How to Start a Commission – Wilson Peak, Telluride

Wilson Peak Painting, Telluride, ©Kellie Day
Wilson Peak Painting, Telluride, ©Kellie Day

“Wilson”, mixed media on canvas, ©Kellie Day, Sold

I’m getting ready to do my biggest commission ever, one of Wilson Peak. I’ve painted Wilson many times, and my latest version, “Wilson Fog” is on display at the Telluride Library now.

My favorite of all times is just called, “Wilson”, and it lives in New York I believe, with a very nice couple. I always wish I had taken a professional photo of this piece, because it’s one of my favorites. The mountain means so much to me, and I’ve written about it many times. Even now as my sticky peanut butter breakfast fingers taps the keys, I hesitate to repeat myself … But this peak is so striking. If you ever see it in person, you’ll see what I mean. The ridgeline is unlike any other.

Wilson Fog, mixed media on canvas, ©Kellie Day, Available

Wilson Fog, mixed media on canvas, ©Kellie Day, Available

If I had been better at taking photos in years past, I would have some of me on top of Wilson peak.

It’s a whole massif with several other 13 and 14,000’ peaks, and within the massif is a 13,000’ ridgeline that extends for a mile from El Diente peak to Wilson mountain (another, different Wilson).

You have to traverse it when the weather is stable because you are exposed for so long. It’s not a quick walk. You don’t need a rope, but you are definitely scrambling over rocks, loose rocks, and rough terrain. But mostly, it’s the lightning that’s a concern.

In southwest Colorado, high in the Rockies, there’s a phenomenon called the monsoon. It’s not like the monsoons of Asia, like the pouring rains I’ve ran from in Bangkok. It’s a quick and vicious storm that rolls in on an otherwise brilliantly sunny afternoon, violently rains and lightenings, and then heads on it’s merry way. Which is a repite from a hot day – unless you happen to be on the shoulder of a high peak, in which case you’ll have to run for your life.

I’m about to paint this peak that I love so much – on a five foot canvas. And it has to be magnificent, powerful, striking, moving. In short, amazing. But no pressure. Here’s what to do:

1. Climb the peak so you know it intimately and have loved its every ridge
2. Look at it from a wonderful vantage point in the distance, preferably on the deck of an après ski establishment with friends. Memorize how the light lays itself over the peak, and how it casts its shadows. Notice its most prominent features. Squint to see the lights and darks
3. Do a study in black and white, and just paint the lights and darks
4. Do a line art illustration and memorize it’s lines
5. Do a watercolor, or a little mixed media study on watercolor paper to know it more deeply
6. Now, you know your subject fairly well and can start the canvas

INTERLUDE …

That’s a lot of steps, I know. But to know your subject intimately is the best way to go into this process, because then when you do start painting, you won’t have to think (too much). The image will just make it’s way out of you naturally.

7. Sketch the mountain on the canvas with charcoal or ink
8. Lose yourself in collaging the darks in the dark places
9. Paint your first layer with transparent paint and allow the collage to show through
10. Collage poetry that moves your soul to no end in the light places
11. Throw some random shit in places that make no sense (These will end up being the best part of the painting)
12. Take some breaks
13. Go play outside
14. Leave for the weekend, or several days and don’t think about the painting
15. Come back completely inspired and see all the things that need to be done
16. Wrap it up and love it.

Painting something you love is not about the details. It’s about getting the form of it all on canvas, and just hitting it with a few highlights at the end. Wish me luck.

If you’re interested in commissioning me for a painting for your own home, contact me here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *