Welcome back.  (Cross-posted at dailykos.com)

Last week I included a poll with the diary.  The results were as follows:  (15 votes total)

    Paint the photo(seen below)——–60%  
    Don’t paint the photo————–16%  
    Paint the Bush twins instead——-16%            
    Go away art troll—————— 0%  

The photo:

Thanks to all who participated.  Based on the results, I will attempt to start the painting from the photo for next week’s installment.
This week I will examine a recent painting of mine.  It is seen below.

The painting:

The painting depicts the type of landscape seen in the area just south of Grants, New Mexico.  Grants is a small town sited in the northwestern part of the state, about 60 miles east of Gallup along I40.  It is an area that is lightly populated with several pueblo Indian nations in the vicinity, including, the Zuni, Acoma and Laguna nations.  Grants is now something of a tourist destination.  World famous Chaco canyon, a center of Anasazi culture about 1000 years ago, is only a few miles away. In the past Grants has served as a center for other activities including mining.          

I’ve wanted to paint this kind of scene several times in the past but found my attempts at a more realistic depiction to be less than satisfactory.  After my trip out there last year, I was inspired to try once again.

The scene has been stylized and does not depict an actual landscape.  It is more of an impression of what I have seen during my many trips to the area, a landscape synthesized from elements I remembered.  This part of the state has rolling fields with numerous junipers, reduced here to to circular shapes.  The green hills in the background are covered with trees and shrubs unlike the bare rock seen further north and west.

In keeping with the surreal nature of the painting, detail has been reduced to shadows and color variation.  The form of objects have been simplified to the most basic shapes, junipers reduced to mere orbs.

What stands out here is the placement of the “orbs”.  The junipers are placed as they are for several reasons.  First, they are placed to give the impression of great numbers without actually painting several hundred bushes.  They suggest great numbers.  (Previously, I told the story of my older brother and his quest to paint several hundred trees in a mountain scene.  The amateurish result was unfortunate given the time he had put into the work.)  

Secondly, the junipers are placed to lead the eye into the painting.  There is actually a kind of wandering path in the center traced by the junipers.  This is a visual device having its origin purely in my imagination.  No natural scene would appear this way.  But this brings up an important point.  Painters are editors.  In any given scene, a painter edits out things that would detract from the painting or cause it to lose focus.  Alternatively, a painter adds or enhances other apects to bring about a better painting.  Here, I have done both.

Finally, the gradually decreasing size of the junipers serves to add depth/distance and perspective.  The hill recedes visually behind the Junipers.  

It is worth noting here that there is a second kind of perspective here.  The most distant hills are painted in shades of blue.  Colors fade with distance, green tree-covered hills are seen as blue. (or perhaps a faded green.)  This has been called aerial perspective.  It can be a useful device for showing distance/perspective where a scene lacks the extensive foreground present here.

My earlier diaries addressed the manner in which a scene is lit.  I suggested scenes lit by late afternoon sun for its dramatic effects.  Here is an example where I have put that into practice.  The sun is off the canvas on the left side producing shadow areas to the right of the objects in the scene.  The long late afternoon shadows work nicely with the juniper orbs to make interesting forms.

Note that colors is used here to provide a consistency and unity to the painting.  The green color of the junipers carries over to the field and the hill behind.  As a result, these different elements stand together visually.  

Framing.  Good frames are fairly expensive.  I’ve tried too many times to get by with an inexpensive frame from the craft store.  It just doesn’t work.  Here is a good source of moderately-priced frames:
http://www.pleinairframes.com/
This painting’s frame is from this site.  The cost was between $50.00 and $60.00, still moderately cheap.  It really does make a huge difference and is worth the extra cost.  Pleinair offers a range at different prices.  The site is very user-friendly and I would recommend it.        

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