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.