This moody landscape oil painting of the Sawtooth Mountains from Galena Summit north of Ketchum, Idaho, is a personal favorite.

The golden patch of light in the very middle of the scene is what first inspired me to paint it. The clouds had opened up just enough to let this light through. I loved how things seemed to glow around it. The slim ribbon of road zig-zagging through it seemed illuminated, its wet surface reflecting the sky from over the mountains. I couldn’t resist the sheer graphic design of it.

A study in gray tones, the challenge was to make an engaging painting out of muddy oil paint colors. I used blue, white and red oil paints for most of the top third of the painting. But I was careful not to get it too pink, using raw umber to tone it down where needed.

Although the mountains seem white, I didn’t use white paint straight out of the tube. Instead I mixed Permalba, Utrecht, and Gamblin whites for the sky and snow. I then modified them with blues and browns to get the right color and tone. However, I did use Gamblin white oil paint in the middle where it needed the whitest white. I then applied these colors in several layers to convey both its icy feel and capture its sunlit highlights.

For the middle ground, my color mixtures still had blue in them, but with a different balance. Now the gray tones moved more towards the raw umber side. The glowing patch of light in the middle was a mixture of umber and white with a pinch of ocher.

Proceeding downward, the oil color mixtures changed again. To capture the muted cast shadows, I used quite a lot of manganese violet that I modified with blues and brown. Then I glazed the first layer of paint with cerulean blue. After that was dry, I added a scumble layer to help give it breath but not be overpowering.

Because there was no direct light on the beautiful trees on the foreground hill, the colors seemed to shimmer instead. Due to that, this was the part where I had to do some controlled mud mixing. I added yellow ocher, raw umber and nickel yellow to my color mixtures to give it the muted tones I sought. Thus I again used layers of glazes and scumbling to get the look I wanted.