Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The parlor

This is a painting I've been working on over the past 3 months. It's been very refreshing to be painting inside over the winter, as well as, working at home. The painting was done at night, after my kids are in bed, from about 8-10:30pm. It depicts the second floor of our house, seen from the street end and looking towards the back of the house where the kitchen is. There have been countless painting sessions, as I've become more involved with painting in a more exacting and descriptive manner. Initially I was thinking of painting either my wife or my children on the sofa, but as the painting progressed, I liked the idea of seeing the vacated space with a human presence in it. There are some subtle references to this, such as the scattered toys in the foreground and the TV which is on (the right-hand side of the painting). After a few weeks of working on it, upon returning from checking my email on the computer in the kitchen, I noticed the screen was emitting this beautiful cobalt blue glow in the background. I decided to add that element too, not only as another focal point of light, but as a nod to the previous painting of the banana palm I did.

The scattering of different light sources throughout the space, the lamp on the left, the upward light of the wall sconces, the TV screen, the computer, the warm glow of the light in the kitchen, keep the eye moving through the space. Initially, I had planned on painting the floor without the toys, but it looked too neat and barren. The fact is, by the end of the day, my kids usually have their toys scattered all over the place in the living room, and it's a constant battle to have this space organized. I felt it would be more true to life if the toys were depicted as being left out on the carpet. The hard part was keeping it from looking too composed, so I edited out some of the toys that were left out one night, and took a photo to note the position of each one. This way, I could refer to the photo to set the toys up during a specific painting session. Most of it is Playmobil, which are my son's favorite toys, and I welcomed the opportunity to paint these objects with their bright, synthetic looking colors. I included one of my daughter's, a princess, which was added during the last painting session.

The painting is rather compact, for having such a large sweep of the room included, which accounts for the distortion that occurs when fitting a wide field of vision into the parameters of the canvas. I still find painting by lamp-light rather difficult, as there is always an adjustment period with the light and colors when I bring the piece to my studio. It's the same as working outdoors, but there it's usually a matter of too much light rather, than too little. It's good, because it actually forces me to work without the motif in front of me, something that needs to be done if I'm actually going to see what the painting is doing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Entrance to Lowe's

Here's the completed painting of the one I described in a previous post. I had started it in November, but had to stop because of the weather and changing light. I had worked on it awhile in the studio from some photographs I had taken, but was unhappy with the way it was progressing. The colors in the photos were bleached out and lacked any depth and detail, so I threw them out. I had it in my studio all winter, in the corner on a easel, patiently waiting there while I worked on other paintings.

The weather began getting warmer recently, so I decided to re-engage with the painting and took it outside again. The scene depicts the entrance to the Lowe's parking lot on 9th street, where I park my car when I go to the studio. I pass by these buildings all the time and was captivated by the way the forms in front of me stood out against the clear blue sky. The looming streetlight towering above, in front of a jagged roof-line of triangles and an old chimney. Overhead is the elevated F and G train line, as it passes over the Gowanus Canal for 2 stops, beautifully draped in black mesh to keep the cement from crumbling off. I included the supporting posts on the left and right sides of the painting, hinting at the structure overhead, but out of sight. This Spring and Summer, I plan to do a series of paintings depicting this elevated track from different angles; the slow, gradual, black bulge of the tracks as it rises above the ground and through this space.

The painting was actually done in a high traffic area, something I don't usually like doing. People were constantly passing by, to and from Lowe's, usually wanting to ask me questions or talk; all cordial and respectful though. I had a few nice conversations with people, from construction workers to junkies, just amazed that someone was out there doing a painting of this wasteland they see everyday. It's intriguing for me to have my work seen by an audience that usually doesn't have any contact with Art; it allows people to re-evaluate what beauty and meaning is, and my hope is that they see their surroundings as something that can inspire. But what I'm out there to do is to paint, and small talk usually just gets in the way. And, whenever I hear someone ask me if I "know that painter-guy on TV with the Afro", I feel like jumping in the canal.

When I returned to this spot after 5 months, the light had obviously completely changed. I was prepared for this, and decided that I liked the composition I had set in place enough to just re-work the light and color. The shadow areas had changed from a blue-violet, to a warmer gray and the face of the buildings had a richer, brown-orange hue, due to the light hitting it more directly, rather than raking across. To my surprise, a small elevated barricade had been erected directly across from me, along the face of the building in the center of the composition. This was just what the painting needed, not only because it gave the painting more depth, but the green coloring provided a compliment to the red-orange of the building's facade. Also, the support poles stood out as bright cobalt lines against the shadows behind it. Another one of those surprises that happen only through sustained looking and working before the motif; the subject giving you something more that the painting needs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Flowering bulb (finished)

Here it is...the 'Flowering Bulb' painting finished. I thought it would be a quick 6 hour painting; it turned into a 6 week painting. The flower I did rather fast, because of it's blooming cycle, in a 2 hour sitting. I actually wanted to work on it some more, because I wasn't entirely happy with the way it came out, but when I returned to paint it, it had already started to wilt and die. It's window of time for me, and the painting, had come and gone. I actually enjoy moments like these when I paint. I've got this small opening to try and capture what's before me, maybe 20 minutes or a few hours, and then it's gone. All that's left is the residue of a vision, a fleeting chance to capture some moment of truth passing before me. Even if there's only just 1 square inch of the painting that works in the end, it's all worth it.