One Way to Make a Painting - Silhouette

Diamond Head Descent, 20x24, acrylic painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

There must be a million ways to make a painting - how to pick one? I ask myself this every time I put a fresh canvas on the easel.

More often than not, the subject suggests the process. In this case, for example, the subject is a snowy sunset scene, which means that there is:

  • a lot of snow (very light values)
  • a lot of sky (even more of very light values)
  • a lot of back-lit trees (very dark values)

In search of mid-values I find some shadows in the snow and distant hills, but still, there is a very narrow range of light lights and a very narrow range of dark darks. In photography, this is called a silhouette.

The main characteristic of silhouettes is that the outlines of dark shapes are stark and sharp, so they need to be very pleasing to look at.

This means that the shapes of trees in this painting - both the individual ones and the overall shapes of clumps of trees, needed to be drawn with a lot of attention. I tried to make all the shapes interesting, especially the largest trees, by making them appear playful, almost human-like.

I also designed the overall patterns to lead the eye all around the scene and toward the point of the biggest interest, which for me was the gleaming ocean.

I debated the inclusion of human figures and decided to go with it. The two hikers add to the feeling of wonder that I experience when I am on the mountain. Especially when the sun starts setting and  the cool colors of the snow are lit by the flaming light from the sky. I’ll never get tired from views like this one, which can be seen descending from the Diamond Head lookout via the Elfin Lakes Trail near Whistler. The ocean view is of the Howe Sound Islands with the Vancouver Island in the background.

Paintings with such a particular lighting requirements pose an interesting challenge, and for me, a challenge is always a good thing. It's an opportunity to solve yet another puzzle. If not exactly a million, there are many ways to make a painting, and I am sure that more that one of them would do the job.

Happy puzzle-solving!