On the Easel: American Mountains

Below is the first finished painting from my new studio, American Mountains. I’ve been struggling for inspiration lately, so I reached out to my brother for help. A few years ago, he spent about six months hiking through the American landscape. He took some wonderful photos and has allowed me to paint them (thanks Tim!).

Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020
Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020

Reference Photo and Study

Here’s the photo I painted from:

American Mountains, Reference Photo

I also painted the following color study in preparation:

Dan Scott, American Mountains, Study
Dan Scott, American Mountains, Study

A word of warning: Don’t be a fool like me and position your study precariously next to a palette full of wet paint. It’s an accident waiting to happen (see below).

Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (8)


  • Oil on Ampersand Gessoboard. 24 x 18 inches.
  • Main colors: Ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow, viridian green, and titanium white.

Refer to my supply list for more details on what I use.


  • I painted this one with more care and less instinct. I haven’t been as active lately, so I’m rusty. I need to get a few wins under my belt before I can free up my style.
  • It’s a moody landscape. I drew inspiration from Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Cole.
Albert Bierstadt, Storm in the Mountains, c.1870
Albert Bierstadt, Storm in the Mountains, c.1870
  • I really pushed the blue of the distant mountains. It’s much more saturated than the reference photo, but I think it works.
  • A key feature of this scene is that light hitting the grass around the middle of the painting, then tapering off. It was tricky to get this color right-to make it stand out without being garish. I scraped the area down a number of times. Thick paint didn’t work. I settled on thin scumbles of rich color. Here’s a close-up:
Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020, Detail 2
  • I was careful to stop before overworking it. This is one of the hardest aspects of painting. At what point is the painting finished? For me, it’s usually that point when I don’t think my next stroke will add any meaningful value.

Progress Shots

Here’s a look at the new studio, plus some progress shots of the painting:

Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (2)

Step 1: Rough sketch.

Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (1)

Step 2: Color block-in.

Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (3)
Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (4)
Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (5)
Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (6)

Step 3: Deepen the darks, refine the lights.

Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (7)

Step 4: Finishing touches and photograph (I still need to sign the painting).

Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020 (9)
Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020
Dan Scott, American Mountains, 2020

Additional Resources

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy


Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

7 comments on “On the Easel: American Mountains”

  1. I enjoyed seeing your process. Thanks! I’ve painted about a picture a year, always giving them away to anyone who expressed interest. Now I want to hone my few skills and produce more paintings. Thank you for your generous offer to guide the way.

  2. I love what you share and your helpful comments. From step three and on, I would have been happy with the painting. Soon I will have the courage to pick up a paintbrush.

  3. Thank you for these “on the easel” posts! I am a complete beginner and it helps me to see where you start and how you get to the finish.

  4. I live in the Colorado Rocky Mountain area and I am guessing that was where this picture was taken. You did a great job of capturing the spirit of the west!

  5. The posts and progress on your paintings are inspiring to me. Thank you for opening my eyes! I feel the need to paint sooner then later.

  6. Hi. My name’s Thomas. I been reading and rereading your emails like every day for a out a year or more. Oh, Congrats on the little one. I can’t imagine myself and a baby. I’m sure we would fight everyday. I like to put a LOL there but it’s true. HA ha ha ha. Just to let you know real quick, I have learned a lot from you and just wanted you to know it. Your wisdom is highly appreciated. Also, love your e book’s. Wish they were real

  7. Tim, actually i thought the mountains to be pretty good Impressionism. The only adjustment as with all painting would be on that blue mountain in the back on the left…value is too dark intense for distance perspective….Typical redo that all painters do. I do not belieVe that complex paintings can be perfect on first laying of the paint. I say again, pretty good job. Vin from America


Leave a Comment