When I first started thinking about this composition, I envisioned the child or children reading as
a vignette in the foreground, with the story as it was playing out in their imagination in the
background. This is an idea I am still planning on working with, but a couple things lead me in a
slightly different direction with this painting. The first (and biggest) factor is that I have been
slowly leaning a new direction with composition ideas over the last few years.
I keep coming across the idea, stated slightly differently but consistent in its meaning that 'the
future isn't what is used to be'. Or at least, what people envision when they think about the
future is vastly different from what it used to be. I'm an optimistic person, but not totally
naive. I'm not suggesting that I think the future should be some utopian paradise. What I find
interesting, beautiful and worth trying to capture is the optimistic attitude toward the world and
the future that seems to have been replaced by a certainty that we are heading for some
apocalyptic, dystopian nightmare. So, rather than painting purely contemporary scenes or scenes of
what I think the future will really be like in a literal sense, I want to make pictures that evoke
a feeling of wonder , optimism , unlimited possibility and anticipation about the future. But, I
want to paint those pictures in a subtle style influenced by what I love about the
naturalist/classical realist/romantic painters of the 19th century. The idea is to paint as if I
were a naturalist or genre painter of the romantic bent who happens to be living and working in the
version of the present or near future I would like to think is possible. Bouguereau/Norman Rockwell
meets Jon Berkey. Or something like that. It's not exactly science fiction, but maybe a blend of
that with historical fiction told from a future perspective. I've been calling the idea 'Optimistic
Futurist Realism', which isn't quite right, but it's approaching it. Ideally, the themes and
subjects would be similar to what I've worked with before, but there would be subtle differences in
the backgrounds or costumes or settings that would slightly change the meaning.
In any case, this seemed like a perfect piece with which to start exploring the whole concept. Why
have the foreground be a vignette juxtaposed in front of a background scene when that scene could
be the actual background? So, the girls are sitting under a tree in the park, reading a book.
Pretty timeless. What to change? Not the costumes. I'm not shooting for science fiction. Not the
actual, physical, paper book. It's iconic. No room for misinterpretation of what the girls are
doing like there would be with a tablet or other electronic device. So, the background beyond the
foreground trees then. The reference photos were taken in the morning and were strongly backlit
which exaggerated the washed out atmospheric effect of the valley and mountains in the background.
So, I thought, a valley and mountains, but different. This is where the second factor comes in.
Somewhat coincidentally, in the weeks leading up to actually shooting the reference photos and
refining the concept for the painting, I had decided to do a few small, faux-plein air paintings
for practice and to get a feel for what I would actually want to take with me were I to go on a
plein air painting expedition later in the fall (which I would love to do, but have no prior
experience with). My intention was to do three of four little 8x6 inch paintings and then move on.
After the first three or four, I found that I was really enjoying working on the little studies. I
was able to play with the effects of brush strokes, different color combinations, different
pigments, different effects in a way not possible on a larger scale or when I had definite idea for
how I wanted the finished painting to turn out. But, I was getting a little bored, so I decided on
a whim to drop a classic, Ray Bradbury era, science fiction-ish rocket into one of the paintings.
It was fun, so I did another. And another. A little narrative began to emerge that I wasn't even
really aware of at first, but that became more intentional when I started adding the suggestion of
an astronaut or two on EVA outside the rockets. I realized I was really enjoying myself in a way I
hadn't for a long time, and that something about these little paintings was making me really happy.
The response to the ones that I posted online was overwhelmingly positive as well.