Big Painting / Little Painting

I had done this horrid little sketch while up in Maine. While none of the paintings I did there were spectacularly successful this particular one stood out as particularly bad, for many many reasons.

Untitled : Oil on board. 9"x12" 2014

Untitled : Oil on board. 9″x12″ 2014

After staring at it for a few days and making notes of all the disastrous errors I decided to try again; I would consciously and carefully rework the idea.

I photographed the process and the results are interesting (at least to me).  Stepping back from the immediacy of the situation allowed me to understand what went wrong the first time, and to actively correct it (for the most part) this time.

First was the drawing.  I had rushed the drawing on the sketch, and my brain pulled one of those classic tricks: it said “wow those hills are dramatic” and instructed my hand to make them very dramatic. The result is a cartoonish exaggeration of what my eyes actually saw. Yes, the hills had a sharp rise, but that was visually tempered by distance and atmospheric perspective.

Step One: Drawing and blocking in.  I spent almost as much time on this step alone as I had on the entire sketch above. I focused on the subtleties of the shapes of the hills, noting that they weren't just symmetrical bell curves rising from the rocks.

Step One: Drawing and blocking in. I spent almost as much time on this step alone as I had on the entire sketch above. I focused on the subtleties of the shapes of the hills, noting that they weren’t just symmetrical bell curves rising from the rocks.

Step 2. I solidified the hills and pushed them backwards with cooler blues & greens.  I also "fixed" the sky... which was my biggest regret.

Step 2. I solidified the hills and pushed them backwards with cooler blues & greens. I also “fixed” the sky… which was my biggest regret.

Step 3.  More work on the hills and a great amount of focus on solidifying the rocks in the foreground.  I also continued to fuck up the sky...

Step 3. More work on the hills and a great amount of focus on solidifying the rocks in the foreground. I also continued to fuck up the sky…

Step 4. I reworked the water, which had been a little flat and a little too blue.  I added some texture and depth to the shore as it receded.

Step 4. I reworked the water, which had been a little flat and a little too blue. I added some texture and depth to the shore as it receded.

Step 5. I finally got the sky somewhere manageable - although not nearly as beautiful and soft as the initial blocking...I also brought in the highlights on the rocks in the foreground.

Step 5. I finally got the sky somewhere manageable – although not nearly as beautiful and soft as the initial blocking…I also brought in the highlights on the rocks in the foreground.

Final.  The last steps were to painting the greenery and trees.  I'm about 85% happy with it.  I still think the sky got mangled and some of the greenery is a bit amateurish.

Final. The last steps were to painting the greenery and trees. I’m about 85% happy with it. I still think the sky got mangled and some of the greenery is a bit amateurish. The photograph doesn’t capture the subtle blues in the foreground shadows.