This detail of a painting by Josh Elliott showcases what drew the Montana artist to this particular scene. What was his line of thinking?
“Inhospitable Beauty,” by Josh Elliott, 2013, oil, 24 x 40 in.
“The reflected light in that warm rock face in shadow is the whole reason I painted that piece,” says Elliott. “I had a lot of fun painting red shadows, since I come from Montana. This scene screams of the high-key nature of the desert.”
“River Glitter,” by Josh Elliott, 2013, oil, 32 x 40 in.
Elliott says he can see that the bounce light in the shadowed face on the right is from the sunlit ground in front of it, compared to the cooler and darker shadows on the rock face further along the rock. But he wasn’t intellectualizing it when he was painting it. “I just try to paint what I see, and sometimes I play it up a little bit,” says the artist. “I try not to question what I see too much.”
“Hillsong,” by Josh Elliott, 2013, oil, 15 x 30 in.
The piece was painted from plein air sketches, reference photos, and his memory of his trip to Monument Valley as part of the Maynard Dixon Country event last year, in Southern Utah. Elliott said he did indeed have to adjust to all the warm colors of the area, but he remembered a quote from Robert Lougheed that said anything darker than yellow ochre is a shadow value. Elliott’s explorations have found this to be true, and also that yellow ochre can be a relative cool — compared to an Indian red — and he used this type of thinking to achieve the warm shadows in a convincing manner. The artist reports that he is playing with this concept these days, with sap green sometimes providing a shadow color. “Actually, I’ve been thinking less about color and more about value and temperature,” says Elliott.
“In Between,” by Josh Elliott, 2013, oil, 24 x 30 in.
“Inhospitable Beauty” and more of Elliott’s paintings went on view at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, for its “Quest for the West Art Show and Sale” last week.