In the height of the pandemic lockdown, I got an inquiry about a painting commission. A company called Better Place Forests, who buy forest land and create memorial forests as an alternative to traditional cemeteries – here’s a quote from their website:
“We want to change the way we talk about, plan for and create end of life experiences. Rather than cemetery grounds, we imagine lush, natural forest lands. Your legacy lives on in a memorial forest—for you, your loved ones, and the planet.”
They were making a new forest north of Flagstaff Arizona into a conservation memorial forest and wanted to have a painting of it for the guest center. I of course felt like I had died and gone to heaven. Because it was drivable, I was able to travel there during the pandemic. I spent about 2 1/2 days wandering around at dawn and late afternoon taking photographs. After going through and grading the photographs, we shared a group of selects and then slowly reduced it down until there was an image that was approved for a painting.
Since the forest was recently acquired, it hadn’t been groomed and turned into a finished conservation memorial forest yet. So grooming was added digitally; things like a path and a bench area, which were modeled after their other locations and on some existing buildings. I called up a friend of mine from the visual effects days who is a master matte painter named Rick Rische, and he agreed to help with that. Meanwhile I began painting, and left the areas where he was working until they were approved. Here are some of the phases of the painting: