Ghosts in the Rocks at Snow Canyon

Hello everyone,

Over the past few months, I have been working on an oil painting (36" x 24") of Snow Canyon. It's from a reference photo sent by a private collector. I'm told it was 99 degrees plus when she drove through the desert, stopping only for a short hike to take this picture.

It was exciting to have another commission. I began by prepping the canvas with orange, putting down a grid for perspective and sketching the Navajo Sandstone rocks towering over the sagebrush-covered valley. I studied the photo often to get a better sense of how time, erosion and wind sculpted deep crevices onto the surface of the sandstone. In some places, the dramatic etched patterns resembled the skin of an elephant.

I used heavy impressionistic brush strokes to create the interesting textures of the rocks. The sagebrush was layered in several sessions allowing time to dry before adding the deep purple shadows. Patterns in the desert sand feature a myriad of small animal tracks.

One day, about halfway through a painting session, I began seeing faces in the rocks. My imagination was in full mode. Perhaps the slumbering giant with his hand coming over the edge had been rudely awakened by the piercing scream of a Copper's Hawk. Perhaps the centurion of the rocks staring out into the brilliant blue sky was just waiting for winter and a deep blanket of snow. As I stepped back from the canvas, the studio light caught the reflection of a grumpy old man peering out from the deep shadows in the red rock. Then I saw the smiley face in the middle of the painting. The discovery made me laugh out loud as I took a closer look at the photo. 

Ok, it's almost Halloween. Time to let sleeping rocks lie in peace and quietly leave the room.

Painting "Ghosts in the Rocks" has been such an engaging experience. I will truly miss this painting when it leaves for its forever home.

Betty Moore
Photographer / Artist