When the mountain comes out, it's compelling. I mean, you can't not look at it, and if you are a painter, there is definitely a pull.

I recall reading that McKinley rises 18,000 feet out of the plain, from base to top 8000 feet higher than Everest. (Everest is on a higher base.) On some clear days I can see the mountain from the end of my street in Anchorage, across hundreds of miles. However, many visitors never see the mountain, it is so often shrouded in clouds.

So we felt pretty lucky to have conditions like these.

As soon as I set up my easel and had a preliminary sketch, I pulled out my Munsell books and made color notes. My notes helped me maintain control of my values and chroma, essential for painting atmospheric differences across a view of about 30 miles.

The regularity of nature comes through in the value notes. The mountain in light was obviously the highest value, 10 if not 10+; in shadow it was value 8; the lower mountains, 7-8 in light, 7 in shadow; the middle ground grassland, 6 in light, 5 in shadow. Near ground grasses, which were more chromatic, and had more contrast, were value 7 in light, 3-4 in shadow. By continually returning to my notes, I stayed out of trouble.

Here is a little color study Mary Bee did on the same day, of the mountain, seen from above Wonder Lake. She calls it Wonder Lake View. I like how she created an ethereal feeling of space, distance, light, and the slight chill of autumn, by using various low chroma, high value reds and blues.

McKinley in Autumn 1 is 8" x 16" oil on linen panel

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