About the Fourteeners Project
Watercolor Portraits by Mike G Wilson

I approached this series of "Peak Portraits" using Google Earth as my reference, allowing me to capture each peak's "best face", and most flattering angle. This is very much like one person looking another in the eye.

These paintings are part of a studio process. None were painted from life, but I hope insights gained from painting outdoors have made this group of paintings a success. By viewing the peaks on Google Earth from directly above, it is possible to identify which side of a mountain is likely to appear most dramatic. Longer shadows are often cast off the north face of these mountains. I think the most precipitous side is also on the north. Using the Google Earth app,  a viewpoint of the mountain is chosen. Small changes in the position of this viewpoint can make a difference in the appeal of the mountain’ s background.  The virtual altitude of most of these paintings is very close to 14,000 feet.

Once a viewpoint is chosen I begin replicating historical imagery of the same viewpoint into layers. These historical images provide different shadows, different times of day, different snow cover and vegetation color. I use information from all the different layers to create a final sketch of the watercolor painting I plan to do. 

The sketch is where the real creativity of this process occurs. Doing the painting depends a lot on my skill with a brush. It is still satisfying to get one done. The painting is usually better than the sketch.

Successfully completing the 14er’s series has been satisfying, but now I am glad to get back outside to paint.