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Into The Woods…

April 3, 2009

Like many of you, I take a ton of reference photos. When I can, I try to take my time and compose the image in my viewfinder, with a painting in mind. But the vast majority of my references are shot through the passenger window or windshield at highway speed. I’ve learned to anticipate that there just might be a road, or creek running through that line of trees up ahead, or an old house or barn on the other side. Often, when I finally get home days later, and look at the photos, I’m disappointed that my timing was off by a split second, or that a photo is blurred from the movement, or that I shot into the sun and the image is washed out. Sometimes I wonder what on earth I saw at that spot, even when I zoom in.

I spend a lot of hours scrolling through images, dismissing and bypassing most of them very quickly, looking for three or four that I can move into a “potential” file. Yesterday, I was going through that exercise, and quickly skipped past this photo. Several images later, that little voice I try to listen to caused me to scroll back and take another look. I spent several minutes studying it. It was a bit washed out and somewhat blurred, but the little voice said “there’s a story to be told in this…”.

I set aside the piece I was planning to do next, put a new board on the easel and quickly sketched out the most basic composition, then painted in the masses.  For the next five or so hours, the brushes took over as I wondered what might be down that road, around that bend. I tried to stay true to what drew me to the scene, and made changes where I felt the need.

I knew as soon as I blocked this one in and stepped back across the room, that I had something here. Oh, sure, there is always something missed, or overlooked, something I could have done different, or a slight tweak in the composition.  But I had a plan, I stuck to it, and I accomplished what I had set out to do.

As I did this little painting, I was transported back to my childhood, walking barefoot with my brothers from a campsite on the Guadalupe River in the Texas hill country to the property owner’s house to fill water buckets. I tried to hear the birds, and those wonderful, mysterious buzzing sounds one hears in the woods, especially when the sun is warm and the air is still, and each footstep kicks up a little dust on the dry ground.

This is when I know I’m in the right place, at the right time, doing what I’m supposed to do. This, my friends, is why I wanted to learn to paint.

I’ve posted the reference photo here, followed by the painting itself.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol permalink
    April 7, 2009 5:15 pm

    I can see myself wandering down this road in my Grandma’s old neighborhood in Conroe. Heading to the pond to try to catch fish, tiny little fish.

    • April 13, 2009 2:06 am

      That’s exactly how I want people to feel when they look at my work. Thanks Carol.

  2. John permalink
    May 6, 2009 2:34 am

    Hey there. I like the way that one turned out. Looks like the entrance to a place that I might like to backpack or launch my kayak in their back forty. Good job on capturing the essence there unca ralph! that one I’d like to hang in my study!


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