Triptych with the bark of two different Madrone trees sandwiching the image of a Harrison Hawk and handlerhawkw

Triptychs or Three of a Kind

In the case of my art I’ve mostly planned diptychs and triptychs in order to get a long continuous scene onto the wood panels I use.

Here I fudged up a few photos of Stevns Klint chalk cliffs in order to paint three 2′ x 4′ panels, resulting in a 6′ x 4′ of the scene. A custom-made 6′ x 4′ panel would have been very expensive and had the potential to warp. Also I can more easily lift and later transport the three cheaper 2′ x 4′ panels. I suspect that many early artists used triptychs for much the same reasons. Many Japanese screens often use this principle to divide a scene in three parts. Stevns Klint fish clay mock-up for three 2'x4' panels

This stained-glass window in England’s Gloucester Cathedral shows a continuous scene in a sequence of three. The stained-glass windows of England's Gloucester Cathedral

The other primary reason that painters used triptychs was to tell a story in three parts. This weeks’s Lens-Artists Challenge: Three of a Kind was created by Leya who was inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, created in the early 1500s. This tells a story in three panels over a period of time: the first panel is a scene of paradise with Adam and Eve; the next an overpopulated world of apple (and strawberry) pickers; and the last a dark corrupted world.

This creation of a story in three parts can also be done with photography and this works well using three timed shots to impart a narrative over a period of time.

Our guide Cesar leading us into the red rock formation known as the ‘Amfiteatro’ in the canyons outside Cafayate, Argentina.Cesar leading us into the red rock formation known as the 'Amfiteatro' in the canyons outside Cafayate, ArgentinaInside the ‘Amfiteatro’.
Inside the rock formation known as the 'Amfiteatro' in the canyons outside Cafayate, Argentina
A man playing the traditional music of the Andes with the sounds of the flute and charango resounding perfectly using the acoustics within the ‘Amfiteatro’.A man plays a traditional music of the Andes with the sounds of the flute and charango resounding perfectly within the rock formation known as the 'Amfiteatro' in the canyons outside Cafayate, Argentina

Originally I thought that these three images would be tricky to combine into a proper triptych as the shots are both horizontal and vertical. In similar situations, where I have both vertical and horizontal shots, I have often cropped the images into squares before combining them into a triptych. However, in this case the opening image would have lost the power of the wide angle. Finally, after checking out Leya’s post again I came up with a different type of triptych, a mosaic of sorts. I also had to do some matching of colour as the second two had lost the deep reds of the wide angle view.  Triptych of the red rock formation known as the 'Amfiteatro' in the canyons outside Cafayate, Argentina.

Another way to ‘tell a story’ is to use different elements of the same subject. One example would be to use a wide-angle shot to establish the scene, and the next shot closer and the last one closer still. Since I was playing around with my shots of the high Andes of Argentina I have used these three horizontal shots of a barrel cactus in bloom in the hills above Tafí.The Tafí Barrel Cactus Triptych

Here’s another unusual cactus from the high Andes, the ‘Cacto Cardón’, along with the brilliant blue sky and sketchy clouds found at an altitude of over 4000 metres. When I tried to combine them into a proper triptych, it was trickier than it looked, as the horizon of blue sky, which I had thought that would hold the three shots together, was all over the place and would only work in a vertical triptych.A triptych of the 'Cacto Cardón' a type of cactus found high in the Andes, with the brilliant blue sky and sketchy clouds found at an altitude of roughly 4000 metresAnother way to create a triptych is to show two similar elements sandwiching the third, in this case of the red bark of the Madrone arbutus trees, native to Arizona, combined with a woman holding a Harris’s Hawk in the same state.Triptych of Madrone arbutus trees with red bark with a woman holding a Harris's Hawk in Arizona, USA

Three of a kind, in this case the ‘heart’ of red and yellow tulips, are combined in a way that allows a dialogue between them.
The April colours of yellow, red and black in this Tulip triptych
And I just realized that the Spanish textbooks that I have been working on also come in ‘three’ levels, so here is a triptych of the three Soleado covers. The third editions of Módulos 2 and 3 have to go into print at some point this week. By putting the three together as a triptych I realized that I need to do a bit more work to make the older third edition of Módulo 1 match up with the two newer ones. Triptych of three Soleado covers

Lens-Artists Challenge: Three of a Kind.

14 thoughts on “Triptychs or Three of a Kind

    1. Creating triptychs is quite a trip – the amfiteatro was one of those wonderful surprises that happen when you travel – an amazing combination of natural beauty and the surprise of ‘surround sound’ in this enviroment!

  1. Love your explanations and photography – the results are amazingly beautiful. I knew about your diptychs, but this is so nicely done! I love your diptychs, but now I got a real favourite – the sandwiching with trees and the hawk. Harmony to my eye!

    1. I think I first started creating triptychs after our trip to Arizona in 2001 – I was inspired by the soft desert colours – so different than the endless green in Vancouver. They weren’t the best triptychs I’ve ever done but after spending some fun time trying out new thoughts it might be time to revisit them. The hawk and tree triptych is very recent, part of my bark and urban debris diptychs, but definitely a favourite of mine too – everything seemed to come together with that one.

  2. Elizabeth, your triptychs of chalk clliffs is beautiful – love the soft colors and details. I enjoyed reading your post and learning more about creating triptychs. Have not done this yet but am inspired! 😊

  3. Excellent examples. My eye was caught by your featured image, not only because of colors but also the left & right picture seems to mimic the bird’s eye and lines. Although I appreciate the vista that a themed triptych presents, I like the flow of images like your cactus pictures which echo how we ‘see’ large scenes – big picture, narrowing focus and close-up images.

    1. Interesting thought about the triptych with the barrel cactus – it really does have the feel of how one sees, first from a distance and then closer and closer up. I hadn’t thought about it that way but now that you’ve mentioned it I might go back and redo my Cardón cactus in order of time.

      The hawk image was always a favourite, partially because of the hawk’s eye being position to replace its handler’s eye – kind of surreal.

      1. I did something similar with one of the pictures I posted yesterday. I didn’t think of it as triptych becase the image sizes are different, but maybe it follows your / Leya’s definition.

  4. Obviously you’re more than familiar with triptychs Elizabeth. I liked your eventual solution for your Argentine images, very powerful and a perfect choice. Terrific images throughout.

    1. Although I have a fair amount of experience with diptychs, translating that experience into triptychs took a lot longer than I thought. Selecting the images is one thing but actually putting them together in a way that worked took a lot experimenting.

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