I just completed this painting of some gnarly junipers at the Grand Canyon from sketches and photos from my trip this summer. This oil painting on canvas is 24 x 30. There is always a fine line between painting too much information and not enough. What attracted me the most with this scene are the trunks of the trees, all grey and gnarly. Many are hundreds of years old and are great survivors of the extreme weather conditions in the southwest.
In this instance, I used an old canvas from a less-than-successful painting. I sanded it a bit and gave it a swipe of pure turp. This helps the new layers of paint adhere. I just painted a casual outline of the trees and basic shapes, then began adding washes. Admittedly, the other painting was a bit distracting until I got all the surface covered with the initial washes.
The hardest part of painting a scene is the middle when everything looks a mess and not at all what I had intended. The best advice I can give a novice painter is to just stick with it. Keeping your big shapes in mind, start adding some detail and don’t let any single part of the painting become too “precious,” i.e. so good that you end up painting the rest of the picture around it.
The final stage of the painting was to really deepen the shadows of the pine trees. Then at that point, when there is nothing that I can add to the painting that will really help it, I STOP! Always remember, you are creating a visual interpretation of a subject, not a photograph. If you want a photo, just use your camera. It’s just as important to know when to stop as when you begin.
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