The Art of R. Geoffrey Blackburn

Dead Horse Point Paintings

"Over the last 40 years, I have done five Dead Horse Point related oil paintings. Three of these, Dead Horse Winter, Dead Horse Autumn and Red Canyons were panoramas looking either directly at Dead Horse Point or off the point or in the case of Red Canyons, within a couple of hundred yards north of Dead Horse Point but on the same topographical structure.  Dead Horse Winter was the first of my Dead Horse Point paintings done in 1974.  My business partner Al Dart and I ventured out to check on some of our mining claims one frozen morning.  Our claims were just north of Dead Horse Point.  The previous few days, it had snowed and were we pushing 18" of the white stuff with our front bumper in our old Dodge Power Wagon we called "Dirty Harry".  Since we were so close to Dead Horse Point, we decided to stop by and take a few pictures.  It was one of those days when the sun was intensely bright and the reflection off the snow was blinding even with sunglasses on.  I took several pictures.  Note: the visitor's Center that is now on Dead Horse Point  did not exist in 1974.  It was just a snow-covered dirt road to the point.  The photo-study leading the painting of Moab Blues was also taken on that same trip on the way down the canyon from visiting the Dead Horse Point.  This whole trip turned out to be quite an adventure.  Once we left the Point, and headed for our claims, we had a major mechanical breakdown.  Unbelievably, the universal joint literally fell apart and dropped into the snow!  Anyone who knows about universal joints, knows that it is comprised a whole bunch of tiny needle bearings.  These were scattered in the deep snow.  Tamping down the snow so we could slide under the truck, we hunted for quite awhile to find all the missing bearings.  Eventually, frozen stiff, we finally succeeded.  Then Al, a mechanical genius and former B-52 Bomber Crew Chief managed to rebuild the joint and put the whole thing back together!  After this amazing feat, (one of which he performed almost daily), we were on our way.

When we got back to Salt Lake City, I decided to do a couple of paintings from the photos I took.  The problem was how could I possibly reproduce the incredible brilliance of the snow on that day?!  After some thought, I made an appointment with the head chemist at the old Bennett Paint factory for a consultation.  We came up with some reflective powdered material that the road crews used to paint the white stripes on the highways.  Problem solved. I mixed this with my white paint and it worked great for both Dead Horse Point paintings.

In 1979, I painted Red Canyons and in 2006 I painted Dead Horse Autumn from what has come to be known as Dead Horse Point near Moab, Utah. I say "come to be known as" because the actual Dead Horse Point, according to my long-time friend, the late Geologist and Moab resident, Robert R. Norman, was just north of the current location where the visitor's center is now located. In 2010 I upgraded the original version of "Dead Horse Autumn"  and changed several things. I decided to make the sky more dramatic by adding an approaching storm replete with rain squalls. I played off of the horizontal striations (bedding planes) of the red rock by continuing the striations into the sky. I also repainted much of the mid-ground adding more detail and adjusting the color toning down the purples of the original-making it more blue. I added considerable detail to the foreground separating the various spaces making the whole painting appear more 3-dimensional. Additionally, I used a wax medium to further trick the eye by making the everything other than the high-gloss water, much more matte. The result is that as one moves in relation to the painting, the water reflects the light. Adjusting the surface reflection of various areas in the painting is a technique I began experimenting with a couple of years ago. It really adds the sense of space and dimension to the art.

During the 1990's my Dead Horse Point paintings became more surreal as I created my Spaced Miners Series. Actually, Dead Horse Point is pretty surreal in its own right, but it was fun doing these Spaced paintings anyway.

In 2012-13 I painted "Twilight on the Colorado" which is a scene at the head of the White Rim Trail that can be seen snaking along the river beneath Dead Horse Point."

R. Geoffrey Blackburn


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