Artist Books and Textile Frescos at Arte Studio Ginestrelle

Time to share with you, dear Readers, some more of the results of my experiments with the “pianticelli” (Little Plants) of the Subasio near Assisi. Most of the  “fioretti” (Little Flowers) have long ago gone to seed, though some valiant survivors remain, like Scabious and Centaura cyanus; only the Cyclamen (a protected species in this regional park) is in its element now. At the start of October when I arrived here, the leaf colours (unmodified by iron) were giving me lots of yellows, many exciting and unCanadian shades…but relentlessly yellow nevertheless…Would I ever see a real blue or green emerge from the dye pot?

I began my printing experiments with papers and so the little Artist Books which were made from them show the range of yellows, both pure and iron or tannin modified; the first textiles (a vintage cotton sheet donated by the Studio) also show that range.

Some pics of the book pages; covers are made from the walnut eco printed cotton (leaves and nuts):

Artist Books 1 and 2: “October Scroll: Little Plants of the Subasio” (“Pergamena di Ottobre: Pianticelle del Subasio”)

P1110976

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The accordion spine records the names of the Subasio plants printed on the pages inside in Latin, Italian and English.

P1110978

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The covers are of Walnut shibori prints – leaves and nuts.

P1110980

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book structure

P1110981

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each page is printed with a single exemplar of a Subasio plant: this is the Juglans regia (European Walnut):

P1120011

.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.and these are the stems and tannin-rich seed pods  of the Ginestrelle (Cytisus scoparius or Broom,  one of several variety of Broom) from which the Studio takes it name. (I am now a Ginestrellian, I have learned!) The dyes wash around the stems and pods, creating the water-colour effects I love. Those few yellow blobs below the pod prints are a few last blooms left on the Ginestrelle – just for me! Thank you, Saint Francis:

P1120007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More books next time. Now for a few textile “frescos” .

So despite my original idea to print only paper, I bought ten metres of unused but very old linen at the flea market in Assisi, a very thick handwoven and textured weave. It was all in a roll and sewn  closed with little red cross stitches…it might as well have had my name written on in for the Desire To Possess overtook me completely…I had not intended at all to work in textiles because I thought a month’s worth of them them too clunky to cart across the ocean from Canada to Italy.  Pads of watercolour paper are way easier to transport, obtain, prepare for dyeing and to print. But the antiques flea market close to the Portziuncula of Saint Francis and Saint Clare at Santa Maria degli Angleli was soooo tempting…ooo, the piles of antique linens, to dye for, ha ha.

Even so, the lovely, heavy, textured, handwoven linen proved a b**** to print because it was without the “patina” of years of laundering.  To get a variety of colours during the weeks here, given the slow development of fall pigments in the Subasio October leaves, I had to dye each textile several times with a view to tweaking the chemical reactions in the dyes hoping to provoke tannins that would in turn provoke other colours from the leaves printed in succession. Each successive print gave more and more broken colour and form; previous colours changed in the environment of the “leaf of the week” coupled with tannins and more soaks in alum acetate. At first I was really worried that nothing but yellow would emerge, as happened the first week here with my papers. But patience and faith in the processes of Slow Art triumphed. The results appear to me like the fragments of frescos I delight to see all around on the walls of Assisi and other medieval towns , colour and form diffusing over the centuries, plaster textures disintegrating, colours receding and advancing and changing with time.   (I am posting more pics of them on FB if you need others – just a few examples now):

Colour notes: Walnut, elder, sumac for yellows; Broom seed pods, Cotinus, oak leaves,  walnut fruits for browns; Dogwood berries, blackberries and Cotinus leaves for blues; plus some other berries, unknown; “Ruta”, Dogwood and Cotinus leaves for greens; iron dips for greying and violating and greening; and many little surprises from the overlapping of numerous dye baths and plant associations…

Here, the black-brown print of the oak leaf (Quercus robur, Roverella) overprinted with yellow from walnut leaf gave up some surprise blues, the Enhance feature on iPhoto notwithstanding:

P1110860

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reds are from madder, Rubia tinctoria powder selectively sprinkled and dribbled on for the last layer of prints. No madder plants at this altitude on the Subasio, likely lower down if they are here. The only galium I can find here is Galium lucidum, Shining Bedstraw. It gives no red as far as I can discover even though some authoriities propose it as the same variety as G. mollugo which does give red from the roots. Anyhow, the madder powder from Couleurs de Plantes in France is still a bioregional fit with the Subasio plants used here. Plus the reds of this Madder Rich are maintained even in higher processing temperatures,  which is nice.

P1110856

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next time, more Textile Frescos with images of some of the fresco colours from Umbrian churches.

P1110889

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October prints from the Subasio

So mostly photos today showing my experiments with the regional plants of the Subasio. My printing setup is a tad on the ghetto side which is what I had predicted and had planned to cooperate with. The first few prints had way too much steam puffed at them so came out rather watery. An iron wash (ferrous sulphate painted on the wimpy bits) brought out the lines and new colours. So far, I have obtained a multitude of yellows and not a few blues (from dogwood berries and blackberries) plus pinky purples from pomegranate seed juice. Browns, tans, rusts are coming along as the days of October draw closer to the end of the month and the leaves begin to turn colour. Good old cotinus gave a tad of blue, too!

 

Here are the pics from the first two weeks of textile prints ( prints on paper coming soon – they are being worked into Artist Books. I must say I have my work cut out for me to complete the projects I had intended to do…the “distractions” are many…so let us start with a few of them before we get down to eco/enviro print buisiness:

Brunellschi's Dome (Il Duomo) in nearby Florence:

 

 

 

Mount Subasio view:

 

Assisi with pilgrims:

 

Studio visitor:

 

Fuzzy photo, sorry: Balckberry leaves and fruit, cotinus, oak and iron:

 

Detail of above:

 

Juglans regia (European walnut) on the Studio's vintage sheets:

 

Cornus sanguinea (Dogwood) leaves and berries with dried Sunflowers:

 

Cotinus coggygria (Smokebush), dogwood berries and iron on cotton:

Cotinus, pomegranate, dogwood berries and leaves on vintage cotton:

 

The cotton collection:

 

Silk organza soaking up the rust juice from the rust-printed papers; white wine vinegar at 6% acid on rusty iron bits,

 

The iron mordanted silk organza (from home) with cotinus and dogwood (berries):

Others in the silk organza collection:

 

With pomegranate and dogwood berries:

Random print: blue from dogwood berries, yellows from the leaves, browns too.

 

Next time:

Eco printed papers for Artist Books and prints on vintage handwoven linen from the monthly flea market in Assisi. Could not resist the linen…

 

Pax et Bonum to all my readers- the beautiful Franciscan blessing

 

Wendy

 

Subasio Scrolls and Fresco Textiles

“Inspired by the broken colours and forms of the still-radiant ancient frescos on the walls of churches and streets in Assisi and neighbouring medieval hill-towns, I created a series of Artist Books and textile frescos whose content refers to the natural environment of the Subasio as well as to its powerful spiritual and Dantean heritage. My intention was to research the bioregional plants of the Subasio near the Arte Studionestrelle at Santa Maria di Lignano and to discover natural pigments which I could use to dye and print locally-made paper and vintage linen. I was interested in a contemporary application of the traditional knowledge about natural dyes associated historically with this region of Italy where much of that older wisdom seems to have disappeared. My question was: Could some version of that knowledge be restored? The October native vegetation growing high up the mountain provided a rich palette from leaves, bark, berries and late blooms that worked together in successive layers of dye and print. My work on this beautiful mountain recalls to me the Fioretti (Little Flowers) of Saint Francis of Assisi whose love for the Umbrian landscape brought him and others closer to God. And although I was here too late in the season to use the traditional ginestrelle blooms in my prints, I was able to obtain much colour from their seed pods! ” (Shlomo Feldberg constructed covers and boxes for Wendy's Artist Books during his residency in addition to completing his own mixed media work.)

The statement above about my work during my residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle appears in the catalogue for the show of contemporary art at the public art gallery of Assisi. The show takes place the last week of November. As well as the inspiration I found so abundantly in and around Mount Subasio, I am pleased to share with you some of the Artist Books and textiles created during my October 2013 residency and featured in the annual exhibit by many of the Artists In Residence. I have also brought home with me many eco printed papers and textiles that will form much of my work later in the winter.

First pic: Umbrian handwoven linen, highly textured and serviceable cloth; an Assisi-fleamarket find, vintage but never used.

It took me many prep and printing sessions with mordants and local plants to express the Giotto/Cimabue/Pintoricchio fresco colours I had in mind. Even then, I used madder dye powder for the reds since Rubia tinctorum does not grow at almost 1000 metres above sea level where the Studio is located.

The abundance of yellows in the earlyOctober leaves was a challenge. During my first week of printings, shades of yellow or brown was all I could manage to obtain using a basic alum acetate mordant. Hmm. I knew I would print the papers and cloth several times again for more colour and form.

As the October days passed, the fall colours began to change and pigments both increased and decreased in the leaves. I searched for sources of blue and found them in Dogwood berries (Cornus sanguinea), Sloes (Prunus espinosa – tiny plums) and Cotinus coggygria (more blue after the middle of October). Purple showed in the bark of walnut twigs (Juglans regia) as well as late blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) and sloes; greens from Dogwood leaves (and berries, too); moss greens from Rosa canina (Dog Rose). The yellows were varied: Golden-apricot from Olive leaves; deep golden from Walnut; yellow-chartreuse from Sumac. The “ginestrelle” or Dyer's Broom (Cytisus scoparius in these parts) had only seed pods for printing tannin browns in October, its brilliant yellow blooms long gone.

Here, blue, green and teal from Dogwood berries and leaves:

 

And the enticing golden yellows from European Walnut on old cotton sheets:

 

A small display of yellows with iron (flowers by Shlomo)

 

Dogwood greens, walnut yellows and deep browns; pinks and purple-pink from walnut twig bark.

 

Rusted silk chiffon with BlackBerry and Dogwood berries:

 

 
Dogwood and walnut with the last sunflower:
 
 
Walnut with Dogwood, Elder and iron:
 

 

Artist Books : “Subasio Scrolls”

With the Subasio Scroll Collection I am continuing to develop an earlier goal: to use the accordion book form as a botanical scroll. This collection of three books is entilted “Little Plants of the Subasio: October Scroll” (1, 2, 3). A fourth book is coptic-bound and contains my handwritten copies of sayings from Dante and Francis of Assisi. The book is also entitled “Little Plants of the Subasio”.

Each page of each book, back and front, is printed with leaves, bark and/or berries and fruits of the area around Arte Studio Ginestrelle, which is llocated nearly at the top of this part of the Subasio. The range of available plants changes with the altitude (here, between 800 and 1000m.) So while madder might be found on the bottom layer of the vegetation belt, only a relative (Galium lucidum, but not a red one! ) was found at the mid-to-high level where the Studio is.

 

My aim was to use only what I could forage within that vegetation layer on the mountain and therefore not to import plants from other areas. I did succeed in that aim, except for my use of powdered madder…one cannot express the spirit of Giotto's frescos without red! All the other plant colours came from the vegetation right at hand.

(Aside: I was unable to find any really good locally-made paper for my books , despite the fact that the Fabriano art paper factory is within a few hours drive of Assisi and the other hill towns. The art supply shop in Florence was closed on Saturdays, the day we went there. One bookbinder we met in Florence says he sends for his supplies to Talas in Brooklyn!!! Or to Paris or Germany. Wow. )

 

Some of my main pigment sources were: Juglans regia, Cornus sanguinea, Rubus fruticosus, Prunus espinosa, Robinia pseudoacacia (invasive, introduced), Carpino nero, Quercus robur, “Rutacae” – species unknown except for the family relationship), Sambucus negra, Rosa canina, Acer opalus, plus Olive and Grape.

 

My “Subasio October Scrolls” collection of Artist Books consists so far of three accordion-spined and one coptic-bound book. ( Covers and Book Box were made by Shlomo Feldberg using my printed textiles and papers.) These Artist Books remain in Assisi for exhibition. Others will be added to the collection in time as I continue to work with the many papers and textiles I made there and brought home.

 

Below: Walnut leaf print on the box: walnut dyed linen thread for the book stitiching

 
 

Completed scrolls atop the reference books I used to help me identify the native and local plants. I had hope they could tell me which might be for use as sources of pigment. None of these books discussed the traditional dye uses of the plants, even when they gave extensive info about medicinal use. This confirmed my supposition that natural dye knowledge about the area was limited or non-existent.

 

 

A wild fennel and rust page in one of my books:

 

Walnut leaf page:

 

An arrray of pages in a scroll book:

 

The spine of a book with plant labels in English, Latin and Italian:

 

 

Robinia pseudoacacia:

 

 

Carpino nero (Black Hornbeam):

 

 

The little coptic-bound book of sayings from Dante and Francis of Assisi; on ecoprinted pages:

 

 

Dante, Canto IX. Mount Subasio and some prayer-poems by Francis of Assisi.

 
Title page:
 

 

 

Book box and book covers:

 

 

 
 

I leave you today with a promise to post more pics and info when (a) I have sorted and retrieved some lost photos (FB crashed iPhoto and ate my camera upload…lost a LOT of pics!!!) and (b) after we have moved to our new house next week.

(This is not our new house)

Those colours! The ducal palace at Gubbio, the town where Francis tamed the wolf:

 

Here is more inspiration from tne colours and forms of Umbria:

The view from our bedroom:

 

Look up for inspiration:

 

Look down…

 

Even the distressed surfaces inspire: in fact, these above all…

 

 

I hope I leave you looking for more like Brother Cat Cimabue (L) and Brother Cat Negrito (R)- the Studio's Resident Royalty, assigned to outdoor duties but skilled in finding “work” inside
 

 

More pics next time! Leaf prints for book pages, inspiration photos…and photos of the Studio and environs.

Best to you, dear Reader.

 

More October Ecoprints from the Subasio

“Inspired by the broken colours and forms of the still-radiant ancient frescos on the walls of churches and streets in Assisi and neighbouring medieval hill-towns, I created a series of Artist Books and textile frescos whose content refers to the natural environment of the Subasio as well as to its powerful spiritual and Dantean heritage. My intention was to research the bioregional plants of the Subasio near the Arte Studionestrelle at Santa Maria di Lignano and to discover natural pigments which I could use to dye and print locally-made paper and vintage linen. I was interested in a contemporary application of the traditional knowledge about natural dyes associated historically with this region of Italy where much of that older wisdom seems to have disappeared. My question was: Could some version of that knowledge be restored? The October native vegetation growing high up the mountain provided a rich palette from leaves, bark, berries and late blooms that worked together in successive layers of dye and print. My work on this beautiful mountain recalls to me the Fioretti (Little Flowers) of Saint Francis of Assisi whose love for the Umbrian landscape brought him and others closer to God. And although I was here too late in the season to use the traditional ginestrelle blooms in my prints, I was able to obtain much colour from their seed pods! ” (Shlomo Feldberg constructed covers and boxes for Wendy's Artist Books during his residency in addition to completing his own mixed media work.)

The statement above about my work during my residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle appears in the catalogue for the show of contemporary art at the public art gallery of Assisi. The show takes place the last week of November. As well as the inspiration I found so abundantly in and around Mount Subasio, I am pleased to share with you some of the Artist Books and textiles created during my October 2013 residency and featured in the annual exhibit by many of the Artists In Residence. I have also brought home with me many eco printed papers and textiles that will form much of my work later in the winter.

First pic: Umbrian handwoven linen, highly textured and serviceable cloth; an Assisi-fleamarket find, vintage but never used.

It took me many prep and printing sessions with mordants and local plants to express the Giotto/Cimabue/Pintoricchio fresco colours I had in mind. Even then, I used madder dye powder for the reds since Rubia tinctorum does not grow at almost 1000 metres above sea level where the Studio is located.

The abundance of yellows in the earlyOctober leaves was a challenge. During my first week of printings, shades of yellow or brown was all I could manage to obtain using a basic alum acetate mordant. Hmm. I knew I would print the papers and cloth several times again for more colour and form.

As the October days passed, the fall colours began to change and pigments both increased and decreased in the leaves. I searched for sources of blue and found them in Dogwood berries (Cornus sanguinea), Sloes (Prunus espinosa – tiny plums) and Cotinus coggygria (more blue after the middle of October). Purple showed in the bark of walnut twigs (Juglans regia) as well as late blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) and sloes; greens from Dogwood leaves (and berries, too); moss greens from Rosa canina (Dog Rose). The yellows were varied: Golden-apricot from Olive leaves; deep golden from Walnut; yellow-chartreuse from Sumac. The “ginestrelle” or Dyer's Broom (Cytisus scoparius in these parts) had only seed pods for printing tannin browns in October, its brilliant yellow blooms long gone.

Here, blue, green and teal from Dogwood berries and leaves:

 

And the enticing golden yellows from European Walnut on old cotton sheets:

 

A small display of yellows with iron (flowers by Shlomo)

 

Dogwood greens, walnut yellows and deep browns; pinks and purple-pink from walnut twig bark.

 

Rusted silk chiffon with BlackBerry and Dogwood berries:

 

 
Dogwood and walnut with the last sunflower:
 
 
Walnut with Dogwood, Elder and iron:
 

 

Artist Books : “Subasio Scrolls”

With the Subasio Scroll Collection I am continuing to develop an earlier goal: to use the accordion book form as a botanical scroll. This collection of three books is entilted “Little Plants of the Subasio: October Scroll” (1, 2, 3). A fourth book is coptic-bound and contains my handwritten copies of sayings from Dante and Francis of Assisi. The book is also entitled “Little Plants of the Subasio”.

Each page of each book, back and front, is printed with leaves, bark and/or berries and fruits of the area around Arte Studio Ginestrelle, which is llocated nearly at the top of this part of the Subasio. The range of available plants changes with the altitude (here, between 800 and 1000m.) So while madder might be found on the bottom layer of the vegetation belt, only a relative (Galium lucidum, but not a red one! ) was found at the mid-to-high level where the Studio is.

 

My aim was to use only what I could forage within that vegetation layer on the mountain and therefore not to import plants from other areas. I did succeed in that aim, except for my use of powdered madder…one cannot express the spirit of Giotto's frescos without red! All the other plant colours came from the vegetation right at hand.

(Aside: I was unable to find any really good locally-made paper for my books , despite the fact that the Fabriano art paper factory is within a few hours drive of Assisi and the other hill towns. The art supply shop in Florence was closed on Saturdays, the day we went there. One bookbinder we met in Florence says he sends for his supplies to Talas in Brooklyn!!! Or to Paris or Germany. Wow. )

 

Some of my main pigment sources were: Juglans regia, Cornus sanguinea, Rubus fruticosus, Prunus espinosa, Robinia pseudoacacia (invasive, introduced), Carpino nero, Quercus robur, “Rutacae” – species unknown except for the family relationship), Sambucus negra, Rosa canina, Acer opalus, plus Olive and Grape.

 

My “Subasio October Scrolls” collection of Artist Books consists so far of three accordion-spined and one coptic-bound book. ( Covers and Book Box were made by Shlomo Feldberg using my printed textiles and papers.) These Artist Books remain in Assisi for exhibition. Others will be added to the collection in time as I continue to work with the many papers and textiles I made there and brought home.

 

Below: Walnut leaf print on the box: walnut dyed linen thread for the book stitiching

 
 

Completed scrolls atop the reference books I used to help me identify the native and local plants. I had hope they could tell me which might be for use as sources of pigment. None of these books discussed the traditional dye uses of the plants, even when they gave extensive info about medicinal use. This confirmed my supposition that natural dye knowledge about the area was limited or non-existent.

 

 

A wild fennel and rust page in one of my books:

 

Walnut leaf page:

 

An arrray of pages in a scroll book:

 

The spine of a book with plant labels in English, Latin and Italian:

 

 

Robinia pseudoacacia:

 

 

Carpino nero (Black Hornbeam):

 

 

The little coptic-bound book of sayings from Dante and Francis of Assisi; on ecoprinted pages:

 

 

Dante, Canto IX. Mount Subasio and some prayer-poems by Francis of Assisi.

 
Title page:
 

 

 

Book box and book covers:

 

 

 
 

I leave you today with a promise to post more pics and info when (a) I have sorted and retrieved some lost photos (FB crashed iPhoto and ate my camera upload…lost a LOT of pics!!!) and (b) after we have moved to our new house next week.

(This is not our new house)

Those colours! The ducal palace at Gubbio, the town where Francis tamed the wolf:

 

Here is more inspiration from tne colours and forms of Umbria:

The view from our bedroom:

 

Look up for inspiration:

 

Look down…

 

Even the distressed surfaces inspire: in fact, these above all…

 

 

I hope I leave you looking for more like Brother Cat Cimabue (L) and Brother Cat Negrito (R)- the Studio's Resident Royalty, assigned to outdoor duties but skilled in finding “work” inside
 

 

More pics next time! Leaf prints for book pages, inspiration photos…and photos of the Studio and environs.

Best to you, dear Reader.

 

Plants of the Subasio

Second post from Assisi and the mountainous terrain that is the Subasio in the “Green Heart” of Italy.

After settling in last week and waiting for the heavy rains to pass (much needed rain, though), I have started checking out the dye potential of plants of Mount Subasio. There are three levels of vegetation on the slopes of the mountain: at the lowest eleveation, in the valley and a little way up, we see lots of olive groves and vinyards, along with fruit trees like peach and quince. The middle level is home to deciduous trees and bushes such as European varieties of oak, alder, dogwood, maple, hawthorn, elder, walnut and birch. Up at the top ( well over 700 meters up), we find Cedars of Lebanon (first seen here in the Botanical Garden of Pisa in 1628), a kind of Douglas Fir ( a well-adapted, non-native introduction from North America ) and various tough pines. ALL are possibilities for the dye-print steaming vessel!

Besides cotton rag paper, some vintage cotton sheets from the residence will make their way into the dye pot. (… and more later on such domestic things: I am planning to devote a few posts to the exquisitely simple yet rustically- elegant architecture and furnishings of the Arte Studio Ginestre: salvaged materials – from family chests and country properties, from woods and scrapyards, uncontrived yet styled…dear Reader, Architectural Digect could learn a thing or two about Italian Country from the Ginestrelle Studio and its talented and devoted Director, Marina Merli)

So to start us off, here are some of the plants I have collected and begun to print ( with many more pics of prints in future posts):

Medlar: a kind of apple scarcely seen anymore in some European countries, Ready to eat when soft:

Our old friend the elder, “sambucco” here, with rusty companion:

 

Not just a tree but a thicket of figs outside the Barn Studio:

 

Blackberries galore:

 

Dramatic peeling bark on a birch:,

 

The Eglantine wild rose of Fairy Tale fame:,

 

Rosemary:

 

Mistletoe:

 

Bits of meteorite rock with Assisi pink limestone:

 

Studio chair with wovem wheat stalk seat:

 

Dogwood:

 

Centaura cynanus:

 

Pomegranates in a pot:

 

Olives:

 

Malva zebrina:

 

Cyclamen:

 

Carpino nero (Ostyra carpinifolia) – not known to me in Canada but widespread on the Subasio. Prints BRIGHT BRIGHT yellow!

 

The familiar lovely blue of Wild Chicory;

 

And last for today, the walnut:

 

Next posts: the prints and some little peeks the deco in Ginestrelle.

 

Wendy

 

At the Arte Studio Ginestrelle, Mount Subasio, Assisi

All pictures are today, dear Readers.

Art residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle in Assisi, Mount Subasio, Umbria, Italy. Our first few days!

Next post: Umbrian florae with dye potential! The “ginestrelle” is Broom or Spartium junceum. A few late, late yellow blossoms on the tip-top of stalk here and there. Fruits from the gardens here and nearby.

Mount Subasio with Broom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broom plants near the studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Door with pomegranate

Late Broom flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walnuts, grapes, figs, peaaches, plums from the gardens in and around Ginestrelle

 

 

 

 

A studio outdoors

Mount Subasio

Junceum spartum, Broom plant of Umbria

 

Mount Subasio with Broom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Late afternoon light on the mountain