Heron's Flight

Spark's Lake is an iconic Central Oregon landmark. Almost everyone who has visited or lived here has headed up Century Drive to visit Sparks Lake, Elk Lake, and Devil's Lake, passing Mount Bachelor while viewing the Sisters and Brokentop en route. 

In spite of its popularity, Spark's Lake can still provide peaceful moments for those who seek it out.

In creating a painting of the iconic mountain and lake, I focused on those peaceful moments.


In the above photo reference, I considered the water's stillness and the quiet magnitude of Brokentop as inspiration.


To begin, I simplified main shapes with a small thumbnail drawing into a pleasing design. Placing the shapes on a long horizontal helps convey stillness of the area.



I assigned a value to each major shape:


Once I established my values, I covered the gesso-coated panel in gestural hand-painting, focusing on the placement of darks and lights, and using a combination of black, red, blue, and white. Here is a close-up view:

Just the simple act of moving paint freely across the surface of the board makes one feel like a kid again.


After the underpainting dried completely, I used a brush to began to locate the mountain, trees, and water. At this point, I adjusted the position and shape of landscape elements before going into further detail. This, I've found, saves me time. If I get spend hours on a bunch of detail and find that the location or shape is off, I've wasted time. And that, folks, is not a fun experience.

Working out tree focal point with strokes of color, below:


I  typically paint with a limited palette, usually 2 blues, a red, and a yellow, as well as black and white.


I began with the mountain and worked my way forward. When most of the panel was painted and the work about half done, I danced back and forth between the different planes, adjusting color and value and a bit of detail.

At that point of the painting, I had all the elements in, the values mostly correct, and the edges found. 


The subtle color shifts, neutrals, soft edges and mid-tones create a calm feeling in the painting.


After adjusting a few more details, I added saturated color in some areas to brighten things up. 

Then, I added script from a Mary Oliver poem, written in ink in the sky.

This morning, the beautiful heron was floating along above the water and then into the sky of this the one world we all belong to...~Mary Oliver, Poem of the One World



I painted over the script after it dried, subduing its contrast and creating an elusive quality. In this way, the writing becomes almost whispered, not taking over the focal point of the piece. In the photo below, you can barely make it out in the RH area of the sky and distant hills.


Take a breath, exhale, and witness the natural world.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Please stay healthy, have peace, and continue to experience as much joy as you can. 


Heron's Flight, 24x48, finished and sold.