Monday, July 7, 2014

"A Whiff of Danger"

In keeping with my theme of working toward a more impressionistic style of painting, I began work on a landscape inspired by a trip some years ago to the Tetons in Wyoming. The underpainting was put together quickly with a 1/2" flat brush and relatively thin paint. Once this stage of the painting was complete, I had reservations about going any further. I really liked the freshness of the painting at this point (and it was VERY impressionistic!). That being said, I also know when I feel this way about the underpainting, the finished piece usually turns out to be something special... so I pushed forward.

Block-in underpainting

As I began to work through the next stage of the piece adjusting edges and refining shapes with thicker chunks of paint, I kept feeling like the piece needed a wildlife element. At first I thought something small. Perhaps a magpie or two? But the more I thought about it, the painting was asking for elk... and not just one.
Such a large compositional adjustment at this stage of the painting poses more than a few challenges. My wildlife pieces are mostly designed around the animals themselves, not the other way around. So adding the elk this late in the game was a big risk. Most often, major elements added as an afterthought end up looking like just that... an afterthought.
Finally settling on three elk, I didn't want them to be static. There needed to be some movement and tension. Once I worked out the positioning, another problem became apparent. To keep the spacing and scale of the elk in step with the setting, the lead cow's nose was uncomfortably close the edge of the painting. After pondering this for the better part of the weekend, I resolved the issue by letting the values of her face blend closely with the background foliage.
Finally, the cow stopping to look back before bolting for the next county brings the mood of the piece together as I intended.
"A Whiff of Danger" 9x12 acrylic


Ralph James said...

A beautiful painting!

Kyle said...

I think this is a really strong piece. Like it.