oil sketches from the Yukon

Firstly, I would like to apologize for my over confidence. I tallied it up in my head yesterday on our dog walk in the rain to get wine: I've been painting with watercolors for 20 years, and painting with acrylic/ selling paintings for 16 years now. Actually, I've been selling paintings for 20 years if you count my first painting sold which was a watercolor to my grade 10 art teacher, Mr. McIntyre. It was a painting of birch trees in the winter with a pink sky. I sold it to him for $40. Last time I spoke with him (about 8 years ago) it was still hanging in his living room. Anyway, I'm getting away from my apology. I was apologizing for my over confidence.

I felt like I forgot how to paint. I really did. I've drawn outside, and painted in watercolor. I draw on location a fair bit, not a ton, but enough to be able to execute a quick drawing with speed and confidence and be able to fill in the rest later, if I need too. I broke out the oils for the first time on the kitchen table of our lovely host's house in Whitehorse. I did all my usual things, pick a view, sketch it out, decide on the colors. Then I put the paint on the palette, put on my gloves and got the brush in there.

Uh oh.

This feels.....weird.

Mix the color I want, apply paint to area of painting.

Alright, this is Ok. Yup, this is fine. This area is blocked in now. Next color. Ok, this is a bit too dark, let's lighten it up a bit right on the panel.

Wait, what? Mixing on a canvas is not something I'm used to. In acrylic, the paint is generally dry before you finish applying it. Well, maybe not that fast, but I'm not used to 'live' mixing or blending. It was kind of neat. It was daunting. The paint was thick and smooth a buttery and very, very, very, very, wet. I was not used to painting with this paint, and I was so focused on that, I forgot how to paint for an entire sketch. I'm not kidding. I got scared. I finished up, put the kit away, and the sketch and didn't do anymore oil painting until 3 days later when we were camped in West Dawson.

 camping by the Yukon River, West Dawson, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

camping by the Yukon River, West Dawson, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

I ignored the first sketch because I thought it was terrible. I was determined to paint over it, so I grabbed a fresh panel and painted this between intermittent visits to the camp fire. It was a chilly first day and night in Dawson. There wasn't much painting or drawing happening because I was huddled by the fire, reading and trying to convince myself that adventuring that day was fun.

Thank goodness I brought my flask. The whiskey helped keep my warm and stay motivated to finish this sketch.

After a few days in Dawson, we drove 'the loop' as the locals call it. That loop is from West Dawson, on the Top-Of-The-World highway through to Chicken Alaska (I shit you not, it's a seasonal gold mining town called Chicken.) and then back into Canada a few hours later. The whole loop is from Whitehorse, to Dawson, through Alaska and then back to Whitehorse. It's gorgeous and the road to Chicken was nice for about 7 miles past the US border crossing, and then it turned to narrow switchback, soft-shouldered, washboard and pothole hell until we hit Chicken (not a chicken) and then it turned to pavement. My only complaint on these roads is that there were no good pull-outs for stopping to draw or paint. The weather was lovely on this day! But alas, the few pull-outs there were had their epic views obstructed by tall trees. Dammit. There was no more painting until we got back into Canada (the next day) and found a huge turnout right by Kluane Lake. So we stopped, Jay grabbed his fishing gear and I grabbed my paint box.

 Kluane Lake, YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

Kluane Lake, YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

Jay caught a nice little lake trout and I made a sketch I was pretty happy with. The nights were getting pretty chilly, so we decided to finish the loop, head back to Whitehorse and use the cozy guest cabin that was open to us, as our warm base for day trips. So, back to Whitehorse and back to the first sketch which I still hated. So I fixed it.

 the view from your kitchen table, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

the view from your kitchen table, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

I gave this one to our lovely hosts, Randy & Lisa. It took 3 days to dry! The paint was not that thick but to be fair, it did live in the sketch box in the car at nearly freezing temperatures. Jay wanted to do more fishing, so we headed to the Hidden Lakes. We set up and while Jay unfortunately lost a few hooks to the reeds near the shore, I painted another sketch I liked. This sketch has quite an interesting texture to it, because shortly after I opened my kit, got on my gloves and put paint on my palette, Coltrane in her youthful exuberance ran joyfully from the lake to where I was sitting (all of 7 feet) to show me the lovely stick she had retrieved from the lake after a short swim, and then shook herself off right in front of me, and then leaped over me and my kit because Luke was giving chase because he wanted that damn stick too. But the paint was still paintable!

 one of the Hidden Lakes, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

one of the Hidden Lakes, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

Then we went back to the cabin, and while the puppies wrestled out the rest of their crazies with another dog on the lawn, I painted the long shadows on the grass backed by the tall, slender pines that surrounded all the houses in the area.

 long shadows, tall pines, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

long shadows, tall pines, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

Two sketches in one day. My confidence was coming back!

Randy told me of a lovely walk around the ridge and how to get to the path, so one morning after I let the dogs out, we checked out this path, and fortuitously some of the residents put out benches and other random seating along the part of the ridge with the best view of the bend in the Yukon River. I found another spot to paint, so I came back later, with no dogs and my kit. I found a spot with a good view of the mountain we hiked during our stay before we headed to Dawson.

 Grey Mountain, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

Grey Mountain, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

Of course, when I went to paint, the weather had turned and I got rained out, so I had to fill in the rest of the sketch from memory back at the cabin. While I was blocking in the color for this sketch, a curious and very friendly Whiskey Jack alighted on the top of my kit. I let out a surprised yelp and he flew away as quickly as he landed. That never happens in the studio!

Lastly, more pine trees. I love pine trees. Jay was like 'really? More pine trees?' Yup. I paint what I want and I wanted to paint more pine trees. So I did.

 in the pines, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

in the pines, Whitehorse YT, oil on masonite, 9x12, 2015

That, and I still had paint on my palette from my Grey Mountain sketch that I didn't want to waste.

So, that's it. Those are my oil sketches from the Yukon. Making time to make art while on a road trip that involves fall camping and putting 6,300+ kilometers on the vehicle with all the driving and exploration we did, not to mention the weather getting quite cool quite quickly and the last few days being too blustery to paint outside, I didn't get to paint as much as I had hoped. But, that is the nature of the thing. I'm looking forward to painting more with oils and will be making opportunities to paint Edmonton in the autumn because it's super lovely.

If you are interested in purchasing one of these sketches, please email me: justlittleart@gmail.com (This is not a link, sorry, but you can copy + paste!)

They are $150 + tax. They are unframed. Shipping is included because these are the first oil sketches and why the hell not?