I recently had a friend commission me to paint a landscape that serves as a permanent warm memory of evening hikes in the New Mexican desert (and a bright accent for some earth toned walls). It was originally intended as a Christmas gift, but unfortunately- the final is STILL drying on my easel! Instead, a small color study I made was given as a promissory place holder.
This was a fun project to do, because it involved a little creativity and imagination to get it done. The original photo reference was shot at noon (last image), and my friend was looking for more of a sunset scenario/with the color scheme leaning heavily towards the warm reds and yellows of dusk. He also wanted to include some southwestern flora in the foreground (aside from the desert scrub pine), like the beautiful golden Chamisa. Last- he also wanted the mountains to be more prominent on the horizon.
Before starting the larger final painting (20" x 16"), I made a smaller study (7" x 5") to figure out a color scheme and come up with some ideas for the foreground flora (middle image). The first image above, is the final painting. With the last rays of sun just brushing the top of a chamisa, the desert shimmers like a golden jewel. Cool colors in the foreground create depth and push your eye out to the sun-basked mountains on the horizon. It was fun for me to watch this painting evolve from a photo and some simple verbal direction, into a totally different scene.