when i moved to the vail area in the mid-80s my life changed a lot– suddenly i was earning a pretty good wage, and dealing with friends in a more wide-open way. i began to travel a lot– i’d jump into my car and go to denver (“down the hill” as we termed it, 100 plus miles each direction) for a movie or perhaps shopping, see friends etc. and on the weekends, when i wasn’t working in one of my studios or the other, i might drive someplace in the four corners area– utah, colorado, new mexico, nevada– to shoot photos and explore. mostly i drove subarus– i had several station wagons– and after the mid-90s i might use my celica– swift transport, but as always the idea was to bring myself to someplace interesting and different, and just maybe get an image or two that brought a smile or maybe an eye-opened “OH– HOLY COW”!!

i’d estimate this trip as being in the early 90s, think i was driving my 1989 subaru wagon, and exploring southern utah (a state i found to be appreciated more by non-residents than people of the state– not a blanket statement, but a perceived tendency).

late one morning i was looking for a suspension bridge– i can’t remember how i learned of it, other than it wasn’t on my map, so i think someone mentioned it to me, or i saw a sign along the road. it was down a rough trail and, to be honest, somewhat disappointing. yes, it was a suspension bridge over a river, but it wasn’t remarkable in the least, and thick foliage on both sides of the river made it appear and disappear without much fanfare or import. pretty much midday, with plenty of thin clouds, making the light bright but flat and a bit hard.

BUT!!– there WERE these most interesting bushes, with flowers that seemed to be suited more to an age presaging modern man– flowers that looked as if they belonged to a transylvanian landscape perhaps. the leaves were a dusty green with sharp aggressive corners, but it was the blossoms i found fascinating– they seemed to emanate a greenish radioactive “glow”– almost a phosphorescence that drew my total attention. i shot some B&Ws of them (why i didn’t also shoot them in colour is beyond me) and continued upon my way.

well, the photos were more or less disappointing– check them out above– but the memory of those blossoms and leaves lingered in my memory. finally i did a couple of pen and ink drawings of them, both of which sold. the first one i have only old slides of, and they have suffered over the years from colour shifting, but i was in contact with my friend john volponi who bought one of them, and he was kind enough to send me a photo of his datura piece

i’ve always wanted to do a painted version of this, and to try to bring to the image something of what i saw that morning so long ago

the first thing i did was to change the composition a little bit, cropping it somewhat, and putting the blossoms into the lower left quadrant of the piece– not sure why, but i felt it had a somewhat “georgia o’keefe” styling for some reason.

i decided to restrict my palette to mostly greens, violets, and whites and began to go over those leaves with varying tones of these three hues. the background got really dark before i began hauling in on the reins and bringing in the colours i wanted to sink deeper into the background.

and then i got back to work on the pods– the casings, whether fully furled or drawn back from the blossoms

and then it came time for my final return to work on the blossoms themselves, employing a technique more common to oil painting– layer after layer of thin colour, slowly building up an effect. i did one layer of thick pigment, almost troweling it on, and that brought out the greens again. finally i signed and dated it and painted the sides of the canvas, after which i did a little noodling around, little things i felt made the image “pop”. after that it was finished.

or was it? almost two weeks later i got a notion that there was something more i could yet do, and after waking up one morning after dreaming of just what to do– tones, brushstroking, pressure, you name it– i got up and did three more passes on the canvas and suddenly– there it was, the slight greenish glow i had remembered.

Comment Feed

9 Responses


  2. it pops !

  3. Beautiful …. now if I could just get a few shields off my wall ?

  4. Beautiful …. now if I could just get a few shields off my wall ?

  5. Louise BoakeDecember 20, 2020 @ 2:03 pm

    Beautiful, you really captured one of my favorite flowers.

  6. JEREMIAH TOWERDecember 24, 2020 @ 12:23 pm

    brilliant my friend!

  7. Cathy HluchyDecember 29, 2020 @ 4:17 pm

    I enjoyed reading about and seeing the evolution of this painting. The end result is lovely. Way to go, Rance.

  8. Gorgeous work & beautifully description of your journey creating this sensual image. Thanks for sharing the process with your story!

  9. Jeanette HartmanJanuary 6, 2021 @ 11:45 am

    Beautiful narrative; gorgeous results!

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