photograph, I thought. We pulled over to the side of the road and I ran out with my camera.
In the first few pictures I took the tops of the branches were slate blue, perhaps from the remnant of daylight overhead. A few minutes later, as the sun sank lower in the horizon, the bark and leaves of the trees were tinged with orange light. In the space of
five minutes the trees were completely silhouetted and the sky was a deep orange. I printed photographs from various stages and spread them out in front of me. I decided to make a collage, borrowing images from each of the stages of the setting sun—the slate grey of branches when I first started, the streaks of orange light on the tree trunks and leaves after a few minutes, and the yellow, orange and purple sky at the final stage. This collage seemed to capture accurately the minutes that I spent looking at the sunset. A single picture would capture only one stage. After all, my brain experiences such a short experience as a whole.
Failing light muted the green colors of the pine and spruce trees. I had to mix a lot of Burnt Umber into Chromium Oxide Green to achieve the appropriate level of desaturation. The result looked almost grey on my otherwise bright palette, but on the panel it looked right. The sun needed to be the brightest part of the painting.
Some trees, like American Basswood and Black Spruce, have such unique forms that I can usually identify them from their silhouettes. These were not so easy. I would say Western White Pine (Pinus monticola) and Engelmann Spruce (Picea engelmannii), but that’s a guess.