I’ve decided to call this painting, "Running Late”. I actually began this painting about three or four years ago. It’s a rather large painting, 24 x 48, oil on board panel. My brother Jon is framing it for me in old barn wood that came from a corn crib that was on my neighbors property.
My number one goal when I began this painting was to be able to paint the background and create more “feel” than realism. Actually, I’ve found that it’s kind of tough to do sometimes. The goal is to paint it in a realistic style so that it is in correct proportion but my goal is that it be a painting and not a photograph. The photo realism painters, who are due our admiration for their talent and effort, sometimes seem to lose the emotion of their subject due to their hyper realistic quality. I’ve noticed that people tend to look at photographs and tend to study paintings. And I like when they “study”, it gives them more time to find something about it that they like. Of course, it also gives them time to pick out the errant brushstrokes. I reckon you have to take the good with the bad.
Anyway, allow me to digress… I began the painting by sketching out a basic outline of the shape of the deer. I usually do that because being anatomically correct is very important when working on wildlife. Having the deer basically penciled in also gives me size perspective to know exactly how I want to paint the trees to illustrate the distance between them and the deer. I don’t usually sketch in the trees because it's more fun for me to just begin painting and allow the work to develop itself. I have spent a lot of time in the woods walking, observing, hunting, and enjoying the beauty or nature. Often I will reflect back on those times and feelings and try to let it come through the brush strokes.
Once I had established a triangular line which laid out the slope of the hill in the background I then started painting the trees. Of course the sky in the background was the very first thing that I painted. This allowed me to begin with the background as I kept working forward implementing more and more trees.
I probably should have taken a photograph after every painting session and you would've seen the trees progress little by little, but I only started to photograph it once I had begun to paint the deer. By then I had added some color to the deer's body and had painted over the antlers that I had sketched in at first. When I had first penciled it in, this deer had a much larger rack. Then I remembered this one nine point buck that I met while slip hunting in West Virginia. It was 11° and snowing when I first saw that deer, but that is a different story and a different painting that I probably need to do some other time. I put him in this painting simply because I wanted to and we like to call that "artistic license". Speaking of artistic license, you may take note that as I was painting the deer I used some pretty strange and vibrant purples, blues, oranges, and lots of different reds etc. etc. My goal in doing so was to increase the intensity of color in the deer effectively softening and almost muting out the background. My intention there was to try and force your eyes to focus very intently on the deer just as you would be doing if you were a hunter with your surroundings fading out of focus.
Now we are back to that whole “try to paint a feeling” thing. A few of my friends who have seen this painting have loved it. I asked them did they feel like it was realistic? They all felt that it was VERY realistic. Of course now as I write this I'm letting the deer out of the bag. It might very well “feel” realistic but to my knowledge there aren’t any deer this intensely colored that I’ve ever seen. Could it be that what I have been working toward is actually working? I’d sure like to think so!
When this deer was about three fourths of the way finished, my wife's first comment was, “Are you gonna leave that log in the front that white?”. As you can see, at the time, the log was very white. There was a lot of work left be done and a lot of paint left to smear around to try and make it look more like an old log and less like driftwood. This of coarse was my intention from the beginning but Lynn had her doubts. You may also notice from some of the mid paint photos that underneath the middle of the deer there was a medium sized tree. In later photos that tree has been painted out. Lynn and I both agreed that it looked a little too much like the deer was being impaled by the tree, almost like a horse on a carousel. That's what happens when you paint, sometimes what you thought was going to work just simply doesn’t. As you can see, the very last thing that I painted was the laurel that he is running into. He’s almost there and once those bucks get into the laurel they are nearly impossible to find. Ordinarily by this time of the morning he would already be safely hidden and sleeping, but this time, he is running late...