The scene I've chosen is a gully near Riverside, California.
I 've drawn a sketch from three different reference photos. The distant hill came from one, the gully came from another and the group of trees to the right from a third. The left hand trees I have made up to balance the painting.
On a bookshelf sits a timer I've set for three hours. I'm anxious to see if I can get this puppy finished in the allotted time.
The focal point of the painting will be the large group of trees on the right side of the painting. After blocking in the shadow pattern I go ahead and paint in the light side. I paint these fairly complete because the entire rest of the painting will be done to support these trees.
Now for the two distant hills. Notice how large I've left the sky holes in the trees. This is done because I will fill them in later as I get further along in the painting.
Looking at these photos I realize I should be painting with a larger brush. The middle hill and distant hill are near completion. Notice the grayish/purple wall of the gully underneath my hand. In my original design this was going to be my visual lead-in, the design element that would draw the viewer into my painting. But things change...
I have put in the middle ground that is between the gully and the middle hill and I am putting in the trees on the left. As I mentioned earlier these are put in for balance. Any time you have a large object on one side of the painting you must throw something in on the opposite side to balance it.
I put in the far wall of the gully that runs left to right along the lower one-third of the painting. At this point I took a bathroom break, went to the kitchen to get some tea and upon my return realized I had a major design flaw. The gully that was suppose to be my lead-in is taking up way too much space, attracting way too much attention and my photo reference is so poor that I'm going to have to make up the entire wall in my head. What was I thinking? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
As with all paintings this one has hit critical mass. The point where I have to decide to save it or trash it. After looking at it for a while I decide to extend the main group of trees downward. In a bold move I decide to get rid of the gully altogether and instead I'm going to make this a flat field with a dirt road going through it. The dirt road will act as my lead-in. You can see the line I drew indicating where I'm about to rub out a portion of the painting.
And here I go...all or nothing. The next thirty minutes are critical. This painting will either rise from the ashes or burn a hole into my brain as I see a painting that had potential end up in the trash.
Out with the old...in with the new. I extend the shadow pattern of the main tree group downward.
I paint the left side hill, throw a shadow across the road
and a bright ray of light at the base of the trees. Moving very fast right now anxious to see a positive result.
I'm so excited I can barely stand it! By putting in the road to act as my lead-in and by throwing the foreground into shadow the main group of trees look like proud sentinels.
My heart has stopped racing and my hand is once again steady as I apply finishing touches to each area of the painting, balancing the values and adjusting the light patterns.
I use a small brush and palette knife to put in the branches of the trees.
The finished painting. "Gully Sentinels" 24" x 30" oil/canvas.
Unfortunately the timer went off a long time ago so I did not make my three hour time limit. But what the heck, I've had a very exciting day in the studio.