My searching for inspiring landscapes means a lot of road trips around the western United States. I shoot thousands of photographs with a Sony A55v DSLR camera just to end up with the few special images that I can base my studies on. Before I paint I create my studies in my computer. This allows me to keep making subtle adjustments as I go. The color of the lighting, contrast levels, depth of shadows, proportions and editing of the composition possible in this approach are essential to my work. This gives me a flexible and fluid approach to creating an image of a moment as I recall it. Or to create a composition that I think will help the viewer share that moment in that place.
The way a camera sees is not the way we see. And a lot of work at this phase ensures me that when I paint I am not just recreating a photo, Why bother? I am building a composition that will represent the human experience in my chosen setting. With nuance and subtleties of light and shadow and color that only the human eye can see. Sometimes this part takes days.
I seek not to show a scene as it is seen every day. Instead I choose to show a special moment in time when the weather and time of day provide extraordinary air and light. I work to try and show off a little of the beautiful spectacle of nature. Showing one of those fleeting private moments you feel privileged to have witnessed. When animals or even people are found in these landscapes, it is often a surprise, as they are deliberately not used as structure in building the compositions of my landscapes.
My actual painting method on the canvas is very "old school", 19th century mostly. Looking at my study I build up my paintings from a blank canvas in dozens of layers. First I block in a mid-tone in the sky and then a darker one in the land. As I continue building up the color and detail a simple sky may take 30 passes. Modern acrylics allow this to proceed relatively quickly allowing me to work on one painting at a time. I work background forward and in landscapes that is most often conveniently from the top down. My glazes become more transparent and subtle as the painting gets closer to the Romantic Naturalism I am looking for. "Romantic" because the image is deliberately designed with certain emotional responses in mind. And the "Naturalism" is in the myriad accurate details I seek to share with the viewer. I want to capture all of the different textures in a given landscape. The rough and delicate, and slick and reflective, or maybe wrinkled and leathery, you see these details often for me are essential in order to capture the essence of my experience in that place. I want the viewer to not only desire that same experience but to realize it, even as they simply look into a painting.