Diablo Canyon Commission

I had an unexpected inquiry from my website last fall; someone had recently bought a home that was near Diablo Canyon and was wondering if I would be interested in a largish commission to make a painting of it. That began a months long process that just finished recently.

I had taken several photographs of Diablo Canyon – they had done a google search for ‘paintings + diablo canyon’, and the keywords on my photographs had led them to my website, as it turns out. We went through about 12 of my photographs maybe, and culled that to 4. I went to their house and took photos of the room where the painting would go, and mocked up each photograph as if it were framed to scale there. Eventually I made two full size color prints of their two likeliest choices on not great paper, and they taped them up on the wall. Once they had chosen the image, I got started.

It wasn’t really possible to make a watercolor as big as they wanted, so I decided to use acrylic on canvas for weight’s sake. My friend and master oil painter, Madison Cawein, persuaded me that I would appreciate working in oils and promised to help get me set up and share which mediums he used, etc., so I changed courses and started my first oil painting since I was 12…

Here is an abbreviated version of the process:

Next began the time intensive process of the complex landscape of rocks and plants. The next few stages are more of a cartoon, where things are indicated in almost a comic book fashion. I shared key stages with the collectors, and fortunately they didn’t freak out!
Sorry for the wet paint here that is shining. After indicating the darker shadows, often with a marker or colored pencil, I scumbled transparent washes to indicate larger areas, like rock shadows or the chamisa in the foreground. It’s hard to see here, but the edges of the clouds have been sketched with a white colored pencil.
Here’s where the underpainting helps. It’s actually showing through a lot as I am working on filling in various areas, but because it is close to the actual rocks in color and tone it starts to read. This is a small image, but on the actual painting it looked pretty darn rough. I used thin white paint to fill in my sketches of the clouds, leaving the dark interiors more untouched.
Basically I went through and worked on each area at a time. The cliffs have had a second touch, and I just beginning here to work on the accursed chamisa in the foreground; you can see the dividing line in the middle of the painting on the bottom between the comic book on the left and the first stab at detail on the left.
Now the entire foreground is  addressed, and it’s time to add in the clouds.
The sky needed to be reworked as I added clouds, not to mention the sun’s glow over the edge of the cliff at left. Knowing that I would need a big brush and big movement, I used a watercolor trick, and cut extra adhesive frisket paper and adhered it over the cliffs so I would minimize the amount of work I had to redo.


Beginning to work on the clouds…
This shows my first pass on the clouds. They’re a little too smooth and phony. Bummer.
Late Afternoon Diablo Canyon
Here’s the final painting. I printed a better reference for the clouds, which helped, and also went around and tightened or re-worked various areas. Sometimes they needed detail, and sometimes there were areas that I had missed. (I could have done this process for weeks.)
Here’s the final framed painting after installing it my delightful client’s house.

11 thoughts on “Diablo Canyon Commission

  1. Diane Silk

    Hi Jonathan,

    I really enjoyed your post on the process you went through for this painting. I appreciate all that you share, the painting is beautiful.

    Diane Silk

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Darwin K Griswold

    Fantastic painting. My favorite painting is your Rio En Medio (1) which I saw at a Sante Fe exhibit in 2016. Keep painting and enjoy life.


Leave a Reply to jonathankeeton Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s