We call it Dragon Rock. The gnarly sandstone formation just a short hike up Cheney Ranch Trail. If you step off the main trail and onto the footpath it will take you to the very top that resembles a big glob of dry clay and has multiple little caves and holes. Prehistoric rocks that were polished by rivers long gone are trapped in it. These rocks are the remnants of a mountain range that used to dominate the Eastern part of Arizona. High cliffs on the south side of Dragon Rock are much sharper and provide secluded ledges for nesting Red-tailed Hawks.
"SUNRISE AT DRAGON ROCK" 8"h x 6"w oil on canvas-board
This area is where many in our neighborhood like to hike, sit at the top and enjoy the view of the canyon. In November the sun rises further to the south, lighting the gnarly top perfectly for the early morning plein air painter. The dry wild flowers that cover the area get back-lit by the sun. They glow with warm bright yellow, orange and pale green as the light flows through dry leaves and withered flowers.
This rock formation is also a perfect spot for yuccas. They like to grow in the rock crevasses. Their withered stocks are still standing in November, providing me with unique subject matter.
"FOOTPATH TO DRAGON ROCK" 8"h x 6"w oil on canvas-board
Although the sun rises at around 6:30 AM in November it doesn't appear above the near-by ridge and therefore doesn't shine onto the rock formation until about 7:30 AM. Again, that's a perfect time for en plein air painting. Morning after morning I hiked to Dragon Rock. I observed, photographed, sketched, and finally I painted these three studies. I experimented with a slightly different view point. In "Sunrise at Dragon Rock" the wild flowers fill the foreground and the path leads you to the rock formation. In "Footpath to Dragon Rock" the attention is on the light streaming from the sun that just appeared above the ridge.
"ROCKY SLOPE" 6"h x 8"w oil on canvas-board
I went down to the main trail to capture the light on the North side of Dragon Rock. "Rocky Slope" is my attempt at a circular composition with mostly sandstone as a subject. The rocks are embellished with bunches of small, withered wild flowers that glow as the light passes through their delicate, mostly dry constitution.
I have added these spots to my plein air map. Whether you are a local or out of town artist, if you are looking for plein air painting locations near Los Angeles, love mountains and are able to hike carrying your gear see MY MAP. The painting locations described in this blog series are within walking distance of the Topanga Canyon Inn Bed and Breakfast, where you may lodge and go plein air painting all in one spot.