The Secret of  Maxfield Parrish

Maxfield Parrish, famous for his illustrations, murals and landscape paintings, did he have a secret? Yes...he was into technology. He made use of the latest technology in his work as a regular working method. He had his own dark room and took his own photos of models, both human and those made of wood in his shop. If Parrish were working today it seems likely he would be using computers to save time and improve the quality of his paintings.

First we'll look at a few examples of Parrish's photos taken specifically to use in paintings and then we'll suggest one way he might have used computors.


This is a photo of Kitty Owen, his favorite model
and another secret of a personal nature.

This is a photo of a wooden model on a mirror taken for "The Millpond",
painted in 1945. Notice the real tree in the background.

The Millpond, by Maxfield Parrish.

My Computer Model for 'The Millpond'

Using Sketchup I first made a 3D model very similar to Parrish's.

I imported the model into Bryce and set up a mirrored surface for the
pond. The trees are actually 'terrains' rotated 90 degrees and shaped
to resemble trees and bushes. I rendered the foreground and the
background separately. Later I will combine them in Paintshop Pro on
their own layers which makes it much easier to adjust color and value.

Here's the background render from Bryce.

And here they are combined in Paintshop Pro. Four layers
where used: sky, background, color layer over the
background, and foreground. All low res since it is not
intended as a finished piece.

I've added a gradated sky, color to the mountains, darkened the
foreground and added leaves to the silhouette of the largest tree.

Here the most distant mountain has been lightened and
reshaped as has the middle mountain. The foreground rock
has been reshaped, lightened and cooled. That's as far as
we'll go for this demo. It could be fine tuned quite a bit more.

A similar method was used to produce this image. I wanted to capture the feeling-tone of the Maine coast. This was inspired by a magical overnight stay at the water's edge in New Harbor.

Maine Twilight

After modeling the dock and boat I was able to combine them in Bryce and adjust the point of view and composition as needed. The water was added in Bryce. The render took just over an hour and a half. That image was taken into Paintshop where the sky was added, values and colors where adjusted. Much of the the dock was repainted in PSP and the clouds and bird were added all by hand.

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More Painting Secrets:

The Secret of Values New
The Secret of Emotion

The Secret of Critiquing
The Secret of Composition

The Secret of Visual Idea
The Secret of Borrowing
The Secret of Tonalism 
The Secret of Style
The Secret of Maxfield Parrish

The Secret of Plein Air
The Secret of No Solvents
The Secret of Water Mixable Oils

The Secret of Thumbnails
The Secret of the Process
The Secret of Knife Painting


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