Even before the phone rang, Minnetonka artist Tom Foty was ready for the job. “Would you paint a magical winter scene of Minnehaha Falls for the cover of an L.L. Bean catalog?”
“I’ve been an illustrator for 35 years and have done projects for the New York Times, the L.A. Times, magazine covers, cookie tins, products, so it’s not uncommon to get a call like that,” Foty said. “But L.L. Bean is a tougher one to get and I wasn’t looking for it, so it was a very nice phone call.”
His scene appeared on the Maine-based retailer’s Christmas 2014 catalog. A sunset fantasy in blue and white, the illustration features a frothy cascade of ice tumbling into a deep ravine blanketed with fluffy snow. Twinkly lights wrap tree trunks, and a young couple stroll across a wreath-decorated bridge toward a snow-frosted pine decked with colorful Christmas lights.
The cover is on view at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in an exhibit that includes a more realistic Foty painting of the falls in winter.
Foty had painted Minnehaha in summer, so he was “intrigued by what the falls would look like in the winter when the trees were bare,” he said. Foty set up his easel on the stone bridge that spans the creek. “A lot of people stopped and watched because people don’t expect to see a painter working in the snow.”
For the fantasy scene he not only changed the colors but altered details “to make it kind of romantic,” including an arched wooden bridge that spanned the creek in the 1880s.
As for L.L. Bean’s products, “I like the stuff, but I’m not a shopper,” Foty said. “They did give me some slippers, though. That was nice.”