Friday, April 5, 2013

The Making of Hallett Peak

The craft of making a picture, or dare I say art, usually involves more than putting the paint on canvas.  I'm always interested to learn how other artists approach their craft and so I thought I would share the steps I went through to create the 20"x16" painting below.  

It started with me standing awestruck before Hallett Peak while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I grabbed my sketchpad and drew this thumbnail sketch:

Later, at home I worked out the value design: 


The line drawing below shows where I wanted the energy and focus to be - darker, heavier lines are where the highest contrasts and focal point will be:

Next, I painted this 14"x11" to see if the colors and design worked together to communicate my concept:

I then put the first painting away for a few weeks.  With a fresh eye, I pulled the painting out again and did some critical thinking about what I would need to adjust to make a successful larger version.  The notes below show the key changes I wanted to make:

I had to have a plan for value, color, line, and composition that would come together to communicate the grandeur of the place and my response to it.  Once the elements were resolved I began work on the 20"x16" canvas.

Step 1: blocking in the main shapes

Step 2: first pass of sky and mountain.  Accurate value and color.

Comparing concept piece with the larger painting

Step 4: painting middle ground and main tree

Step 5: first pass on foreground.  Orchestrating shapes and colors in foreground
is critical for visual flow and interest.

Step 6: Refined the shapes within the mountain, scumbled warm highlights on middle ground trees,
refined the large trees between foreground and middleground (on left), adjusted the rock shapes and
added final details to the foreground plants.

Step 7: Frame!
This frame was hand made for this painting by Mike Otteman
of Otteman Arts in Loveland Colorado 

I also sign and title the back of the painting along with the date, medium and varnish used. 

Use the comment box below to let me know your thoughts about my painting or process.  I love hearing from you!


  1. Hi Scott.
    Normally I would just make a good comment, but this one it would be a very good comment, i love it but, seeing that you asked us to comment on how you approached the painting, obviously this suits you and it works for you but, that way isn`t suitable for me. If I can`t complete a painting Plein air or studio, in two hours, wet into wet, then it doesn`t work out for me. probably that is why you produce better paintings that me eh? But again, I do love my way of painting. All the best Scott.

    1. Vic, I love painting alla prima too. In fact, most of my work is done plein air 11x14 or smaller wet in wet. Working on a larger piece, over days or weeks gives me more time to contemplate the way I execute the work. It also allows for additional techniques wet over dry which I like!
      Thanks for your comments. Cheers.

  2. Love reading and seeing your process. You capture the beauty and grandeur of this site.

    1. Thanks Susan. I have three or four more mountain scenes in my head...hopefully I'll find time to paint a few.

  3. Fabulously done. I have added your name in my artists list link on my blog!

  4. It's very interesting to read about your process. All the planning obviously paid-off in the superb result.

    The frame is beautiful as well!

    1. Thanks Keith. The planning helps me strengthen the composition (shapes, line, flow, value, balance...etc..) as an element somewhat separate from the subject matter.

  5. Scott, I really enjoyed reading through your process to achieve the framed work. Great results after good planning. Good choice on the frame also.

    1. Thanks Ron and welcome to my blog...good to have you!

  6. Thanks for sharing this Scott, very helpful and inspiring! I really enjoy your work.


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