Wednesday, November 13, 2013

trying a landscape

its pretty obvious that i gravitate toward painting figures and portraits, but every once in a while i try something else. i sort of cut my teeth on the still life, but have only tried a handful of landscapes. i did one earlier this fall based on a photo i took of some weathered buildings outside ovando, montana. i was leafing through southwest art magazine after we got home from our trip and made the observation that most of the landscapes that i liked were oil (a few were acrylic). the infrequent exceptions were usually from such watercolor masters as dean mitchell. while out in the tetons in september we came upon a stretch of the snake river somewhere after the jackson lake dam and before the oxbow bend that was pretty still, given the low water, with brightly colored bushes along the far side and some rocks and debris sticking up through the surface. farther downstream closer to jackson were saw a moose chomping on vegetation in the river. this later area was not terribly picturesque. so i thought i might combine the two into a landscape with the moose chomping on stuff in the pretty part of the stream.

initial washes (the shape in upper left is a shadow
 from the sun shining in an adjacent window)
in the september 2013 issue of southwest magazine i came across a painting of a lake in autumn by david mayer that portrayed the stream almost exactly and it was painted in oil. i thought it might be a good exercise to try to emulate this in watercolor. so i combined my photos and thought a bit on how i might do this. since this is only an exercise and for educational purposes, this is for my (and your) edification only. here is a link to the actual painting "autumn at hessie lake" by david mayer (link) that served as a technique model.

background darks representing trees
 and modeling on the moose
more moose modeling and some refinement
of stream side bushes

the main difference between what i did here and my figure/people painting is that except for the figure of the moose (which was done in several thin layers of paint) much of this was done in one take trying to get both the color and value right with the first pass. this is more like what charles reid preaches. the brush i used was a #16 round cosmotop from da vinci. the colors for the greens were ultramarine blue/quinacridone gold, hooker's green/burnt sienna, raw sienna/manganese blue. the bushes were combinations of vermillion,  raw sienna, quinacridone gold, brilliant orange and carmine. the moose was cobalt blue and burnt sienna with the shadows having the addition of carmine and ultramarine blue. the biggest challenge for me was the reflections in the water. i had 5to think "upside down" and get the values about the same as the objects (or perhaps a little darker) and the colors a little less saturated. streaks of ripples were lifted out with a 1" synthetic flat that was damp and formed to a thin profile and painted in with a #2 round in darker colors. this was done on a piece of 300# arches cold press paper that measured 11"X15".

so here are the sequential photos of work completed in about 20-30 minute increments.

start of the reflections  (sky reflection a
graded wash at the bottom)

almost finished (just modeling of his *right*
antlers and toning down the bush reflections on the far right
remaining to do)

i think you can see how derivative this is of the original so this is just for learning. i do like the overall effect though and will try an original soon. we saw a lot of moose and have lots of photo shots of them and the teton area from which to draw inspiration. 

if you reference any of this blog please give credit to david mayer for his original oil painting that served as a model for this exercise.


  1. Oh wow, you should definitely do some more landscapes , really love this , such great bold autumn colors reflected in the water, and the noose is perfect ! A beautiful composition !

    1. jane, i can always count on you to leave an uplifting post. thanks so much for the kind words. i am going to try a few more fall scenes with animals. i have a shot of some flying trumpeter swans that i am going to try working into a landscape-type scene. more later!