Making of Poli'ahu

Aloha. For this next painting I have a lot of screen captures for you to enjoy as I write about the process that went into making it. I have titled this painting Poliahu as it has Mauna Kea as a prominent feature in the background. At over 10,000 meters tall from its base, taller than mount Everest, Mauna Kea is one of the few places on Hawaii which receives snow. Standing at a few specific locations on the island it is possible to see snow, forest, cactus, and the ocean at the same time. This painting is a depiction of this sacred mountain before the time of cities and observatories.

At the start I had a very simple sketch of the general idea I had which I wanted to present. Some things changed a bit as the painting progressed and you’ll see the idea of the path was thrown out entirely.

I started blocking in the basic colors at this point. You can see see some of the original strokes made here in the finished product in the sky.

More basic colors here. Overall I wanted this to have very cool feel to it. Brighter greens yielding to ominous blues on the massive mountain. You can still see the sketch lines at this point.

Here I’ve smoothed out a lot of the colors and worked on the general layout of the snow at the top of the mountain. I knew that the bulk of the middle mountain was going to be covered by clouds so I wasn’t too concerned about the details in that area.

Next I painted in the trees. I started with just one, like I had in my initial sketch, but I didn’t like the balance of that. Although I spent time on the fronds the trees overall are still pretty basic. I added the idea of clouds in the mid ground and started adding features in the valley.

The grass. The grass at the forefront of this painting ended up being a massive undertaking. I reworked this area multiple times and nearly threw out this entire painting because of the difficulty I was having getting this area to look the way I wanted. Here I just have the dark shadows painted in.

Here is the grass in its completed state. There were a few more tweaks that I did later on but they were pretty small. Probably not even noticeable when not viewed at full size on canvas.

More middle ground work. For the most part I’m just laying down basic colors for the different areas but there is some detail work starting.

A lot more detail at this point in the middle ground and I’ve also added some texture to the mountain.

Another pass on the clouds, giving them more detail, and I’ve started doing snow highlights. In general I try not to spend a lot of time on just one part of the painting, trying to bring it all up together, but I kinda broke that rule on this painting with the grass and trees.

A lot more detail work in the mid ground and in the snow. I also started working on the highlights in the trees.

Even more detail work in the valley area and another pass on the clouds. Things are really coming together now.

Here I’ve done some texture work in the middle valley area and I did a lot of work on the clouds. Not quite done yet, but a lot better.

Here I brought the clouds up to their completed state and did a lot of fine work in the snowy areas. I like how the clouds turned out.

Finished state. I think there may have been one or two tiny tweaks after this point but this is pretty much the finished product. For the most part, the major changes from the last picture are all in the lighting. Highlights in the trees, snow, and a bit in the valley, and shadows in the trees and grass. The other addition is the birds. These are a slight variation of a native Hawaiian bird. I feel they add an emotional element and help to bring the viewer into the painting.

And that’s it. I hope you like this painting, if you would like to own this, you can buy it in the store.

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Michael Simpson