Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Canyon Cat and a Trip Out West

By Justin Gerard

AWOL 2014 : The Canyon Cat
12" x 16"
Oil on panel and Digital

Detail Close-up

Ye Oldte Colour Comp

Earlier this summer Annie and I did a whirlwind tour of southern Utah, which I think has some of the absolute best national parks in America. (They're worth it! Go!)

Often after trips like this I come back and want to do something to try and capture the wonder I felt while I was there.  It rarely ever works out, and often, like the photos you took out there, rarely captures how compelling the whole experience was. 

This is one of those paintings that doesn't operate on a narrative like much of my other work; instead it is a collection of the leftover feelings and impressions of the place.

These images are often really hard for me to explain.
Then again, maybe they don't need much explanation because they are images, and after all they deal in matters that words can't adequately describe, and that's why we tried to communicate them in a picture.

We saw jackrabbits one night. They fled into the brush upon seeing our bright yellow headlights. From the canyon's edge we watched a lightning storm gather in the moonlight. We drove through the desert all night in the starlight.  And somehow I ended up here.

Bryce Canyon 2014

Bonus Post: Annie was also inspired by the adventure. Check out her post here!  


  1. Dude, this may be my favorite piece of yours!

    1. Well thanks man, I feel like I finally figured out a number of things that have been bothering me about my work on this one. Really excited now about starting something new now!

  2. I'm agreeing with Dan, this is amazing! My instant reaction was "THIS is what the dream I had 15 years ago was about!" (I have weird dreams) and it's pretty amazing you manage to conjure up an emotional reaction that's as strong as a dream. This is now competing with Smaug as my favorite piece from you.

  3. Hi Justin...
    Nice post and amazing photos.I also agree that much explanation is not needed for images.
    Thank you for your post.
    Travel to India

  4. Gorgeous! Your painting really captures that sense of magic and wonder. Love it!

  5. I'm so glad it was a productive trip for you two. :-) I adore the golden-glowy rabbits in this picture. Such a great image. (I assume there are *more* to come???)

    1. Hi Tara! I try to do one of these a year, so there will definitely be more in the future!

  6. First off, wow. I absolutely love the colors in this piece, the cat's face is my favorite part. I did have a question though. I've been working through your older blog posts, and the ones about your St. George pieces and their process intrigued me. I too hate to watch my under drawing slowly get covered up, but whenever I've tried to use multiply layers I found that I wasn't able to get the colors where I wanted them. I feel like you either get garishly bright or really dark out of multiply layers. So on that posting you mention starting out with multiply layers to get your darks/underpainting... and then you add brightness and more local colors. Yet somehow you are still saving most of your line work, except in areas were you painted over intentionally. Is there a different mode I'm not using or not using correctly? I have just been painting over most of my line work, sacrificing some of the drawing to get those colors/contrasts... but if there is a better way I would be very appreciative if you would share it. Along the same lines was this image with the cat done completely digitally because those colors seem far far too rich. (In the very best of ways.)

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Multiply is great for getting started, but it is very very hard to finish with only multiply as it tends towards a photo-tint feel. The best advice I can give if you are working in this type of indirect method is:
      #1 Get used to using Soft Light Layers (which are more like transparent color glazes) and Hard Light Layers (Which are more opaque and saturated) in your later stages of your painting.
      #2 Try making a brush that has very low opacity and very low flow for when you work in these layers. A very little Hard Light can go a very long way.

    2. Oh I see! I'll have to try that out on my new piece; anything to keep that drawing from disappearing is worth a go. Even in others' work a lot of times I like the sketches more than the finished paintings, something about the energy behind the lines I guess. As to my second question, opps! Sorry I must have overlooked the oil on panel plus digital title up above. Thanks for the advice Justin I'm really excited to get started now.

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