I started this out to be a 8 or 9 step demo of this painting and the process involved in it. What you need to remember to do if doing this is to take photos all the way through! I didn't so it's two versions of the start and then the finish. I'll do this again the right way....promise!
The interesting thing about this painting is that the idea came to me early one drowsy morning while still in a dream. I saw the entire painting finished, or so I thought. The concept for mood and atmosphere remained like the dream, but as I began to work with the painting my idea for the composition changed dramatically as you can see here. That's why the title of the post is 'Studio Exposure'. Meaning that I'm exposing myself by showing a start that was wiped out and begun again making a complete compositional change. What I did like about the first start was the line of the composition, the movement. As I started to paint however, I realized that what I saw in my dream was a painting that showed the breadth of space in the location painted. This is of an area that I've painted, hunted and wandered around in a fair amount and know well. I've painted a 20x24 plein air here, and smaller studies and have taken a lot of photographs as well. The finished piece is far from anything that is actually there, made up of many different bits of information. So that's the background of the painting. If you've ever had a dream that is so vivid that you can remember every detail in color you know how it is possible to recall it for sometime. I got right on this one so that I didn't loose that vision.
This is just one way that I start a painting. In the first step of this one I wanted the lines to flow in a nice 'S' shape, so I started with a dark 'drawn' outline for placement. The linen (AE350DP) was first toned with a warm reddish tint to play against the greens in the final. I do still like the 'S' shape that is in this version and might take it on again.
This is after the first half hour or so, just establishing the color temperature gradation into the distance. This is when I began to realize that this layout wasn't going to work for me. My concept of showing distance into the meadow environment was being stopped before barely making it to the middle ground of the painting by the large tree and the middle patch of large shrubbery. That's when I decided this had to change. The next view shows how I began to stage things after wiping this idea out. I did a lot of 'thinking' with a paper towel, thinner and a brush. Just wiping and moving the landscape around until I felt like I was getting back to my original concept seemed the best way to move forward.
This is the beginning of what the painting ends up being. The basic structure that will be more developed is here in this version as crude as it looks. I still haven't decided what to do with the little stream at this point. It's an integral part of the scene as both an element to break up the space and because the life of the meadow environment is dependent on it. It's a spring fed native brook trout stream that is in good shape in areas and not so good shape in other areas due to cattle traffic. But in the area I'm painting it's actually fishable and a treasure of nature. I've changed the hill structure to add to the illusion of distance and have also established the mood of the sky. Though as you'll see that becomes even more 'wet' and overcast as the painting develops. I think it's safe to say that for many painters it's this process that keeps us coming back for more. When the painting begins to come to life and 'take' you along, it's an incredible feeling that can't be explained and can't be understood completely. I know in my own case that it's at these times that the best work is done.
In this view I've almost set up the entire painting, except for details, etc.. I decided that the stream needed to come forward out of the bottom of the picture plane to add depth by using the diagonals of it's banks to start the line into the distance. I'm beginning to lay in color from the background forward now. I still don't know what to do with all of the variety of growth in the meadow. It takes a couple of days of dry brushing, scumbling and glazing to build the depth and complexity of the meadow flora. But I wanted to do this without needing a degree in botany at the same time. If I only have to actually render a few flowers to make the other 50,000 look real, I'll be very happy. And that will also keep the painting from becoming too stiff and photographic.
This painting is not painted thick with lot's of impasto and that's designed to be that way. The atmosphere is like a soft veil of gauze covering everything and in my view that quality would be defeated by a 'heavy paint for the sake of heavy paint' approach. It's a more delicate scene than painting it that way would do justice.
'Mist On The Meadow' - 20x24 - oil on linen
This is the painting in it's finished state. That is for now, change is always an option. I wish I'd taken photos along the way to show the evolution to this point. Although a lot of it was barely noticeable, just subtle little additions and subtractions. I accomplished my main goal, to recreate the peaceful quality that my dream presented to me. Before you get too whacked out with me and this dream idea, I think what really happens is that these ideas are in us already and just need time to brew. They come when your mind is ready to accept them and that deep state of the dream seems like the perfect delivery system.
Next time I promise to take more photos too. Thanks for looking in.