Editor’s note: ICL invited Artist in Residence Josh Udesen along on a recent aerial tour by EcoFlight’s Bruce Gordon. The trip was an compelling  source of inspiration for the artist. In this blog, he recounts his step-by-step progress on the resulting artwork.

Other than rivers, mountains possess a mystical draw for  me, and to a large degree mountains continually shape my life. I’ve always based big life decisions on proximity to mountains.

When I applied to colleges, my first criterion was based on distance to mountains, and Mt. Rainier was a strong force in bringing me west. When I chose my overseas studies and subsequent teaching career, both locations were chosen because of the Alps and the mystery of the Tian Shan Range of Central Asia. In years of exploration and travel, I was pulled repeatedly to the extreme heights of the Himalayas and mystery of Alaska, and the mountains punctuating each of their skylines. As I began to settle and set some roots, the primary requirement for  where to live was that  mountains had to be nearby.

Fortunately I met my wife who brought me to Idaho-and this state does not disappoint. In the decade I’ve lived here, Idaho has easily exceeded my expectations, always providing new exploration, constant discovery and inspiration  with each new adventure.

Idaho’s readiness to inspire is exemplified in my most recent painting "From Above". The painting was done in my head even before I started applying paint to the brush. The Idaho Conservation League offered me a tour  with EcoFlight over the proposed CuMo mine site at the headwaters of Grimes Creek, and  the Thompson Creek Mine between Stanley and Challis. En route, we were fortunate to fly over the Sawtooth Mountains.

Sawtooths copy

I’ve spent a good deal of time exploring the saddles, crags and trails of the Sawtooth range and always knew it was remarkable and truly a gem for Idaho, but my experience  was always from ground level. Sure, I’d flown over the mountains on approach to the Boise airport, but the ability to see the crags, features, snow lines and lakes from the relative slow speed of a Cessna 206 just above the highest peaks was inspiring.

Fromtheplane copy

I was not only taking photos with my camera, I was processing a mass of ideas in my head. The combination  of photos, experience and imagery made the painting a simple process of transferring what I saw in my head to the end of my painting brush.

Peaks copy

First I apply a red oxide wash and begin to outline my composition.

redoxide copy

I add the darkest and the lightest areas on both ends of the spectrum to find the "in between" hues later.

darksandlights copy

I begin to fill in larger spaces.

fillingin copy

I add more definition, gradation, color and slowly work the red oxide out of the spaces.

addgradation copy

I then highlight with less predictable colors, so here I added purples, pinks, greens, blues and reds.

highlightcolors copy

I will focus on details and small brush strokes as I finish the piece.