Here’s to the Sunny Slopes of Long Ago


In 2008, my dear uncle, the rancher/salesman of pharmaceuticals to large animal owners/secret cowboy/and all around stand-up gentleman, Mr. Darrel J. Kane, hired me to make a mural for his new house.  It was an awesome project — pulling me out of my city life bubble and dropping me right into the middle of a western movie.  In fact, to get in the mood, I decided to watch the TV mini series Lonesome Dove inspired by Larry McMurtry’s novel, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, and Robert Duvall, who played the main character Gus McCrae and who I can credit with the wise quote above.Uncle Darrel already had an idea of what he wanted from the get-go — he had a very specific scene in mind.   I took notes.  He sent me books, pictures and I began collecting reference.  A lot.

A few to call out were 1) the great illustrator and western painter/sculptor Frederick Remington.  How beautiful! The color!



Also, Lonesome Dove





I did this sketch and a few other and sent them to him.


With further discussion, we came upon the idea of a “painting-within-a-painting”.  My concept was to paint a trompe l’oeil (french phrase meaning “fool the eye”) mural of the painting that is hanging on the wall. Darrel liked it — and made the suggestion that the characters in the painting would be himself and his wife, Rosie.  They sent me pictures of the location and some pictures of some other components in the painting.  I did a few sketches, but realized that I just had to go there to get the reference I really needed to pull off the painting.  So we scheduled a trip for me to go to Oklahoma! A city girl in Oklahoma?  I was game.

Wow, what an experience!  My aunt and uncle gave me a fine tour of their life, friends, work and weekend pastimes.  Just a few highlights: I learned the proper terms for cattle (not cows, Darrel reprimanded me!):  heifer (a young female before she has had her baby) and bull (adult, not-castrated bull), I attended a cattle auction (I was the only female in the room that night–also, the announcer was really talented, couldn’t understand anything he said), I worked on a ranch and did chores, I went along on a horse run, had an amazing delicious oklahoma picnic, learned a few sayings (from Aunt Rosie, “well, I’m about as full as a tick”.  Love it!) and finally, I got to ride a galloping horse (a little scary, but also wonderful).

Here’s a few of the photos I got for the painting:

DSC_0242 DSC_0153 DSC_0133

Back at home:  Now I had everything I needed to do a proper sketch and then, a color sketch (about 12 inches wide).  Also shown is the installation diagram.




It was approved!

Following are a few pictures describing my painting process.


1) I work in layer, from back to front.  I paint on an unwoven fabric used to stiffen dress shirt collars otherwise known as “interfacing” or “pellon”.  It’s extremely thin and hard to see once installed on the wall.  I drench it with several coats of a mixture of matte and gloss medium.  Then I paint one flat color of paint — in this case I used some extra paint from another mural — light blue.  You can see it around the edges.  I paint with a pretty wide bleed to account for ANY measurement mistakes.  Then I start painting the elements, from furthest back to closest.  I started painting the sky — again, with a pretty good bleed on the bottom part.  This is a huge time-saver as it allows me to only paint one edge.  (Meaning, I don’t have to paint the edge of the sky meeting the edge of the mountains.  Just the mountains over the sky. One edge.  Clean and simple.)

I continue to work forward and build shapes and work from rough to pretty tight. In the foreground areas, I tried to keep it pretty loose for a long time.  I was having a blast building textures with crazy mark-making, scratching, glazes and crazy colors.  I love this part of the process.


2) In this photo, you can see I have laid in the objects in the closest foreground.  If you are curious as to how I transfer my drawing:  I print out my sketch to size (blowing it up in photoshop and tiling it onto 8.5 x 11 paper which I tape together).  I tape the sketch in place and place saral transfer paper (I like blue or red) underneath and transfer the outline.  I lift the sketch, paint the silhoette and block in a few colors.  Then I lay down the sketch again and transfer more detail.  I keep the sketch taped in place for the entire painting, in case I need to refer back to the sketch again.  (Again, huge timesaver — sometimes you lose your drawing in the painting process.  If I’ve done my work, it’s all figured out in the sketch.  Bring it back and use as another reference. )


At this point, I have blocked in most of the figures and am working on modeling and detail work.  I have printouts of a lot of reference, and grab it when I need it.  I try to keep a lot of reference around so as not to settle on re-creating just one photo.  I like to think that I’m gathering a lot of reference, then putting it into the Alexis garbage disposal, mixing it all around and then spitting it back out on the canvas.


Here are a few close-up shots.


Below is a shot of the painting almost completed.  I just have to paint the frame.


And here is the mural installed!


Thank you Uncle Darrel and Aunt Rosie!


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