Upcoming Painting: Ghost Ranch

Progress of a new painting.

This painting is being done for the Let’s Paint New Mexico artist group that I belong to. The painting is based on, and inspired by, a photo taken near Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.

You may remember that Ghost Ranch is the near mythical area near Abiquiú, NM, and was the home, studio, and muse of Georgia O’Keeffe.

This painting will be completed soon, and available to purchase. Please check back, or join my email list for updates.

The first step is to study the reference photo. I ask myself what draws me to the photo. What should I focus on? What should I omit? What can I improve? How do I make this my own?

ghost ranch progress1

I ponder these questions while I block in the composition and color scheme with thin paint. The colors are “local” colors; that is the base color without highlight or shadow. These colors will be enhanced as I develop the piece.

Early on, I decided that the sky was far too boring. New Mexico skies are majestic, and often dramatic. I wanted more energy and excitement in this sky.

ghost ranch progress2

I remember that Thomas Moran and Albert Bierstadt painted mighty and dramatic skies, so I looked at some of their work. I was especially drawn to Bierstadt’s violently painted storms tearing through exaggerated Rocky Mountains. I drew inspiration from these paintings to create a more exciting sky.


It’s time to work on the mountains and rock formations. In the reference photo, you see that some of the light is shining onto the spires in the landscape like a spotlight, highlighting those amazing formations.

ghost ranch progress3

I wanted to keep that impression of grandeur of the lighting. To help create the glow, I made shadow by painting the mountain top dark. Then I had to lighten the cloud behind it to create contrast. The dark colors in the mountain abruptly transitions into the brightness on the cliffs and spires.

ghost ranch progress4

Then I moved on the the mid-foreground spires, cliffs, and hills. I developed these areas, adding the highlights, and sculpting the rocks with shadow.

These stone formations popped so much, that I realized I lost much of the drama in the sky.  So I darkened the outer edges, intensifying the mood and enhancing the spotlight effect I was working for.

ghost ranch progress5

All that’s left is the foreground. This has taken me some time because there is a lot of nice things happening in the foreground. I’m taking my time on the golden chamisa and other wildflowers.

As I  said earlier, this painting will be done soon. I hope you’ll watch for the update!

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