Friday, April 24, 2015

Catalina Mountains, Romero Trail #1

The Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson are beautiful and distinctive.  I found them very challenging and rewarding, but mostly challenging to both hike and paint.  The terrain is very textural, huge rock formations with spotted clumped vegetation. Single photos represent a small bit of the visual experience.  On multiple trips I've taken hundreds of mediocre photos, here are a few that I am using to create a new painting.  This one has nice shadow and light shapes, like most of my photos there is a glare across the lens.  Not the artistic lens flares like in movies, but the annoying kind.

Nice composition and a bit of the atmosphere that was very evident in person, but it is a struggle for mediocre photographers to capture.

Ah that beautiful texture that's so difficult to paint. Painting every detail of the rock and scrub brush would take more patience than I have, and would make for a less intriguing painting.  The challenge is to suggest detail with brush strokes and edit shapes to create pleasing rhythm and design.

This photo is less mediocre.

On to the composition, color, design; what to edit out and what to make the emphasis. I complete most of this work digitally. This stage is one of the most fun and challenging, (there's that word again).  I often spend quite a bit of time in this stage, yet every painting is still edited more as the stages progress.

I draw the composition about 12" wide, and grid it up so I can draw it on the painting surface. I don't create full size drawings and transfer them anymore. I used to work that way, but that's very challenging.

Often I create multiple color comps in a sketchbook; I was pretty happy with this one.  The camera, as always, distorts the color and values, compressing the range.  So you cant see that I was emphasizing the broken color passages.

This is all "preliminary work" as Joel Nakamura would say. I haven't yet started the final painting, stay tuned.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sabino Canyon, Bear Canyon Trail.

I haven't posted as frequently as I had intended to lately, that doesn't mean I haven't been painting. I plan to post more regularly in the future. This is a new painting completed a few weeks ago, depicting the Bear Canyon Trail that leads to Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona.

When hiking I typically walk about 7 steps, stop, take a photo, hike another 7 or 8 steps and take another photo and so on, until the memory card in my camera is full. Consequently I spend tons of time studying reference and concept images for a painting. Many of the concepts show promise but are never realized as a finished oil painting. Case in point, this photo (and many similar ones 7 steps apart) was intriguing because of the low warm morning light, and long cool cast shadows. I also wanted to include the natural look of the desert plants in the various stages of growth and decay. Much of the decay has great character and interest (to be explored more in future paintings). As I was working through ideas my thinking was side tracked by the memory of hiking up and down the rocks, and this image didn't convey the elevation change.

Here is a digital color study based on the above photo reference, along with other photos of the rocky cliffs and bluffs. The concept became too busy. I was trying to paint too many concepts at once.  Morning light, decayed and non decayed vegetation, the magnificent peaks and jagged rocks...

Magnificent peaks and jagged rocks. Are they not magnificent?! I should do a painting with them as the focus.

Another worthy subject to add to the list of concepts, crazy variations in the shape of the saguaro.

I also wanted to emphasize the canyon. We hiked up between two giant ridges of rock, it was an amazing day.

More crazy saguaro cactus. If I paint the actual specific shape will it look too fancy-full, and not believable?

So I decided to try to create a paining with crazy cactus, and warm low morning light, magnificent rocky peaks, that tells the story of hiking up the canyon. This is an early digital concept. I felt the foreground was too busy.

Better, but the color is too...dramatic?

In the end did I choose to combine too much? Was I able to bring the concepts together, and create a harmonizing painting?  Most of my paintings are about light, shadow and atmospheric depth. These subconsciously create a foundation that the other concepts can play upon.
Here's the finish. 18" x 24" Bear Canyon Trail.