Last summer I promised to do a landscape painting for the highest bidder in our parish festival silent auction.  One of my painter friends warned me that I’d be likely to get photos that would be difficult to work with, but I went blindly ahead.  (Pun intended.)

The couple who won the bid wanted a painting of the view from their favorite campground.  They promised to get a photo with fall color and email it to me.  Ideally I’d like to visit a location and take my own photos but the campground was more than an hour away so I waited for their photo.

After a gentle reminder, here’s the photo I received.

Oh, the challenges!  I needed to imagine a composition with a center of interest.  I loved the sky and I imagined that rolling hills were beautiful in person so I at least had a starting point.   When I enlarged the photo I could see some buildings near the fields in the distance so I decided on a barn as the focal point.  I emailed the couple and told them that I’d need to make some adjustments and asked if the rolling hills were their main interest in this scene.  They agreed so I started with a pencil sketch to work out my ideas.

I decided to go with oils instead of pastels or watercolors and chose a 16 x 20 inch canvas so that I could wrap the scene around the edges in case they didn’t want to frame it.

I started with an underpainting using burnt sienna.  I haven’t been using earth colors from the tube in my oil paintings, but I thought it would unify this fall scene and provide a framework. I sent  the couple a pic so they could follow the progress.

I let if rest a few days while I worked on other things.  As I began adding color to the background I shot a few photos along the way.


The road was definitely not working yet.

I smoothed it out and added the couple.






The foreground still needed something interesting and I wanted to get across the idea of a campground. Maybe a few camp chairs facing toward the view, as if the couple had just gotten up?  That didn’t work, so I decided to do picnic tables.

The tables started out a bit grey but I warmed them up with the burnt sienna. (I’m not a fan of the color gray.)   I was  waiting for the painting to dry so I could varnish it and send it to its new home when I decided it needed more highlights.  So here is the final version (I think).