I was standing on a bridge opposite the one where these girls are seated, painting this gorgeous scenery at Sundance with one of my classes. The autumn trees were backlit in such a way that they glowed like they were on fire. Suddenly these five young girls wandered into the scene and took a seat on the bench, and I snapped a quick picture. I loved their gestures, their friendship, and the way they were out enjoying the fall color just like I was. I knew instantly that I wanted to paint them.
In a class in Salt Lake yesterday I was explaining how and why I include figures in my paintings. The people in my landscapes are nearly always strangers, and I paint them without recognizable features so they can be about anybody. If I want the picture to be about a particular person, say, a family member, then I do a portrait. But otherwise I want any viewer to be able to envision themselves in the picture, interacting with the landscape. Including a figure embraces our humanity and links us to the subject at the same time.
This painting is called "Encircled About by Fire" (inspired by a chapter in 3 Nephi where angels come down from heaven to surround children and minister to them them, "as if in the midst of fire.") The subject of this painting is obviously not little children but teenage girls. Having raised three teenagers of my own, I know they are surrounded by guardian angels! That is every mother's prayer. Sometimes teenagers need that divine intervention even more than their toddler counterparts. Here the reflections in the water complete the circle of fire. This is a larger piece (22 x 30) that I completed in the studio last week. I'm planning to exhibit it at the AmBank show opening November 3.
The piece I was working on en plein air when I took this photo is called "Stream of Light" and has a different format, as you can see below. It is smaller, and was completed on location, visiting this spot in multiple painting sessions. It is now sold. You can see that while the setting is essentially the same, the subject of this smaller piece is clearly the water, while the focus of the larger painting is centered around the girls and the circle of fire that surrounds them.
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.