Tuesday, February 1, 2011

There's a piece that I've been slowly circling around for about six months now, ever since I visited Antelope Island, a surreal little ecosystem jutting out of the Great Salt Lake (where the dense brine fly populations coat every salty wave and make the shoreline move beneath one's feet like a mirage...and the innumerable orb spiders string themselves between bushes, and make strange dark constellations, silhouetted against the water...). It made a strong impression on me.

As per usual, I began the draft in photoshop, starting by constructing a panoramic view of stitched-together photos that I took on the walk up one of the island's higher points. I then began adding characters from some of my other, archived photos...I'd add a few here, take one out there...study them for a couple of weeks, and decide they weren't balanced correctly...add a few more figures, switch a few around...decide the light wasn't right on one of them, and look for a replacement...realize the emotional impact of one of the expressions wasn't what I'd intended, and replace it...realize that those replacements threw the whole composition out of balance, and switch them around again...notice that now that everything had been moved, the light was all wrong AGAIN...and on and on and on! But now, after seemingly endless fiddling and agonising overanalyzation--literally months after I began putting the draft together--I've cemented the composition at last. (I tried to avoid using myself as a character--I really did--but I just couldn't get things right without the particular something that gesture adds.)

I'd also decided recently that I wanted to divide the image into panels--for practical reasons (please to remember the size of my current workspace), as well as aesthetic ones--so this weekend I printed out a few thumbnails to play with, to explore how differing divisions of the picture plane can affect its impact.

Looking at these studies, I'm leaning towards a division that creates a relatively broad central panel, rather than one that breaks the composition into more uniformly-sized chunks. After a little more examination, I'll settle on one, get the panel specs to my carpenter, and be working on it by the end of February.


  1. Fun to see your process of changing the light and composition. So tedious!

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying seeing the process. Since posting this, I've done even more second-guessing. There's one more element I'd like to add (a deer or cow skeleton if I can find one in just the right position), to sort of mimic or reflect the position of the reclining figure in the middle ground. And I may also have decided to make it a single, 9-foot panel--I'm enjoying the format of the Chimney Rock piece so much. I'm probably overthinking it--but it will take so many months to paint that I really don't want to have any regrets once I launch into it!