Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oil Painting Commission

I received an oil painting commission to paint a large landscape of the Wallowa Lake and Chief Joseph Mountains in eastern Oregon. The client requested I combine the view from the photo on the left with a macro view of the mountains (the small color sketch I did on the right). After a google earth search for reference photos of the combined mountain range, it became clear that the composition was going to be a challenge! First of all, combining the two views meant that the entire mountain range needed to be shown. This particular range is fronted by two equal sized range of foot hills. Soooo, the mountains and two foothills create a tootsie-roll effect of three long horizontal bands of equal size and length. Hmmmm... Not visually appealing for a painting at all. The client requested the lake be dominant as well, with lots of blue in the sky and water. Hmmm....ok, this presented some challenges. Since the mountains were in the far distance, and panoramic, and the lake is large and BLUE, I needed to create a visual eye-path so that the viewer can wander about the painting and be entertained in an orchestrated manner. Usually, artists like strong focal points and dramatic lighting to create their visual interest. In this case, it needed to be a portrait of the entire mountain range ( in the far distance, so colors and edges will need to be muted for aerial perspective) yet still give the lake its fair square footage...all the while not overpowering the viewer with blue blue blue. So, I created fog in the foothills to cut down their strong horizontal banding effects and wind and fog patterns on the lake to direct the eye and give some interest to the massive blue expanse. I also invented a small peninsula on the left side and a foreground of snow and shrubs to further direct the eye, and to unite the entire painting with the colors of the rocks and snow shadows on the mountains.

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