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Hiking west Austin has been my hobby for while now. The artistic craggy rocks and tree roots often grow above the ground looking for any rock crack to seep in and look for moisture. As an artist, this added “texture” is incredible.

Take a walk with me…. Great Hills Park Feb 15th, 2015. The trail is dry and dusty.

Dry Trail Feb 2015 - great Hills Park Austin, TX

Feb 2015 – Great Hills Park Austin, TX

Turning a corner on the trail, we see the water source in the park. The winter moisture has the creek hardly moving hoping to wake the plants near her edge. The water is clear and grey is the dominant color, though permeated by hopeful green.

Painting inspiration - photographed Feb 2015

Painting inspiration – photographed Feb 2015

It is a peaceful setting. Hardly anyone on the trail. A great time to reflect on the winter and look forward to spring.


 

A couple months later, May 2015, I am standing in my painting studio looking at a large 5ft wide by 4 ft tall blank canvas. This painting has to be incredible in order to carry off such a large format.

I browse through my photos saved to inspire.  I happen across the Great Hills Park trail shots and the creek shot. This is it!

From an artist standpoint, I look at the photo in a whole new light. How will I interpret it? I don’t want to create a copy of the image, rather a painting that reflects how I saw the scene as pure poetry at the end of a grey winter. Paint the hope that will bourgeon into a romantic spring.

Starting the base palette

Starting the base palette

I see pinks and mossy green beneath all the grey. After misting the canvas with water, my background roller is moving fast. I can envision some of the end result, which is hours away, and I want to get there…. A storybook scene in the making.

Painting deeb shadows that will sit below the surface layer

Painting deep shadows that will sit below the surface layer

As I paint, I switch to a palette knife for heavy scratch and thicker paint. Mixing heavy matte gel into my paint allows rocks to build up, like the years of compression it took to make the actual boulders – just in minutes instead of centuries.  The branch “fell” in the foreground.

More deep shadows that will create dimension later

More deep shadows that will create dimension later

Rather than keeping the nearly black water, I balance the pink undertone layer with a soft blue grey and start to fill in the rocky ground cover with a large brush and palette knife.

By the end of three hours, a few branches and tree leaves have been added. This is a great place to stop on day 1 so the next top layers don’t get murky.

After three hours...

After three hours…leaning against the work table for a better view

The next day was a series of working sections with more vegetation and variation. The far bank needed a lot of work over the grey shadow layer. Rocks were painted with flat brushes.  Darker colored shapes topped with lighter shades gave them dimension.

Roughly 4 more hours of working, stepping back and “growing” my vision for the poetic version of this February day. With a few watery details creating shadows and glassy reflections, the painting takes on the feel of a watercolor, even through acrylic paints and mediums were the only products used. Blacker shades like raw umber start to showcase the darkest details. A branch is added in the top right corner and it is 99% done.

Details 99% done

Overall 99% done

Just a few tiny details were popped in and my signature added after the piece was hung on the gallery divider wall. My vision of the Creek at Great Hills Park is finally realized. Time to go out for another hike…

Feeling at home in the gallery

Creek at Great Hills Park by artist Deb Otto, feeling at home in the gallery

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