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I am currently working on several paintings that I started as demos of techniques for my students. The above painting was one of these.  I prepared a surface to work on using a mixture of gesso and water and scratched and swirled the medium around with a credit card to create texture and movement. I lightly sketched my composition on the dried surface.  I have painted rocks before but never so many! I was intrigued with the shapes and the shadows and the way the elements had worked on their surfaces. I chose a piece of Arches 140lb rough and some of that texture was still evident poking through the gesso. This helped to add to the roughness of the surface of the rocks. As I was working on this, I began to wonder what a canyon scene might look like on masa paper and put it on my to-do list.  At some point, I deviated from my original photo reference and used rock  forms from several others to create the background.

If you wish to try this technique, I’ve explained how to prepare the surface in this post here.


  1. Wow I love the colors in these rocks! Landscapes are not always my favorite subject but this type is really cool. I love the blue and green in that top section, and then how the further away rocks are red. I’m not sure how I feel about the swirly bits. They do add something. But I think I would have liked it without. But it’s hard to say!

    • I agree about the swirls in this one. That is why I think I want to try something like this on masa paper. I think this has added something new for me to learn. Jagged up and down sharp slashes may have worked better for this composition. The swirls would fit something more circular or spiraling. Maybe a dance painting, horses running, etc. Gives me a feeling of movement, though, a wind rushing around that rim? I love it that each painting leads to a new “what if” or another possibility. Thank you for your comment, Cindy. You have a good eye! 🙂

  2. Very attractive colors and movements Leslie! I have followed this method a few times and I usually adjust the drawing along the gesso lines, I admire your free spirited swirls here!

    • They were free spirited alright, Padmaja. I just went with the canyon scene thinking any texture might enhance any subject, but have learned that there are some formats that might be better with certain subject material. I was lucky on the first few of these and this one taught me a thing or two. More planning to specific textures on the list for me. I love what you do with your textured surfaces. Thank you! 🙂

  3. A huge WOW! I’ve tried to paint the rocks out west but I think you’ve really captured them here. I like the texture and the colors. I really like the purple shadows. Great job.

    • Thank you for that on the rocks, Carol. That is what I concentrated on the most as well as that background. Felt I just had to go with the violet with all the yellow in this, hoping it would keep a warm feeling. I left the initial blues at the top thinking they went with the mist and brought the sky into the top of the canyon rim. Thank you! 🙂

  4. I’m loving the rocks, so detailed, and the misty look lightness above them separating the background is awesome. I like that the swirls make my eyes move slowly over the canvas admiring the details and textures of everything – they make me think of clifftop winds transporting the smell of water unseen below and pine (not sure why the pine). When I first looked, I thought the swirls could represent a lone tree making her way, despite the odds, out of the rock and up to the light. If I stare at them long enough, the swirls become a face and a ghostly native american theme comes to mind. I thought for sure I heard an eagle singing his song, brave and strong, he is gliding downward just off the edge of the canvas for a fresh fish. I love this.

    • The swirls do have a distracting affect in this…… Maybe that ghostly native american theme presents itself because I can make out a sitting form in those swirls and when I see that it does give the feeling of something ghostly. Thank you for that, Scott. I like your feeling of the tree hanging on for life. I chose greens because some of the reference photos suggested scrub greens all along the sides of the distant and lower rock formations as my eye moved down their sides. I was intrigued that any plant life can be so hardy and included the greens in the background. Thank you so much for that vision of the eagle, Scott! 🙂

  5. There is so much detail and energy (action?) and I love the colors. You really have to click on the picture to enlarge it to appreciate all the detail. Bravo!

    • Thank you for enlarging it and making mention of the fact, Jamie. When you do that, you can really see the roughness of the surface.

  6. Absolutely stunning colors and I love the combination of vertical and horizontal strokes of the brush!

  7. I love it. Mainly the shadows and the “volume” of the rocks. The texture looks really nice when the image is enlarged. And thanks for the link to the explanation on how to prepare the surface (I remember that post, I used it as inspiration for my version of the Empire State Building).

    • I remember you linked me to your Empire State Building. I thank you for that. Thank you, also for this comment.

  8. Leslie

    What beautiful work you and the class did! I miss you guys already, and will keep watching for your latest creations.

    • We missed you, too, already, Sheryl. Thank you for taking time to come here and view all the paintings!

  9. Wow, I saw this and thought Grand Canyon, the great Southwest at dawn.
    O Leslie, see, how could YOU ever be ‘creepy’? LOL.

  10. Now that’s a good use for a credit card…it actually helps create interest! Nice catching up with you and your students.

    • You are always looking for new uses of “stuff”! Thank you, Al. …and my students thank you, also. 🙂

  11. the ‘swirls’ add life, Leslie, to my mind, almost as thermals moving the air. Gives an almost fey touch to the starkness, the barren/shaped rocks which nature has fashioned over the millenniums. Your eye wants to find softness somewhere, searching of course for greenery where none could live. Striking piece. xPenx

    • Thank you for this, Pen. You see so much in an image and I always look forward to these comments. It stretches me. …”searching for greenery”; I like that.

      • I’m always on the lookout for greenery, Leslie, makes my life complete to see growth where yo’;d least expect it. xx

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