For this 40″x30″ grizzly bear painting my concept is to have this Grizzly dominate the expansive scene of the river and waterfall and have him move into the scene with plenty of room for the viewer’s imagination to have him move through it. I wanted a very focused but non-threatening look and posture.
I begin by positioning my subject, light against dark to create contrast, and while the bear’s body is in the one-third grid of my painting, his head is intentionally almost dead center. I then block in shapes of a base color that captures the flow and movement of its fur, and begin to map out the rapids in the river, a few river rocks for points of reference and block in shapes of color to begin to form the waterfall.
I paint in shapes of base color to form the flow of the river, determine the best values to create distance, and bring in some of the darkest values in the foreground. I put a lot of focus on ensuring the water reads accurately and the flow, movement and volume is convincing of rushing water.
The smaller, tighter shapes create texture and repetition that begin to form detail that you’d see up close and personal. I use a small brush to begin laying in the finer lines for the short fur on the bear’s head.
The eye and the camera see differently and when photo reference doesn’t offer enough information, taxidermy models can help fill in the gap.
I use a larger brush like a No. 6 Flat to lay down shapes of fur color and fine lines for the denser fur of the body. The movement of the fur and that of the river creates rhythm and balance and this piece is coming together. 100+ hours of paint time and roughly 60 hours to go. I’ll add the final painting to my site as soon as it’s complete.