"Mr. Grizzly Having a Sweet Treat"
by Julie Jacobsen
So, here we go! Here are the steps towards my finished product for this commissioned work.
Keep in mind that this is a whimsical approach and not meant to be a photo realistic painting. This is meant to be a tongue in cheek type composition meant to make a lucky recipient very happy for his birthday. I hope it does!
Well, as I usually do with my acrylic or oil paintings I start with a brilliant under painting. This is a combination of prism violet, cadmium red light, and magenta. I just glob it on and allow some texture.
I began with a rough colored sketch using more brilliant colors so that when the painting is finished little bits of the colors will peak through and add life to what could be, an other wise, flat painting.
Jumping ahead I began to develop the landscape first so that I wouldn't have to be careful when I painted the bear. It always works out better that way even though it's tempting to vault ahead and do the much more fun main subject matter. Notice that I'm careful to add distance to the landscape by muting the colors as they recede. It also helps that I have a lot of overlapping objects to create more depth in the painting.
Now that I'm mostly satisfied with the background I begin working on the bear.
I have a problem at this point. The aspen tree on the left is becoming too dominant in the painting but I don't want to take it out because it adds variety and I really like the angle that leans toward the bear. I'm beginning to set up a triangular composition to lead the eye around and around.
Because we went up to our cabin a lot this year I was able to more carefully observe the vegetation. If I hadn't I would have been tempted to paint this aspen growing straight up but they don't always grow that way. Often you see trees that sprout up in the strangest places-like this aspen did right next to a pine tree. They often wrap their branches right around the other tree and become very tangled. Also, notice that the pine tree is actually 2 trees. We actually had one just like this on our property this year that was dead and we had to chop down.
Now this is really getting to the fun part. I love to put the leaves on the trees and it was so fun to make the aspen tree become in individual one and not just a generic representation. Above the aspen I've started to put in a hint of the pine tree. Notice also that I've begun working on making the stream look more realistic.
At this point I remind myself that this is supposed to be a grizzly bear. That's the main theme of the painting that's very important to the customer that commissioned this. Grizzlies are generally lighter. So, I lightened it up. Also, it's more fun to have the bear do what bears often do-go after honey in the tree! I notice that I need to make some judgements about the values (lights and darks) in the painting. There are areas that really need a splash of sunshine to bring them out so they're more noticeable-like the tree trunk. In addition to complete the triangular composition I'm careful to make sure that I have light values like the aspen tree on the bear's fur, etc. It also adds continuity to the whole feel of the painting.
After I lighten and darken areas some more I come up with the finished product as seen at the top. It's a good idea to look at the painting upside down to see if it has a lot of interesting areas. It's nice that the sky isn't too busy because it's a good idea to have an area for the eye to rest.
I'm liking it enough and feel that it's done so I decide to sign the painting with my date and copyright symbol (to protect my work from unauthorized copying, etc.). It's also necessary according to law to add a date. This adds further protection to my work. My favorite art teacher, Robert Rumel, used to tell me that if you feel like you want to sign the painting it's probably done. It's not a good idea to keep going until you "eat your painting"-as my mom used to say-and ruin it.
Whew! Now I can relax and concentrate on the holidays as I've fulfilled my obligation to my client.