360° Charcoal Mountains all Around

I can’t stop looking at the Wasatch Front Mountains, especially when they are wrapped with storm clouds. I want to improve my Plein Air paintings and several of my favorite painters suggest making charcoal drawings first because charcoal is the medium most like oil paint. So I’ve challenged myself to draw the mountain ranges that encircle the Salt Lake Valley. I’m having a great time and I feel excited about this project. My goals are:

1. draw the big shapes first (before becoming distracted by the details)

2. find the correct values

3. draw outside where I can see the mountains

4. draw faster

5. draw frequently

Here are my first attempts:

Oquirrh’s North
Charcoal on paper
5″ x 18″

In this drawing I was trying to create a strong pathway through the mountain range. I was drawing as the sun set in the west and the clouds were dark. This surprised me.

Point of the Mountain
Charcoal on paper
5″ x 18″

I looked to the south and was surprised that I could see a mountain in Utah Valley way beyond South Mountain in Draper. South Mountain ends at what is known as “the point of the mountain” because it stretches out and we have to drive around this point to go South. This windy corridor between Salt Lake Valley on the North and Utah Valley to the South is known for its extreme weather conditions. On the right side of my drawing the mountain appeared to rise above the blue waters of Utah Lake so it must be out beyond the lake. As I drew “the point” became dark and the cloud above appeared closer to me than the mountain beneath it because the underbelly was a dark value. I made the mountain on the right light in value to show atmospheric perspective because it is in the distance.

While I was drawing these mountains something strange happened with the far distant mountain. After drawing for a long time I noticed that the mountain had changed its shape completely. It appeared to have more peaks. I hurriedly changed my drawing to accommodate. I looked up again and the peaks were gone. Just that fast. I’m going to call this my mystery mountain. Maybe those peaks were just fleeting clouds, or maybe I could see the even more distant mountain peaks for a few moments. Many mountains that I am not familiar with reside in Utah County.

Westside of Mt Olympus
Charcoal on paper
10″ x 18″

I headed out to draw about 7:30 am and drove around for a little bit until I found this view of Mt Olympus. I liked the pattern across the mountain. You can see that I made several attempts to draw the shape correctly. It took me until noon. I started that early because I thought it would be easier to begin before the light “filled in” the mountain with details. I ran into a snag, a fog came up about 9:00 and I couldn’t see the bottom part of the mountain. I did my best and then drove to another place where I could see where the mountain meets the land and there wasn’t any fog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s