At first glance, a lion's main body color appears tan. In creating the sense of form and depth, I am using warm and cool colors. The backlighting effect is further enhanced by having the body darker behind the lightest part of the sunlit mane.
Now that I have the main structure of his head worked in, it is time to work on the part which inspired the painting - the backlighting of his mane.
While the lion is a great subject for this piece, the lighting that morning would have drawn my attention if the animal had been a gemsbok, impala, giraffe, zebra, or any mammal. The sun had barely cleared the horizon and lent a pink glow to the landscape. Cast shadows were a striking blue.
Having a male lion walking right toward me really was the icing on the cake.
When I begin on the head, I like to start with the eyes first. That way the lion will keep staring me down to do a proper job on the rest of him. To increase the intensity, I've purposely made the eyes look straight out from the painting so they will follow the viewer no matter what position he is relative to the piece.
Generally I like to follow a large painting with one more modest in size. Here I am going bigger. This next piece is 44" X 36".
There are some logistically challenging aspects to a painting this tall on my easel. My ergonomic horizontal hand rest enables me to easily paint anywhere on a wet piece. However, its vertical support bars limit how high and low a painting can be positioned on the easel. The entire top part of the piece requires me reach up. Granted, this is much less of a burden than painting the Sistine Chapel on one's back, but it is not as comfortable as working on something smaller or horizontal.
I saw this lion in early morning light on my trip to Africa this summer.
Continuing with the vibrant palette, there are purples and warm tones in his coat.
Next up, the highlights on his antlers and his sunlit side will be painted. I'll also be adding more texture to those areas. The little bit of sunlight on his back will finish the moose.
After that, I'll be working on the foreground and then looking over the painting to see if any sections need tweaking.