This painting, which I’ve called “Low Flyers”, had been festering in my mind for some time before I was able to capture it on canvas. I knew it had to be imposing and I wanted it to take the viewer through a varied range of emotions. The canvas needed to be large to make an impact not only when viewed but I wanted it to be ‘heard’ too. So deafening yet so humbling that it almost falls silent, begging the question, if a young girl screams excitedly but no one can hear her, does she actually make a noise? I chose a 2ft by 3ft canvas and had to force myself to find enough time to put aside to create this piece. This decision was helped along by my family telling me that putting it on hold was starting to affect my commissioned work and I was also becoming impossible to live with! Incentive enough!
Canvas primed and eagerly grabbing my oils and brushes I was ready to capture the feeling of speed and raw overwhelming power.
So here it is. Just as the boys and the girl think they’ve reached the edge of a full adrenalin rush in their hot rods suddenly from nowhere comes the almighty sound and overpowering presence of a B17 Flying Fortress bomber accompanied by a P51 Mustang and a P47 Thunderbolt!
Beatty, Death Valley was still holding on to us, this time in the form of a man with a bucket of Coke, a straw and what seemed to be a comic wrapped car. The man was artist David Ohlerking and the car a Ford Crown Victoria, his mobile studio, the paintwork however is a forever evolving masterpiece, the creations of curious small children who have gathered over the years to watch David paint and have asked if they could have a go too, they get free rein on the car.
David has travelled the world extensively through his life. A professional musician and later an artist, he has happily scoured the streets of the US with his mobile studio parking up whenever the mood takes him. He recreates street scenes with oils on canvas that you just want to step into. Turns out Beatty and it’s people have stolen a piece of his heart too, on meeting him he was the new artist in residence at Goldwells Museum in Rhyolite a ghost town just outside Beatty, He was living in an RV behind the main building and was looking to move there on a more permanent basis.
One of the things that I loved about the USA was that if you take the time out to talk to a stranger they are very accommodating and always seem to have an interesting story to tell.
After buying my very own bucket of Coke we tried to say our goodbyes to David.
“You can’t leave yet, you need to go and check out Rhyolite and the museum” We learnt that Goldwells is an outdoor museum, the wonderfully bizarre collection is the work of a group of Belgian artists.
He suggested Ian could be their next resident artist, and we too could live in an RV behind the museum! He was insistent we head down there to check the place out and to speak to his friend about the residency. He gave us his contact and told us to stay in touch. What an inspirational guy and after checking out his website, life story etc he is somewhat of a celebrity. What an honour!
We headed out of Beatty but not on the 95 to Vegas, back into Death Valley to the Ghost Town that is Rhyolite and Goldwells Museum. 5 miles of mostly long, empty straight road. Today’s choice of CD was Santana and right now it was giving us some “Soul Sacrifice”.
“Our new address could be Ian Guy, RV, Ghost Town, Death Valley”
“Do you think he was serious?”
“He seemed genuine, nice guy I thought”
The sun was so hot and it’s rays so bright on the car that they were casting strong reflections. The sandy track to Rhyolite was difficult to see, it could almost have been part of a mirage, we took the turning right and drove blind through an almost heavenly spotlight, a suitable entrance to a spectacularly spooky showcase. We pulled up to park and switching off the engine and music was like turning off the soundtrack to the world .The silence that is Death Valley hit us again, that together with the far reaching views of the desert we both strangely shed a silent tear. We were alone, or at least we thought so.
“Is that a reinterpretation of the last supper over there?” I asked
“I think it is” Ian replied
We both swore.
The forms were life size and set on a wooden plinth, beautifully eerie against the back drop of the desert. Ghostly, in that each seemed to be a shroud cast around a human form.
Some way over to the right was a separate piece, he was alone, same shroud cast, he had a bike, but I think the bike had a problem, whatever his story he wasn’t happy. I’m no art critic so I will let the photos do the talking and you can make up your own minds
David’s friend had put a ‘Back soon‘ sign on the door of his cabin, so we put our business card in a belt loop of a pair of Daisy Duke shorts that had been nailed to a post, and we turned to leave.
“Blows your mind dun’t it!” a younger couple, obviously English and most certainly northern were stood some way behind us checking out a giant mosaic sofa. Turns out he was from the same town I grew up in. Once we had established our joint love of pie and gravy, paused for a while in a Northern Chip Shop stupor we moved onto stories of our separate road trips. The pie and gravy seed however had been planted and it affected all rational thinking over the next few days!
These guys had been in the U.S for a couple of months already and I can only explain their way of getting around and enjoying themselves as binge travelling in that they will hire/buy bikes (the pedal type) camp in the desert for a week or so or until they run out of resources then hire a top of the range vehicle and stay somewhere exceptionally exclusive for a few days. There was no vehicle that I could see right then in that car park but they too were heading for Vegas, they had booked a suite in the Palazzo and were offering us a room for our stay. They tried to convince us that they would be in Vegas by the end of the day , it was all said in jest but they did indeed arrive in Vegas a day ahead of us, but right then at that moment we were on a mission to see who could get there first and I was on a much more important mission to find real English Northern gravy! We swapped contacts and finally left Beatty and Death Valley on US Route 95 to Vegas, 117 miles of desert road.
Santana was still in the player, and it just worked with the road like it was meant to be. We were silent for almost 40 miles of long straight dusty bliss, eventually pulling over at the Area 51 Alien centre, Rocket Diner and Brothel. One building incorporating all three! a door leading from the back of the everything that you could possibly imagine alien themed store into a traditional American Diner and if you have the time, energy or the inclination you can head on through to Sci Fi themed fun out the back !
Although brothels are legal in some parts of Nevada, they are strictly regulated and apparently only operate in isolated rural areas.
We hadn’t seen any signs to say that it was there but I had been chatting to the very nice man on the front desk who was filling me in on the story behind the idea for the place and its founder.
The conversation between Ian and myself in the store afterwards.
Ian said “I gotta buy this 2ft rubber Alien”
“And what about this T shirt? I like the bunnies.”
“It’s advertising a Brothel, The Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Carson City.”
“Yes, there’s one back there too, through the diner”
“It’s got a Sci Fi theme”
“No way, sexy aliens??!!”
“More of your Star Wars characters I think with a bit of Avatar thrown in”
At this point we see a very cute older couple walking hand in hand out of the diner with the biggest of smiles. They had picked up on our English accent and asked where we were heading and suggested that we could go out back and build our own English breakfast muffin!
We bought an ice cream and sat on the front veranda wondering if we might get a glimpse of Darth Vader maybe heading in for the night shift!
Planting a Gravy Tree and getting a Mountain.
Back on the road, and around 80 miles from Vegas, choice of CD was our own compilation. First song “Holiday Road” 1983 single written and recorded by Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, such a feel good song. After 30 miles I noticed the landscape was changing, nothing dramatic at first but more prominent mountains were starting to appear on the horizon to the right of us. After a while I wasn’t sure if I was looking at a huge mountain some distance away or something smaller and closer.
“Hey Ian, that mountain over there has got snow on its peak”
“Really? I think it’s just reflection, it’s 95 degrees out there”
“It’s really high, and what would it be reflecting?”
“How far away do you think it is?”
“20, maybe 25 miles? Shall I take the next right turn?”
“Yeah take it, they might have gravy?”
“Whoever is at the top where it’s snowing, gravy or casserole”
We turned right a few miles down and I got out the map.
I turned to Ian.
“Ok Mount Charleston standing at 11,916ft, I don’t think there is any chance of us getting lost, this road takes us up to the peak and we can either come back this way or it joins up to another road in a kind of loop and works it way back down to join the 95 not far out of Vegas. Hey Ian”.
“I can see people skiing! Oh and reindeer, elves, Santa, I can see Christmas!”
There are some tight bends on the road to the peak and yes it was about 25miles, the temperature dropped from 95 degrees to 57 and the scenery was spectacular. A view point some way up let us see the expanse of the desert below us. I had wondered if it would have been possible to see Vegas from the peak seeing as we were so close but it didn’t happen, from the opposite end though it is apparently possible to see the mountain from some points on the strip. It was reminding me of parts of Austria I had been to but on a much larger scale. Impressive log houses, beautifully designed and perched high on mountain ledges.
It was getting later in the day and Ian pulled into the car park of The Mount Charleston Lodge and Cabins. We could see just a few rental cabins from the road and were expecting them to be fully booked.
Ian said “Shall we stay the night?”
“It looks a bit exclusive, bet it’s expensive”
$120 dollars for the night, taking into consideration the exchange rate at the time and the price of a room in a standard B+B in the UK it was more than worth it.
We were given a map and our key and as we stood on the edge of the car park we looked down onto the roofs of the other cabins and we made our descent.
I’ve seen that this place has been left some bad reviews by American tourists but I have stayed in so called log cabins in Disneyland Paris, and some in the UK. They are mostly wooden clad static caravans at twice the price! This place was perfect, one large main room with a huge central log burner, gas, on a timer so it was lit for our arrival, a large window and door opposite the entrance, a balcony with fantastic views and a double swinging seat. The bed was huge and of course the large bubbling jacuzzi by its side. Unfortunately there hadn’t been any snowfall, but it was forecast over the coming week.
That night we ate too much, drank too much, and stayed in that jacuzzi until we actually squeaked! I thought it was just a saying but I was still squeaky I’m sure when we arrived in Monument Valley a few days later!!
We made our descent from the mountain the next morning after breakfast in the restaurant next door, and were back on the 95 around thirty minutes later, further down the road and very close to Vegas and it was hot!!
“By the look of the map, you just carry on along the 95 and it takes you straight into Vegas” I said
“Ok” Ian said.
We waited for that sign, you know the one, but nothing was “Welcoming us to Vegas” and Vegas wasn’t particularly welcoming.
“We’ve gone wrong somewhere Ian”
“Was thinking the same”
“This is kind of rough”
I was starting to feel a bit uneasy. We had bought an American Sat Nav in the UK and we decided to use it for the first time.
It was a woman’s voice and she was terribly excitable. Like she hadn’t been out of that box for years and when she realised she was going to Vegas was hardly able to control herself.
We set off,
“Go Straight” She said
“At the next junction go straight”
We were in the middle of a three lane carriageway.
“Ian this car at the side of me (Black Range Rover with completely blacked out windows) is driving really close to my window, we’ve almost touched a few times, he’s swerving in and out”
“Yeah I’ve seen, I have got the same going on my side with an identical Range Rover, every time I speed up or slow down so does he, in fact it’s going on both sides. Looks like they’re together”
“What the f**K”
“I don’t know”
At this point I almost leave my seat and end up on the bonnet of the car!
“What are you doing?”
“Braking!” another one, identical, had just pulled straight in front of us! “Have you seen the number plate?”
“THE FIRM! haha, some kind of joke, we are in Vegas”
This went on for a few more minutes, both cars on either side swerving inwards missing us by inches each time with the one in front determining our speed.
“Ian they either think we are the Queen and this is some kind of royal escort Vegas style, or we’re in trouble” He subtly flicked the central locking switch.
In the meantime Sally had gone into Sat Nav Breakdown.
Make a U turn where possible was on repeat!!
Just when I was wondering if it would have been a better idea to stay in bed, at the next junction the car in front wheel spun off the lights and disappeared into the distance, the car on my side turned right, Ian’s took the left turning and yes all had matching number plates, we were out of the city. To this day I still have no idea where we went or what happened and why.
“Ian lets pull over”
“Just to try and work out what happened, where we are, and let’s put bloody Sally back in her box she’s lost the plot”!
I carried on “That was weird, let’s get out of here, shall we use the Sat Nav on our phone”?
“OK, but where are we going?”
“Welderup baby, Sin City Motors, they’re just outside of Vegas I’ve put the address in the phone already”
And thus we woke up Patricia via Samsung a really expensive way to get around we discovered when we got our next phone bill, it was Sunday and she was pretty Chilled.
“Ok guy’s, I can sense tension in the air” she rose from her lounge chair and floated over to the patio window staring out at the view of the wonderfully changing colours of the English countryside in the autumn. She leaned over and stubbed out her cigarette on the edge of a large vintage oak table.
“Welderup, don’t worry you’re going to be fine with me, you are in safe hands”. Sure enough twenty-five minutes later we were parked outside the large metal gates of Ian’s latest man crush and all of his fabulous toys.
A little explanation, at the end of April 2014 TV trailers on UK Dave Channel were advertising the start of a new series of shows “Sin City Motors” filmed at their Car Customization shop “Welderup” in Las Vegas where Steve Darnell is the mastermind behind every creation, and together with his truly talented team of welder fabricators, engine builders and an artist they will take on any challenge and bring any vision to life!
So by May 2014 the tension was quietly building in our house and Ian was more than ready for the first episode of the show, and after speaking to like minded friends they were too. I missed the first part of the first episode, don’t get me wrong I love the cars and what these guys do but I was just going to let him fill me in with the details.
Ian watched the first part of the first episode up in his studio, I was in the lounge. After around fifteen minutes he came down the stairs so quickly I thought he may have just thrown himself down or rolled.
He burst in “You have got to switch channels, it’s the break, you’re not watching anything in particular are you?”
“No not really”
“Watch it with me and tell me what you think, it’s unbelievable”
“Just watch, you can’t miss it, it’s almost unreal”
So the show comes back on and Ian’s eye’s are on me then back on the TV then back to me.
“Oh” he says
“What?” I say
“They’re not as impressive on this TV, still really beautiful but not the same”
“Steve Darnell’s eye’s, absolutely stunning on my TV!”
I had to agree he did have very pretty eyes. And there we were five months later parked outside his front gates and I was about to look directly into those beautiful blue eyes and strike up a conversation with him about his life, work, kids and his relationship with his brother and his dad ……….
Alien Abduction, California Dreaming and an Ice Awakening – by Mandy.
Around 35 years ago between a pile of books and a brick wall Ian and I made a pact to sometime between then and the end of our days find and drive the longest straight road in the world. A few years later through a massive misunderstanding we went our separate ways. 20 years on we were back in each other lives examining what had been, what could have been, and what was, and when things kind of settled we started again to talk about that long straight road. Strangely at this point of massive highs together with equally traumatic lows we both thought it might be nicer to walk the road, just keep going. 20 years all of a sudden seemed more like 2 and things needed to just take on a slower pace. Then we woke up and smelt the burnout!!
Mid Summer 2014 we booked our flights to San Francisco leaving from London Heathrow the last week in September . Here’s a list of some of the reasons why we choose the USA.
In no particular order.
With the exception of a stretch of Highway 10 in Saudi Arabia and Australia’s Eyre Highway the majority of long straight roads seem to be confined mainly to Canada and North America.
A lot of the early inspiration behind some of Ian’s paintings came from his obsession with American TV shows and movies. The cars, and the long straight dusty roads, a means to an escape.
We were told we “Needed to go” by customers, friends, an older lady flying a kite on a beach and a member of the 90’s band Steps. Apparently it’s addictive and we would be doing a deal with the devil for the funds to make a return trip.
When I was four or five years old I was a bus driver and started a regular route from the bottom of our stairs at home to ‘merica. Took my sisters doll along for the ride once, she got broken so I left her at a bus stop in LA.
When I was 24 and pregnant with Lucie I ditched the bus driving and made a pact that when Lucie turned 16 we would travel the US on a Harley. Things didn’t quite pan out that way but when Lucie turned 24 she hired an RV and drove the east coast from New York to Key West. She dropped the RV in Miami after a month giving her two more months to explore the whole of the US. She had no real plans apart from telling us that she would see us somewhere on the West Coast mid to late October and “ You WILL be there!!”
Initially we were going for two weeks. This is what happened.
“So Ian give me a list of places you want to visit and I’ll see if I can fit them into some kind of roadtrip”
“Sorry, can’t think of anywhere off the top of my head”
“Really !! here’s a piece of paper, when you think of somewhere just write it down”
“Trevor loves the Florida Keys”
“Ok” I explained “He does but we’re flying into San Francisco”
“San Francisco, so we will be driving the Pacific Highway maybe down to LA and onto Route 66. We’ll have to do Monument Valley, and we’re going to be in the Country for Speed Week at Bonneville !! Ermmm New Orleans, Area 51, the Meteorite place, Nashville, Alabama, Georgia. Somewhere where we might be abducted by aliens ! Lets go storm chasing ! And we need to sit on a horse on that rock, wherever that is. Vegas ! We could get married” !!!
“Is that a proposal?”
“Yes, Welderup!! you know Sin City Motors, you can just drop in on those guys if they’re not filming. Hey what about where American Graffiti was filmed ? or Bullit ? Elvis?”
“Yeah would you want to see Elvis stuff?”
“We might need to add another week”
We sold our souls, some gold bullion and a large ornament that had been gathering dust on top of the wardrobe, rearranged our life and added another three weeks !
We broke the news to my parents, and after establishing that dad wouldn’t fit in the suitcase, he wanted the obligatory contact address and telephone number of where we would be staying. Something he asked of every family member when we are away for longer than a few days.
Conversation with him…………
Me “We’re not going to be in one place for longer than a couple of nights and we’ll be away for almost 6 weeks”
“Oh Bloody Hell”
“What about if we call you every couple of days and let you know where we are?”
“Oh no you don’t want to be doing that”
“Every Week ?”
“No you don’t want to be doing that cost a bloody fortune”
“ If you can get to a computer I could video call you?”
“No, bloody computers, it’ll be alright, you’re alright”
“What about facebook, we’ll put photo’s up of the places we are staying and you can check them out on people’s computers or phones at your leisure either with family or even down the pub?”
“Aye, that sounds your best bet, let’s do that”
So from there we religiously uploaded photos at the end of EVERY DAY of our trip! explaining where we were, and what we had been up to. Turns out dad couldn’t be doing with the ‘Bloody computers’ so he didn’t see any of it!! What did happen though, strangely, we gained a kind of following through facebook. People here in the UK were waking up to our posts and pics and actually enjoying ‘Traveling’ with us. The comments and ‘likes’ increased as we moved from State to State, it was bizarre but amazing at the same time. People were suggesting we need to write some kind of blog when we got back, dad told me I should write a diary of our trip as a memory, I just laughed. This was almost three years ago, things have changed, dad is no longer with us, he sadly passed away in July of last year. He had his own hopes and dreams, a bucket list of places he wanted to visit. I’d like to think he’s on his own road trip now, without a care, able to travel freely without hindrance and in whichever way he chooses.
People still comment on old photos from then and ask when the blog will be ready, magazines have asked for an article (Yeah I know weird) and Ian is constantly asking me to write something for the blog on his website to keep it ‘Alive’. I struggle to keep the coriander alive in a pot on the kitchen window sill!!
So after a lot of moaning, because that’s what I do, here it is almost three years too late
Alien abduction, California Dreaming and an Ice awakening.
We drove around 9000 miles in total in almost 6 weeks. Hundreds of miles of long straight roads.
The day before we flew out I became ill and slept through a lot of the Pacific Highway and Californian coast . What I did see wasn’t at all as I had imagined. Somehow I had visions of girls in hot pants, roller blades and beach volleyball but the few hundred miles from San Francisco to LA included some of the most beautiful scenery I had ever seen, often deserted beaches with craggy rocks and beautifully rugged coast lines. Speed Week had been cancelled due to flooding which gave us some time to drive back up the Pacific highway at the end of our holiday, fully awake I was able to take in all of it’s glory then.
When I woke up properly for the first time we were heading inland toward the Nevada state line on the third or fourth day and had picked up a part of Route 66 heading for Barstow. The plan was at that time to head north to Wendover for The Salt Flats and Speed Week with a stop over in Beatty Death Valley for a couple of nights. We pulled over at a gas station and I went into the store while Ian filled the tank. This was the first time I had noticed we were actually in a pretty cool car , gunmetal grey Mustang with hardly any miles on the clock. Great guy at Avis had offered us an upgrade for an extra 2 dollars a day. We left the store with some sausage, potato salad, cold drinks, bread, wine, beer, cooked meats and a small fridge made of polystyrene!
This is what happened….. Beautiful older lady, possibly early seventies, long plaited hair , looked kind of native american.
“That’ll be $76.25cents, and ya’ll be needin some ice for ya cooler” She looked at Ian.
“Ya’ll be findin it right out back there, ya got a 10 pound bag an’ a 15 pound bag”
Ian, whilst doing some weird hand signals similar to Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ asked
“How big is the 10 pound bag?”
Nice older lady, in a slow drawl.
Nice older lady then turned to me and held my gaze for a few seconds, no words were needed.
Back on the road and heading for Death Valley, night seemed to happen at the same time as the road signs gave up together with buildings, people, cars and street lights. It was 8.30pm and the outside temperature was 94 degrees, we pulled over and got out of the car. It was pitch black and the silence was like nothing I had experienced before, the air was hot and still. It was unbelievable and grounded is the best word I can think of to explain how I felt at that moment, grounded and wondering if the car would start up again and did we have any signal on the phone.
We set off again with the engine noise breaking the silence and a bright light appeared in the sky directly ahead of us, after a few minutes we noticed the outside temperature had dropped dramatically and the car seemed to be struggling, loosing power. Five minutes along and the light was getting brighter, It was still directly ahead, I turned to Ian
“You should be careful what you wish for”
He knew exactly what I was saying, we were going to be abducted by aliens!!
The temperature outside had dropped from 94 to 78 degrees and the light in the sky was getting brighter. Another five minutes and we were wondering if we should stop? and then what, just give ourselves up? The light shifted, the temperature dropped to 63 degrees and the car seemed to have picked up a noise, and it was getting louder, the light had dropped and was somehow casting shadows on the road, it was dazzling, in our faces and then it passed by the side of us and was gone. The light and noise now belonged only to the Mustang and the back lights of the other car disappeared into the distance in the opposite direction.
We had been on the longest straight road we had probably ever travelled, we had been climbing for some time and were completely clueless!! we had a fridge, a 10 pound bag of ice, were half way up a mountain and it was cold. The appearance of a road sign told us how many feet above sea level we were and to beware of falling rocks 4 times the size of your car! I also wondered if the appearance of a road sign meant the re appearance of buildings and people.
I had booked 2 nights at the Atomic Inn in Beatty and that’s where we met the owner Chris, a musician from Texas. We fell in love with Death Valley, Beatty and Chris. After the second night I asked him if we could possibly book one more night, he didn’t answer immediately just gazed at me like the nice older 10 pound bag of ice lady.
“You know if you book another night you’ll never go home”
Now even though I had become very fond of Chris in that short time, I wasn’t sure at this moment if this was some kind of a threat. He continued…..
“I came here from Texas to visit my sister in 2006, only supposed to stay a couple of nights an’ well here I am, it happens all the time, this place has something special”
The initial idea had just been to use the quirky inn as a stop over, I hadn’t done any research on the area, the word Death had distracted me from the next word so I was surprised to find Beatty is quite elevated the most populated area being 3,307 ft above sea level in comparison to Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park which is the second lowest point in the Western hemisphere at 282ft below sea level, and it’s hot down there!
Beatty has a population of 1010 people, it’s simple and unassuming and when you pull up in your car on one of the many areas of wasteland to check out a whole range of disused vehicles and farm machinery people appear from nowhere, are very accommodating, and everything is for sale.
It was late by the time we had checked in on the first night and we asked Chris if there was anywhere we could grab something to eat.
“Yeah, just there over the road at the Sourdough Saloon it’s my sister’s place”
“Great what time does she close?”
“Whenever you leave, if that’s 4 in the morning then so be it”
We found the whole of Beatty to be just as laid back as Chris, and right then I was ready to move in with either him or his sister but with Route 95 passing through the centre you couldn’t help but notice the almost continuous stream of RV’s heading in both directions, just passing through kicking up dust, and I needed to find out where they were heading.
On the first morning we sat at a window seat in Mel’s Diner eating Steak for Breakfast! together with pancakes, eggs, bacon and biscuits with gravy!! we were served by what looked very much like the sister of the 10 pound bag of ice lady , and we watched the trucks and the travel trailers just rolling on by.
I noticed a couple of real hardcore bikers eating at the other side of the diner. The type you see in American movies. I had to go and speak to them. Now we had been told that most Americans love an English accent, that it may be mistaken for Australian but they will hold a conversation just to listen to you speak. I was looking forward to this but from the outset, with a few exceptions, nobody had a clue what I was saying and the more I tried to be understood the more I started to sound like the posh English girl that dated Ross in the TV series Friends! These guys were no exception, but they were great and again very accommodating. They were from Vegas and regularly travel the 120 miles just to have breakfast at the diner, they gave us tips on places to visit locally and directions on how to get there using Whore houses as landmarks!
Death Valley is the largest U.S. National Park outside Alaska at 3.4 million acres and Straddles the border of California and Nevada. Drought and record summer heat, rare rainstorms and winter snow make it a land of extremes.
What struck me was the amazing formations of rock and the incredible rainbow of colour which spans through them apparently formed “when volcanic rocks deep underground interacted with hydrothermal systems to form concentrated mineral deposits” Don’t hold me to that though.
Pull over and park anywhere in Death Valley and if you’re alone the silence will possibly be like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. That together with the vast open spaces just blew my mind.
On the first day we drove a large loop, three roads if I remember that joined to take us back to where we had started. The first time we had driven a long straight road in daylight and we broke the silence after an hour or so in the form of Deep Purple blasting from the car stereo, the beginning of ‘Child in Time’ synchronized perfectly with the start of the straight and ended as we took a left hand bend pulling over onto a patch of wasteland. We realised we hadn’t spoken for about ten minutes, the sun was going down and the sky was a fantastic blend of purples, dark and light strangely similar to the ‘Deepest Purple’ album cover. An almost heavenly spotlight shed a suitably spooky light on quite an eerily majestic piece of Spanish looking architecture, it felt like the middle of nowhere . We discovered later that the building we were looking at was actually The Amargosa Opera House, because of the lack of cars and people we assumed it was a derelict building. It is actually a fully functioning motel with the most fantastic history. Ian turned off the engine of the car and we both breathed out and swore.
On our last day in Beatty and Death Valley we said goodbye to Chris and a few of the locals who we had met during our stay came to wave us off from his front porch. As we drove away I remember feeling as if I was saying goodbye to old friends and knowing I will definitely visit Beatty again probably book in for four nights and take it from there.
It was around this time that we had discovered through facebook the extent of the flooding on the Salt Flats, the poor guys who were already parked up on the Salt in their RV’s, Trucks & Trailers etc slowly sinking, and the announcement that the event had been cancelled. Once we had processed, understood and accepted the enormity of what that meant, not just for us but for so many others, we checked the map and decided to head south-east and take the 95 to Vegas. We thought we would do a last tour of Beatty and stopped off at an antique store we had somehow missed previously. We met a girl named Christie.
Christie was really helpful and very chatty she asked where we were heading and we told her we were on our way to Vegas. We didn’t have any plans when we got there and hadn’t booked accommodation. She told us she had lived a couple of years in tunnels under the Strip. She said things had gotten out of hand “Folks used to look out for each other” . She had left 6 months earlier and was now living in a purpose built shelter 65 miles west of Vegas in Pahrump, she said she felt safe and she was happy. I don’t know if we looked a little bit worse for wear that day but she suggested we stay away from taking refuge for the night in the tunnels under the strip and offered us a safe place in the shelter in Pahrump. I could have listened to her stories for hours, we left Beatty 3 hours later taking the 95 to Vegas our next port of call but things didn’t quite go how we had expected ……….
Flicking through some photos recently I came across a rarity, for me, in the way of a set of progress shots on one of my paintings.
I always try and remember to take progress photos when I’m painting, they make for a great record to look back on. But I’m usually so lost in the moment I totally forget. This time I’d had the great idea of sticking a post-it note on my studio door in the hope that when I headed for a coffee break I might just notice my sign to myself that reads simply “Take a Photo!”
So here I can share with you the few photos I remembered to take on the progress of a recent commissioned painting featuring some real American Icons, a Mustang, an F150 Pickup and a couple of Harley Davidsons all resting at a classic Gas Station.
I had a good few photos presented to me from which I was able to choose suitable angles to work with …
The brief was to capture these two as the main feature and, although the setting was left to me, a Gas Station had been suggested. This was going to be a present for my client’s wife, she being the owner of both bike and car. Knowing him as well as I do I thought with only a little detective work I just might be able to get hold of a couple of shots of his bike and truck and slip them in to the background somewhere as a little surprise for him too. Good old Facebook didn’t let me down as a good source of photos.
So a few quick sketches were doodled for composition and Gas Station design (sorry I’ve no photos of those) and then I was straight onto the canvas …
You’ll notice I’d progressed quite well into this painting before remembering to take a photo! But you’ll see a strong underpainting in sepia browns that I usually let dry overnight before working, as always, from the back to the foreground. In particular here you’ll see I’m already adding the surprise bike and truck, whilst leaning on my trusty self-made mahl stick with tiny brush in hand.
Working on the building here and also defining the road on the left, including the white stripe that really helps to add depth to this composition as well as maybe lead your eye off to the distance to go exploring.
Big jumps in the progress of this as, like I’ve mentioned, it’s so easy to get so deep “in the zone” you forget you’ve told yourself to stop now and then to take a snap-shot.
Here I am getting lost in all the chrome and details of the Harley. Motorcycles can take so much time to complete, and get right! So there’s my tiny brush again working overtime.
And here’s the finished result from burning the midnight oil. It’s hard to get a good photo of a shiny Oil Painting under artificial light but I’m sure you get the idea …