Saturday, November 5, 2016

Secret Mountain Wilderness 12x36 oil/canvas

Secret Mountain Wilderness 12x36 oil/canvas
by Michael Chesley Johnson
(Final state)

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.

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