Can you paint a fantasy picture outdoors, directly from nature?
In the Dinotopian scene called "Small Wonder," I wanted to show a springtime scene of two young people caring for a dinosaur hatchling.
I painted the figures first in the studio, based on posed models—my son Dan and one of his friends, wearing Renaissance Fair costumes. Then I asked a neighbor if I could bring the painting into her garden of tulips and finish it there.
Here's the original painting "Small Wonder," from Dinotopia, The World Beneath.
The Light of the World" (left) by moonlight in a makeshift hut on a farm in Surrey, England.
Hunt took the idea of location-painting further when he created the allegorical scene "The Scapegoat." His picture idea came from something he read in the Talmud, saying that a congregation would drive a symbolic goat to its death into the wilderness, carrying the sins of the people away with it.
Hunt traveled with his art supplies to the salt-encrusted shores of the Dead Sea. He brought a goat along with him for a model. His guides warned him that there was a risk from hostile tribesmen near Oosdoom.
The desolate scenery inspired Hunt: “…never was so extraordinary a scene of beautifully arranged horrible wilderness. It is black, full of asphalt scum and in the hand slimy, and smarting as a sting — No one can stand and say that it is not accursed of God…”
|The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (Lady Lever Gallery) 1854|
Reluctantly he returned to his studio in Jerusalem, but the goat died along the way. He brought samples of salt and mud to help him reconstruct the foreground, and left the middle of the picture empty. He bought another goat, some skulls, and a camel skeleton, and worked them into the picture.
My painting "Small Wonder" is currently on exhibit at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center through May 25.
Dinotopia, The World Beneath
William Holman Hunt: A Catalogue Raisonne
Getting a goat to pose in the satyr workshop
Painting "World of Dinosaurs Stamps" outdoors