"Where Light and Shadow Meet" | 9" x 12" | Oil on canvas panel
Available at www.KimVanDerHoek.com
©2014 by Kim VanDerHoek
Around this time every year I evaluate my goals for the coming year and begin planning accordingly. Last year I was a participating artist in 3 plein air painting events, two in California (Sonoma and Laguna) and one in Maryland (Easton), which is about the maximum number I can squeeze in around my kid's and husband's schedules. It made for some exciting painting in new places tackling new subjects. As a result it pushed me well out of my comfort zone and gave me a very clear idea of what I want to work on this year.
In an effort to continue pushing beyond my usual subjects I wanted to tackle more mountain and desert scenes. Not because they are popular because truthfully, they're not (at least not in my area), but because I think they are really challenging. All those red and ochre tones both in the foreground and in the distance require some careful thought.
Knowing how to work a warm and cool palette is absolutely essential for a view like this. I see students make the mistake of painting the distant red tones in mountains or hills too dark and way too warm. They should be cooler and a little lighter than the reds in the foreground (in my opinion). Also, with all the real life detail in those peaks it's very easy to loose sight of the big picture and go overboard by adding too many extraneous details in that area that detract from the whole idea of the painting.
When faced with a situation like this I'll often spend just as much time working on the distant mountains as I spend on the rest of the painting. I'll block in the big light and shadow shapes on the mountains and then add details. Then I'll paint out a lot of the details I just added because I usually add too many the first time around. When I step back from my painting I'll find I took too many important details out and I'll carefully add a few back in and so on, until I get the feel I'm looking for. The hardest part is taking the time and having the patience to keep working it.
With this view of the Twin Brothers Mountains which are next to the Mountain of the Sun in Zion National Park in Utah I needed to do a few value/composition sketches before I began because the photo reference I had didn't quite have the composition I wanted. Plus, I couldn't make up my mind about how much or how little of the Twin Brothers Mountains I wanted to include.
You can see in my first sketch I included all three mountains. In the sketch below I only included the cropped portion of two peaks. My final composition however, fell somewhere in between the two sketches. They really helped me decide what I wanted to include in my final painting and it didn't hurt having a value plan already in my head before I began mixing any paint.