Six years ago I started a painting out in the desert, on the Old Spanish Trail just outside of Tecopa, near Death Valley. It’s a place where, when it does manage to rain, the water has carved out sinuous and very beautiful cuts through the salty mud flat. I have quite a few beginnings of paintings started outdoors, but never finished. I ran across this one a few weeks ago, having completely forgotten about it. I looked at it and realized that I’d painted it, but could not remember when. After searching the over-24,000 photos on my iPhone by year, I found this picture I had taken of the painting against my car. I then managed to locate a reference photo I snapped before packing it up for the day.
I decided to finish it this past week.
A few days ago my son wandered into my studio to see how it was going. His reaction I thought was interesting. I had decided to change the bright blue sky in the painting. For me it was not working for the painting as a whole, so I lightened it and made it more of the bleached and often pinkish color the desert sky can be during the middle of the day. My son said the sky had Ronald Reagan vibes. When I questioned him about that, he said he really couldn’t explain it, but something about the sky made him think of Ronald Reagan before he was in politics. That it made him think of the 20 Mule Team rolling through the desert.
“You mean it makes you think of Death Valley Days??? The sky?”
“Yes, but I can’t put it into words. It just does.”
So, I was going to call this painting “Death Valley Days”, but that’s just too much. I decided to call it “Reagan’s Sky” instead.
22″ x 28″ oil on canvas
Mojave Desert, California