Imagination and Reality – Anasazi Scene
Last summer, I suddenly had a clear vision of a painting that I knew I was supposed to create for an online friend in Colorado. The vision was partly realistic and partly a fantasy mix.
(Now and then, I get an idea for art that seems — from the start — to be intended for a particular person. I know how odd that sounds, but it’s part of the intuitive process of being an artist.)
The nearly-completed painting is at left.
It’s an unusual work for me, but it’s rapidly approaching the picture in my head… the one I started with with.
The process began by collecting photos and making thumbnail sketches to put the ideas together.
Since I have never seen the Anasazi dwellings in America’s Southwest, I needed to do considerable research online and at the public library. I was amazed at how few photos matched the images I was looking for.
However, looking for reference photos when the picture is clear in my mind… well, it’s like shopping for clothes when I have a very definite (fantasy) mental picture of what I want.
In other words, the process can be frustrating.
In this case, since I knew that the picture in my mind wasn’t actually going to match the real Anasazi landscape… well, I wasn’t sure where I was going with the work.
I guess the closest description might be the process artists use when painting science fiction illustrations. Though we often use real, Earth-based images as points of reference, the finished work strikes out in a new direction.
At right: A page from my artist’s journal, collecting reference photos.
I knew that I wanted sky, trees, and a plateau. Beneath that, I wanted some vivid, flame-like textured strokes. The upper left photo from my journal was my reference for them. (That’s a picture by Stephen Trainor.)
Beneath that, I wanted the Anasazi dwellings, half-sheltered beneath an overhang.
Finally, I wanted a smooth rock face and some colors referencing the scene at the top.
All in all, I get the idea that it’s supposed to look a little like a Hollow Earth scene.
Here’s the painting process, and I continue to work with a tonal, acrylic underpainting.
The first photo shows the initial tonal notes in midnight blue and white.
After that layer dried, I started painting with oil paints. The sky and plateau area were first, with some tonal corrections in the shadows lower in the painting.
Note: As I’m looking at this photo of the partially-completed work, I think I may re-introduce more blue into the shadows. I’d grey’d them with ochre (a yellowy, muddy brown) and I think I prefer the blue… but I’m not sure yet.
After the upper landscape looked good, I was ready to work on the cliff-side colors, shown in the next photo.
At this point, it’s time to put the canvas aside and look at it, fresh, in a week or so.
I’m not sure what will happen with it, next, but I’m pleased with the results so far.
The original is an 18″ x 24″ oil painting on canvas. This isn’t a commissioned work (I don’t work on commission), but it’s one that has been a fairly clear creative vision for a very definite recipient. I’m painting it intuitively because that seems like the right thing to do.
For me, this isn’t a unique process, but it is fairly unusual.