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Painting Technique: Composition

Working on the Teton painting. Here is the initial version following creation of the underpainting and initial application of pastel:

In this modification, I have restructured the tall tree on the right to accurately reflect the gaps between the branches, as there was a variety of differently-shaped evergreens depending on their growth environments. I did the same on the large tree to its right, and a few others. I also added warmer mid-value greens to build depth in the trees.

Here I begin to add foreground rocks and lighten up the distant mountain a bit. I also add color (now and bare ground) between the evergreens. By lightening the middle mountain on the left, I was able to bring out the color and darker values of the evergreens.

At this point, the composition was becoming increasingly problematic. There was something terribly wrong with the composition!

Note the trees on the left, although likely as tall as the trees on the right in reality, look so much smaller with what appears to be little declining grade in the hill. To properly reflect the perspective, the trees on the left should look like they are "way" downhill versus sitting on the same level plateau as the trees on the right. Unless those trees on the left were much younger and therefore dwarfed those on the right, something needed to change!

Also notice that the two major masses of trees seem to split the canvas in two halves. It would be more pleasing to break up the layout (thirds and fifths, for example).

To correct for the height issue between the two masses of trees, I created a large gap between the two sections, and added a lake. This had the effect of showing the lower left trees at a lower level. I also removed trees from the right side of left evergreen grouping to correct for the halving of the canvas and reducing that crowded look.

Finally, I begin to add further foreground and a continuation of the plateau downward to the lower set of trees on the left.

The lesson? Plan your composition well! Be aware of aerial perspective, distance, and relationships among the masses of the landscape. The current version above appears to have a few trees on the left sitting at a lower incline than those on the right, plus an additional tree line way down below at the water's edge.

More details and highlights to come!

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