Creating the Location for a Wildlife Painting

This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series How I Begin A Wildlife Painting

In this first installment of “How I Begin a Wildlife Painting“, I will focus on creating the location for the painting. On the surface creating the location may seem like an easy task. However, in reality a lot of effort and planning must got into the design process for the painting to be truly successful. The location of the painting to me is similar to the framework of a building in that it is the support structure for the entire painting.

When I’m ready to start a new wildlife painting, I begin by thinking about the story I want to tell through the image. I think about the emotions that I want the image to portray. I decide the time of day the painting will represent and what the main character or characters will be. When these issues are settled, I get down to the business of designing that special place where all the elements will come together and all the action in the painting will take place.

I first start looking for design elements for the location by searching through the hundreds of photographs I’ve taken of places I’ve been over the years. When I’m out riding in the country, or go on a vacation, I keep my digital camera with me in case I come across a spot that catches my eye. I do admit I photograph places that everyone has pictures of, but I also photograph places most people don’t even notice. Old bridges, backcountry streams, ponds, rivers, fields, and wooded areas are all good candidates for inclusion in a painting’s scene design.

While going through the photos on my computer, I look for parts of a picture that will evoke the feelings and emotions I want the painting to generate. I don’t look for an entire scene, but merely parts of the photograph that will fit the mood I’m trying to set. I may use ten or twenty photographs, each containing a different element, to find everything I want to include in the painting.

If I don’t find what I’m looking for in my photograph collection, I pack up my photography equipment and head out into the country. I want to find places I may have missed or have changed since I was there before. With the digital camera, I can take as many pictures during the trip as necessary to accomplish my goal. I’m not going to print any of the pictures so there is no cost associated with all the images. If I have made the proper preparations, the trip is usually more productive because I already have some specific ideas in mind of what I’m looking for.

I don’t use an entire photograph for my painting and the reason is simple. I want a scene the viewer does not have access to and has never seen before. If I find a place that is accessible to everyone with a camera, it probably has already been photographed hundreds of times so there is no need for me to paint it. It is not unique and therefore is not the type of place I’m looking for. My mission in painting is not to reproduce a scene as it exists in nature, but rather to create something a camera can not possibly capture. After all, if you can simply take a photograph, why not save a lot of time and just have it printed.

As I go through all my references, I look for individual details in the pictures that may be useful for this particular painting. It may be an entire tree, or just the bark pattern on a tree, or how a leaf cluster hangs on a tree that catches my eye. It could be the reflection in the water, or the way the light reflects off the water that I find interesting. I study the way the light is cast on the objects and the way the shadows fall on the ground and other objects nearby. I look for anything that fits the design that I have in mind. Sometimes I even find something that will make me change my original design slightly to accommodate it. The idea is to get enough pieces to make a complete scene that has never been seen before.

Once I’ve found everything I need, all of these references are placed where I can view and arrange them into the elements of the painting. I’m ready now to move on to the next step in the process. If I have taken the time needed for this step in the painting, the next step will be much easier and becomes a natural progression.

In the next article, I will talk about how I take all the elements I’ve collected and create the composition for the painting, so be sure to continue reading the next installment.

Until next time, keep your brushes clean, your colors pure, and as always, thanks for stopping by the North Forty.


Creating the Composition of a Wildlife Painting

Thank you.

Series NavigationHow I Begin A Wildlife PaintingCreating the Composition of a Wildlife Painting
This entry was posted in Preparation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Creating the Location for a Wildlife Painting

  1. Branchenbuch says:

    To all of the above commentors. Blogs could be significantly greater to study in case you can keep Your feedback straightforward and to the point. No-one likes to learn giant comments when the idea can be conveyed utilizing a not as long comment

  2. Kudos for writing this information, I don’t know about everyone else, but I could totally use it.

  3. Hello, I really admire the way u put the story… maybe u could visit my website and tell a few advices. thx in advance :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>