This is one of the largest free-standing paintings I've ever done, excluding commercial work for Trader Joe's and restaurants. It was a commission from a person in Maryland who was very active in the Pagan and costuming community. She wanted a painting that would realistically depict a forest scene in the local area. The forest scene would go in her bedroom so that she could feel calm looking at it. She specified that there should be two animals visible in the painting. One was a bear, and represented her father. The other was an otter, which embodied the spirit of her mother. Both her parents were deceased by that time, but her form of Paganism believed in the transmigration, or at least persistence, of souls.
The painting was on three large pre-stretched canvases, each one two feet by three feet (24" x 36"), which fit together to make a single image six feet by three feet. It was difficult to do this in my studio, which is too small to accommodate a 2 by 3 foot panel. I balanced each panel on top of a low bookcase and bought extra floor lamps to light it while I painted it. Then I worked hard to fit the whole thing together. You can see the two vertical black lines where the paintings join together. The bear is entering the stream on the left panel, and the otter is on a rock to the right. In my painting I gave each animal's face a "humanoid" intelligent look so that it is not just a wildlife and scenery picture. The scene depicted is more or less a real place, in an urban park in northern Virginia where I sometimes birdwatch. I took a lot of photo references of the park and the stream, and collected pictures of bears and otters. But it's not like a portrait of the forest; I made up most of the branches and foliage so that they would fit into the composition.
I had the painting professionally photographed but this was in the era before digital photography. The image presented here is a digital scan of a 10" x 8" color transparency, which is in my archives. I haven't seen my Pagan patron in many years so I don't know what became of her, or my painting.
"Forest Triptych" is acrylic on 3 stretched canvas panels, 6 feet by 3 feet all together, 1996-1997. Click for a larger leafier view.