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DAYS 10&11 Death Valley 1 and Death Valley 2




In 2011 I was invited to be the Artist in Residence at the Goldwell Museum in Death Valley National Park, USA. For one month I lived and worked in a very remote part of the park and was able to go out and explore by foot and by car. The extreme environment of Death Valley (it is one of the hottest places on earth in the summer but is surrounded by towering peaks frosted with winter snow) makes it one of the most exciting places I have ever worked. My studio barn opened onto a 180 degree view of the desert from where I could sit and make work protected from the sun (although, as it turned out, not from the snakes – on my very first day I found one of the rarest and most deadly snakes curled up on my doorstep).


I went out daily with a travel easel/paints to explore and work deeper in the landscape. The lack of time restraints meant I could work very early or very late in the day and avoid the worst of the sun. It also meant I could catch the landscape in all conditions. These paintings depict different times of day but the most striking feature was the clarity of light and the brevity of light effects. The first shows the harmonious morning shades of blue and the second, the end-of-day fiery colours of the setting sun. They are both closely based on a real scene - views simply of how things seem – and combine precise observation with a paring down of subsidiary information. The horizontal bands and sense of repeating elements gave the impression the landscape might be limitless and offered infinite layers of tone and colour and a clarity whereby each element of the land seemed to have equal importance.


The second painting was purchased by the US Government Art Collection and now hangs in the US Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.


Below are some pictures of my studio:





And some of the sketch-works I did on site:







Some photographs showing the range of terrain in Death Valley:
















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Polly Townsend

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