I hiked with my painting gear about five miles into a corner of the remote California desert to paint the sketch for this piece at night. Animal and plant life are extremely scarce in this particular desert, yet out in the middle of nowhere, a small bunch of California native fan palms, Washingtonia filifera, grows from a hill of dried mud. Palms have shallow root systems and require a good amount of water to survive, so if you find one, you’ll know water is close to the surface.
I use a few small LED lights to paint at night. Nighttime is often thought of as colorless, just dark and black, but in this painting, I used a full palette that includes some strong colors: cadmium red, orange, and yellow, pthalo green and blue, cobalt blue, quinacridone rose – the same full palette used to paint the sunset piece below. It’s hard to get a good photo that shows the color in the nocturne, so I hope you’ll check it out February 10 - March 25 at The Autry.
The poem below was written to accompany the main piece in the show by the same title. This will be my first year participating in the Masters of the American West. I'm thrilled to have been invited to participate, and will be exhibiting the four pieces shown here.
A MOON OF UNUSUAL BRIGHTNESS
by Eric Merrell
In a twilight of yellows and sunset greens
Coursing above, azure wildly careens,
Then subsides into blue; indigo slows, rearranged.
The sharp distance dries, while carmine has aged
Into gray-sifted twilight, condensing half-night;
The desert remains in this watchful half-light.
Dusk dims the hills, dimensionality subsides
Where the bright and declining horizon resides.
Fringed palmate fingers, unfolded and cut
Like a hand of construction paper, abut
Two boundaries, two patterns, of shadow and light
Formed simply, purely, of day fitting night.
A vague muddled smudge, an indistinct glance
Barely detected across murky expanse.
Assuredness step-stumbles in dusky maze;
Familiarity departs, undiscerned in the haze.
Unknowns emerge, the known then takes pause.
Vast diffuse mud hills blur through the gauze.
Staring, shadowy masses ahead disappear,
Then re-form on the margins faded and near.
Nothing seems to exist here, on a small hill
Within a silent land, night-shrouded and still.
Nearby, a small dark cluster is in dimness enfolded,
Bunched together, living, but from quiet molded.
On this side of midnight, in the desert by a seep
Clarity rustles close from a neighboring heap.
Adjusting my stance, from which issues a sound—
Something does exist here on that near mound.
The sand underfoot, compressed and crushed,
Becomes formless night, while entirety lies hushed.