First rough sketch of "Above Mann's"
This piece ended up making a drastic change of direction from the original photo it was based on. The photo was a super cool black and white image of my client's father when he was a young man herding sheep near Moab, UT. It was laid out in similar fashion to this rough sketch, but I felt like this didn't do justice to the man in the picture or his trusty horse. After hearing the touching story about how his dad had received the horse as a gift from his best friend's grieving widow, I felt myself wanting to better portray more of his life and what he was feeling when the original photo was taken.
After deciding to reposition the cowboy and his trusty horse, it was time to do some real research. My teacher and friend was generous enough to saddle up her horse and parade him around for an hour or so while I took a zillion reference photos. Her husband patiently worked as our cowboy, bringing the horse in from multiple angles to get a wide variety of stances and lighting.
Such a loving and patient subject!
I tried again, this time trying to invite the viewer into the picture.
Knowing a little more about where he used to herd sheep, I decided to include Mann's Peak in the background. I knew it was located nearby, and I felt the valley beneath would have been a lovely place to keep sheep somewhat penned in.
When I showed the draft to my client, he was very excited and sent my a picture of a piece of bark his family had saved from one of the aspen trees his father had carved his name in long ago. He asked if I would include it, as well as the name of his dad's best friend he had lost. They often carved their names into opposing trees up in the mountains where they worked.
"Above Mann's" is complete!
After a lot of working and reworking, consulting and working some more, "Above Mann's" was finally completed! We shared a good cry when I delivered this painting, and I had a deep feeling of gratitude for being able to work together with my client to create a piece of art that visualized the feelings that he had when looking at that old black and white photo. The canvas truly does connect us.