Salt of the Earth

oil painting, Jenny Yu, denver, landscape painting

 When I visited Purmamarca few years ago, the colorful adobe village striked me as a time capsule - the neighborhood stores all had vending machines from the 70s (think Coca Cola in classic glass bottles). It was common to see quaint llama farms, which meant many clothing merchandise made of llama hair, and local restaurants serving up llama meat. Set against the backdrop of the Cerro de Siete Colores (“Hill of Seven Colors”), it is a place comfortably grounded in its tradition. That same day I had the opportunity to visit the salt flat Salinas Grandes. Situated at 3,300 metres above sea level with intensely bright reflection off the salt ground, it was an inspiration for a painting. And that inspiration didn't fade away after I left. I used an old photo that displayed a spot of removed salt blocks and the pastel-colored reflection of the salty water underneath. This water surface would have appeared unimpressive in other settings, but not in this photo where its hues and geometry take on a very artistic form. For this oil painting, I tried something new by painting it upside down. This is an old technique from a workshop, where you paint from the picture that's placed upside down - the purpose is to focus more on the composition of lines and the interaction of shapes.


I put my palette knives to good use, attacking the canvas with warm tones at the top (foreground) and cooler tones towards the bottom (background). After a few hours, the ground was a little 'warmer' than what's on the picture, but it contrasted beautifully with the azure water surface, so I let go of the palette knives.