Lake Winnisquam Sunrise – Triptych

This triptych has a history. Its current subject – Lake Winnisquam at dawn – was not its first incarnation.

Here’s a photo of the finished work. It’s an acrylic painting, and each of the three canvases is about 18″ x 24″.

Lake Winnisquam Sunrise 1 - by eibhlin - three ~18" x 24" canvases

Here’s my original photo from Oct 2014. We spent a month in a cabin by the lake, and – each morning – I’d go outside and take photos from the dock in front of our cabin.

For the finished triptych, I wanted slightly more vivid colors, but a similar sense of calm, beauty, and peace.

The first attempt – the full-sized acrylic sketch

First, I sketched-in the general composition. I started with somewhat exaggerated colors and contrasts. (And I increased saturation in the printed photo I was working from.)

That helped me analyze the composition, color choices, and effects.

Here’s how it looked on 7 Jan 2021.

Acrylic sketch of Winnisquam Sunrise triptych

After the paint dried, I kept looking at it. It was okay, but… for me, not great. It was too literal in some ways, and didn’t convey the impression of light that I wanted.

Whenever I’m working on a painting, I study it to see what works and what doesn’t.

I notice what attracts my attention, and if that’s what I had in mind as I envisioned the piece.

Over the next eight months, this Winnisquam triptych went through many changes, similar to my painting for the Huntsville wedding.

Secrets under the paint…

To be honest, the now-finished Winnisquam scene is layered over three other triptych paintings… ones I didn’t like well enough to keep. (If I don’t like a painting, I won’t keep it around me.)

Two of the previous works were semi-abstract landscapes.

The third was a quirky, mixed media exercise in humor. I painted the canvases blue – from sky to ocean – and then glued slightly absurd Victorian images on the canvases.

I liked the idea (and my husband loved it) enough to keep one canvas from that experiment. That’s it, below. It’s now in our kitchen. My husband thinks we need to add speech balloons to it… with the critters saying ridiculous things, of course.

Mixed media painting - absurd from sky to sea

So then, before sketching the Lake Winnisquam scene, I replaced the now-in-the-kitchen canvas with a fresh, blank one. (This means two of the three canvases have some texture left from earlier paintings… but it’s not too obvious.)

More attempts and brighter colors

After the initial Winnisquam sketch, I tried other approaches to that sunrise scene. They didn’t work. Not for me, anyway. (I don’t think I took any photos of the results.)

Maybe it was a reflection (no pun intended) of how disappointing 2020 was, but nothing seemed quite right as I kept working on the canvases.

So, I stopped painting.

Then – I guess it was August or September 2021 – I decided to make changes. Quit waiting for… I’m not sure what.

I started to shift my focus back to my art.

That’s why, in the next phase of the Lake Winnisquam triptych (below), I highlighted the colors of the sky and the water. And then I drew (with pencil) the general area where the land – trees and mountains – should be.

Colors of the Lake Winnisquam sky & water

As I kept working on it, the triptych looked like this, and it was pretty… but still… kind of “meh.”

This time, I wasn’t going to quit. I went back to basics – color and value studies.

Finding answers in 8″ x 10″ sketches

First, I tried some small (8″ x 10″) acrylic sketches on canvas board, to see what would emerge.

For starters, I altered the colors.

I kind of love the blue-green and pink in this sketch, but I wasn’t convinced it’d work as a triptych. (I may change my mind and use this for a large painting, later. I really do love the colors.)

First 8x10 acrylic sketch, testing different colors

Next, I did a more literal sketch from my original photo.

Again, it was nice, and this may later become a full-sized painting.

For the triptych… No, it wasn’t quite the light and energy I wanted in my living room.

Lake Winnisquam Sketch #2

Since these acrylic color studies weren’t solving my dilemma, it was time to do some value (light and dark) pencil sketches on paper. And then I simplified the composition.

Value sketches for Lake Winnisquam sunrise painting

After that, I did yet another acrylic sketch on a small canvas board (8″ x 10″), based on my final value study/sketch – and it worked.

I kind of love the results, and may paint a larger, semi-abstract version (almost exactly like this), soon.

Final sketch for the Lake Winnisquam triptych edits

So, at long last, I saw exactly what to improve.

Two days later, the triptych was completed.

Here it is again, so you can compare it with the final acrylic (value-based) sketch, immediately above this.

Winnisquam Sunrise triptych - finished Oct 2021 by eibhlin

I’m very pleased with this painting. It brings light and color and energy to our living room. I smile every time I look at it.

And, of course, it’s a happy reminder of a truly spectacular month in a cabin by Lake Winnisquam, in October 2014.