Painting the Wilderness: My Artistic Journey and Landscape Art

In the heart of one of the most remote areas, my latest piece, "Wish I Could," was born from an unforgettable adventure in search of elk. This journey took a small group of us deep into the wilderness, where we experienced the raw and serene beauty of nature. This painting captures a moment of tranquility and awe, inspired by the vibrant hues and the atmospheric magic of the early morning light filtered through wildfire haze. Join me as I share the story behind this composition, the choices I made in its creation, and the thoughts it evokes.

Sunset landscape painting art

The Backstory

This piece came from one of the most remote areas around. In search for elk, a small group of us made it 4 1/2 mi. in before we lost the sun. In tall timber, we slept under the stars a half mile below big meadows and an open bottom.

Tall dark timber in the mountains

A few hours after bed, a bull bugled through the meadow and off into the mountain above. At daylight, we worked up the trail and through the meadows. The creek was shallow enough to tip toe across the rocks. After crossing, I remember looking to my left and freezing up for a second.

Sunrise in the mountains

Smaller trees were scattered along both sides of the creek bed, providing cover from the surrounding meadows. The sun at that moment was bursting light into the clouds above creating a warm pink ambience. At the time, smoke from wildfires was left a thick haze across everything which at sunrise and sunset, can look quite beautiful. I thought to myself "man, if I had the time, I sure wish I could come back and camp right here." I quickly snapped a photo and got moving to catch up with the group.

Sometimes there's not much one has to do because nature took care of it for you, and this was one of those moments. It left me wanting to stay for a while, which is what I think the campfire represents. I wanted to be able to include that while preserving the peace and serenity in this composition, so I kept it simple in hopes to do that. I didn't get the creek included in the photo above, so I included that going up the center of the composition.

My Color Palette

Landscape painting prep on panel

Titanium White, Phthalo Blue, Cad Red, C. Orange, Magenta, C. Yellow Lemon, C. Yellow Deep. Blue + red were used as my black and to mute colors along w/ white.

Colors for landscape painting in oil

In the sky I used white and yellow lemon and added yellow deep + orange as I moved away from the sun. I muted magenta and a touch of orange for the clouds. The mountains I muted some blue and magenta to keep it warm, the trees were my black with some orange and yellow deep added, and the same colors were used in the creek as in the sky above.

Landscape painting art

The Painting Process

I painted this in two sessions, the second being the following morning when paint was tacky, but not dry. I thin wash to establish color/value, then build up from there. My biggest concern from a technical standpoint was my brushwork through the trees. I decided to stick to a couple small, long flat brushes for the majority of the piece to keep myself from overworking this area. The sky ended up going the smoothest for me and the water was the most challenging. Using those brushes for the whole thing gave less separation between the trees and the water in terms of texture. To aid in that separation, I used a trimmed dagger in the 2nd session to add some detail in the foreground.

oil painting campfire scene

Additional Thoughts

I tried to capture that atmospheric look in the air from that morning. The fire implies it’s cool, and the warmth from it is welcoming. It makes me want to slow down and think. It reminds me that these moments are out there waiting, and it makes me eager to go look. I'm titling it "Wish I Could," because I wish I could go back there right now.

Watch me add the final touch:

Moving Forward With My Art

This painting has me thinking about camp and campfires looking ahead. I'm not sure how or what that looks like, but I want to put some time into that and see where it leads. No real changes come to mind when thinking about my colors and paints. With my brushwork, I'm questioning my dagger, and looking to challenge its purpose in my process with the use of other styles. I tried two smaller flats, and a script liner at the end to enhance some finer details.

Browse my original paintings

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