I was drawn to the brilliant fall foliage backlit against the distant mountains of Glacier National Park. For the large painting, 20 x 30 inches, I used two different references to find the composition that would best suit my plan.
Here’s my initial photo.
I used a second photo to help me create better placement for the mountains.
And finally, I used a third photo that showed foreground reflection in the water. Adding in this water (and its reflection) helps create a better balance in my overall composition.
After combining these ideas, I proceeded to the initial block-in.
I continued to add paint. I use paint that is darker in value than what I plan to use for the final painting.
As I added more subject matter and adjusted values for distance, I ran into a problem. I struggled to have the far mountains look like they were traveling back in space, but not look too cool. I failed.
Finally, though, through reworking the mid-mountains, I found a color and value that fit better in the painting. You don’t always get it on the first try.
I also “half pasted” the distant blue mountains with a warm cast from the sky to better bring the painting together.
Below is my finished painting and the same painting in a black and white so you can see the final values.
Learn more about Kathryn Stats’ video, "Painting the Effects of Light," here.