Suzi Hike: #1

My friend Suzi commissioned me to paint a picture of a two people hiking in the mountains for a leadership summit she puts on.

She asked me to paint two people hiking on a mountain. She didn’t want the hikers to be very large, because she wanted the landscape to be emphasized, but I figured they would need to be the focal point, even if they were small.

To start I sketched a few ideas and passed them by Suzi, to get a feel for her preferences. She also sent me some photos of paintings she liked, which I tried to take into account. I knew it was going to take a handful of attempts, so I got a jump on it right away.

This first image was an attempt to paint the two hikers crossing a small crevasse. In general, I really like this composition, but the crevasse itself isn’t quite what I had in mind.

To start, I painted the distant hills in a very light mix of raw umber and cobalt blue. I wanted those distant mountains to be very grey in order to provide the illusion of atmosphere. I also skipped the brush in order to break up the wash, hoping to give the impression of snow on the distant mountains.

Between the foreground and the distant mountains is a chain of mountain hills, each a little closer than the one before. To achieve this, I tried to paint each hill a little darker in value. I also wanted the mountains to fade to a mist where they met, which I attempted to achieve by using a graduated wash.

In general I really like these mountain hills. This is pretty much exactly what I was going for, so I’m happy they turned out. The value in these hills is light enough that the hikers’ silhouettes stand out, which is also what I wanted.

I wanted to cut the near hill with the crevasse to give it some dimension and add drama to the painting. I like the line the crevasse creates in the foreground, but the shape of the edges is not what I was after. I did not study images of crevasses, and it shows. I’ll need to study them in more depth before I try again.

The hikers themselves were really fun. I wanted the lead hiker to appear as if he was looking back at the other hiker. This pose took a lot of drafts (on a separate sheet) before I was happy with it. At first, both hikers were moving from right to left, so just their sides were visible. As I tried different poses, I found them to be much more interesting if they were hiking toward the viewer. This added more perspective to the composition, and told a better story, as though they were returning from the distant hills in the background.

The other hiker is almost completely sideways as he steps over the crevasse. That cuts the perspective a bit and isn’t quite what I wanted.

In the end – I like the value structure. I like the lead hiker’s pose. I like the color of the near grass. I don’t like the crevasse or the pose of the distant hiker.