It's been a while since I've posted a large new painting. Some paintings are more difficult than others to finish. This painting, inspired from a trip to Rib Mountain State Park in Wausau, WI is one of the difficult ones. After hiking for 2 days, and taking photos I was inspired and eager to get into the studio to paint. I did numerous sketches, and color comps, but I wasn't happy with the planning or any of the first studies. Those first results didn't covey how beautiful and unique the woods are, something was missing. I needed to approach it differently. The beauty isn't just found in the perfectly shaped trees, the unique rock formations, and the intense fall colors. It is also found in the rugged, organic trails and the diffused light. The sunlight is softened as it is filtered through the leaves and branches; it is splashed around on the dead leaves, sticks and rocks on the ground. I've captured that subtle light and the emotion that we experienced those 2 days of hiking.
This painting, like almost all of my landscapes doesn't depict an exact location. I'm not copying photographs, I'm trying to capture some of the beauty that I personally feel, and hopefully that resonates with others. The real experience is never completely captured by the photos. Here are 2 that I used for inspiration and reference. There are a few more in my earlier post.
This is the main sketch that I started with. I compose and sketch at about 8x10, then using a grid redraw on a board prepared with gesso.
Here are 2 of the color studies. On the left the rocks were much cooler in color, more blue. I was trying to create drama by using complimentary colors, playing the blueish rocks against the warm yellows and oranges of the leaves. In the end I choose the softer color harmony of the warmer neutral colors in the rocks. That color scheme better captured the peacefulness of the woods.
I created a grid and blocked in the drawing with burn sienna acrylic.
Working from my color studies, I painted a first pass with oils. After this stage I can see the direction the painting is going and adjust.
At about this point I photographed the progress and played with the black and white values in Photoshop. This helps me visualizing what I am working toward. I don't always do B&W studies as part of the process but it was helpful here. I was trying to capture the atmosphere of the defused light.