This is my second attempt at painting a view of the valley in the Appalachian mountains from our vacation in Elk Banner, South Carolina. In this version, I expanded the field of view considerably, and it no longer matches the field of view that I have in my mind. In my mind, looking at the valley from the balcony, there was a wall of mountains at the horizon, and a handful of houses and farms on the hills, leading into the valley. The mountains circled the valley floor in a bit of a horseshoe. In this image, the valley extends linerally out to the horizon.

When I was about halfway through this picture, I felt like the painting was ruined. There wasn’t much I thought I could do to rescue the image, but it turned out that the initial washes were thin enough that waiting for it to dry, and coming back to it the next day let me glaze washes onto the image and rescue it a bit.

I really like the washes in the foreground, and the perspective offered by the fences. The structures feel scaled correctly, though I think the composition can use some more. There are a few cows on the left-hand side of the image, but they are almost hidden. This betrays the lack of confidence I had when painting them, which is a shame because I think they actually came out nicely.

When I was finished with the image, I added highlights in white pigment here and there, which is something I have shied away from. I really like the way this impacted the final image, so I think I’m going to stop hiding from white pigment. I know, it’s not “traditional” but I get results from white pigment that I can’t get by masking or leaving bare paper.

I want to experiment with using white pigment in the clouds a little bit here and there – I didn’t do that here, but I think being creative with white pigment might help me get some of the whispy silvery edges to the cloud formations.

To paint this image, I started by sketching out the image. Once again, I tried to keep perspective in mind in the sky (see the explanation here for more on how I planned the perspective in the sky.) This time, I also tried to plan perspective in the ground as well. My goal was to end up with a composition with two S-curves, both of which lead to the horizon. Unfortunately, I neglected to consider that this would just form a single C. The two S-Curves then negate each other, and make the image feel flat.

If I had only composed this with only one S-curve, I think it would have felt deeper. Imagine the same painting, but flip the sky, and stretch the clouds… that way instead of two S-curves (making a C), I would have ended up with a single diagonal.

This feels much more interesting, though perhaps a bit unbalanced.

Were I to also move that bush to the left, I would exaggerate the leading lines, and improve the composition a bit more.

Original on top, modified in Photoshop below.

This tells me that I’m getting to the point where I’m able to do what I want to do with the pigments, in terms of getting them to bloom when I want, or blend the way I want them to on the paper – but I need to be more careful with planning out the compositions. I need to experiment with the compositions in a sketchbook more before I sit down to paint. And, when I’m in the middle of the painting, instead saying “I’ll toss a happy little tree right here.” I should instead ask, “Would a tree be happy right here?”