|Secret Mountain Wilderness 12x36 oil/canvas|
by Michael Chesley Johnson
Recently, I've embarked on painting larger pictures. As much as I like being outdoors, I am creating these pieces in my studio. The studio affords more time, coffee and a little music*, all conducive to working out problems that can't be dealt with in the field. With that in mind, I offer you a look at my latest:
I based this on two plein air studies, one recent and one from a few years ago. The location depicted is one of my very favorite spots, and I love the name of the area: Secret Mountain Wilderness. You can imagine yourself wandering between the two mountains and on into the mysterious distance, perhaps on a long, unexpected journey involving trolls and dragons.
Here are the two studies:
|Almost There 8x16 oil/panel by Michael Chesley Johnson (study)|
|Clouds over the Mesa 9x12 oil/pane by Michael Chesley Johnson (study)|
In an earlier state of the painting, I included a small juniper bush in the bottom left corner. My idea was that it would present a bit of foreground that was clearly much closer, thus pushing the mountains farther into the distance, increasing the sense of depth. I struggled with this bush for some time. No matter what I did, it kept drawing attention to itself. I really didn't want that. I wanted the eye to touch briefly on the foreground and then continue on its way. Here's the early version:
|Secret Mountain Wilderness (early state)|
I woke in the middle of the night realizing that I didn't need that bush. The point of the painting was everything beyond it. The first thing I did after breakfast was to scrape it out. Then I repainted the area so it was more in keeping with the middle ground to the right. I also redesigned the mountain on the left so it more closely resembled the actual thing as depicted in my plein air reference. Now the painting has exactly the feeling I want to convey.
By the way, I used no photographs for this painting. It is based entirely on the two plein air references, memory and good judgment. Here are a few detail shots for you of the finished piece:
This week, my good friend Albert Handell will be in town. I'm honored to be the host and coordinator for the mentoring workshop he's conducting. It'll be a very full week, but a very satisfying one, I'm sure. I'll try to write a post or two about it as it goes.
*While working on "Secret Mountain Wilderness," I listened non-stop to the soundtracks for the three Lord of the Rings movies. I think this helped me realize the mystery of my chosen view.