Maryland, USA, Know The River Has Its Destination, oil, 18 x 24" (46 x 61 cm)
I was invited to exhibit several paintings at the Traveling the West Show & Sale. Although I had many landscape photo references from visiting various western states, I did not have many references that would relate to travel. I had already used a train for one painting and a diner in another. Living on the East Coast I did not have ready access to Native American nor cowboy models, authentic clothing, etc. My first thought was that I could paint a traditional landscape and use a vintage photograph as a reference to add figures.
My Design Strategy
I looked at a lot of references, my landscape photos and online sources of vintage Native American photographs, trying to find a workable combination. Nothing really came together and suddenly I had an idea. Why not paint a traditional landscape and, instead of putting figures in the scene, paint a Trompe l’oeil of a vintage photograph on top of the landscape. It would look like someone taped a photograph to the surface of the painting. I would use this to establish a theme and produce a series of paintings, which I called Spirits Of The American West. The Trompe l’oeil photographs would represent the return of Native Americans to lands, which they once occupied. I then decided to find Native American sayings to use for titles, providing additional homage.
My Working Process
I used a landscape photo that I had taken in Yosemite National Park and I searched the online catalog of the Library of Congress, browsing hundreds of vintage photographs for inspiration. I decided on the size of the Trompe l’oeil painting, reserved that area for its inclusion, and then painted a traditional landscape. I used green umber, raw umber and flake white to paint a monochromatic representation of the vintage photograph, producing an illusion of age and adding creases and tears. Finally, I used various key words to search the internet for an appropriate Native American saying.
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