I started a new painting recently which depicts the elevated F/G train as it passes above the Gowanus Canal, and right over my studio building. The painting is quite large for doing on site, about 21" x 37". I've been drawn to doing larger pieces lately, partly because my subject matter is dictating it to me, and partly because I enjoy painting on a 'bodily' scale. The train track looms large over a long expanse of space, bridging the 2 neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. The canal lies in this low point, prone to flooding, which I guess necessitated the need to create an elevated train line, instead of being dug underground. From inside my studio, I can occasionally hear the low rumble of the train above me, and always wonder which was there first, the building or the train tracks.
My first study was the drawing above, which I did in the late fall. I was initially attracted to painting the black mesh which covers the entire structure. It's such a striking piece of art in itself, reminding me of a Christo and Jeanne Claude sculpture. Talking to an MTA engineer one day while painting, he told me the mesh catches all the cement that periodically falls off the supporting beams as the trains vibrate the tracks. It's gradually beginning to fray and rip in areas, flapping in the wind like a defiant, battle-scarred pirate flag. I'm intrigued by the range of tones in the black as the light drenches it; one of those gritty, muted colors that I like to paint.
I knew I wanted to paint as much of the track as possible, causing me to compress a large angle of vision onto the canvas. I picked a spot where I could get this view in, which is located on the far side of the Lowe's parking lot. This spot is in a low traffic area, with the sun behind me from around 12-5, giving me ample time to paint. I have a fairly large umbrella to position behind me, which helps to diffuse the direct light and protect my skin from getting scorched.
This drawing was the second one I did, and worked on it over a few consecutive days. Where as the first drawing was done to stand on it's own, being denser and more active, this one I'm using as a way to gather information, developing the position of objects and lines of sight; a map for the painting to come. Because the bottom half of the painting depicts a large expanse of the parking lot, there is going to be a constantly changing field of parked cars, shifting during each painting session. I'm looking forward to how this will influence the process and end result of the painting; how the different objects will be painted in this relationship of stasis and flux.
Next up was this small oil sketch, done over 2 days, from about 2-4pm. I captured the light that I wanted, and plan to depict a cloudless day in the final painting. From this and the drawings I can transfer all the information to the larger canvas. Not only does this save me time, by building up a 'bed' to paint on before I go outside, but the process of doing multiple studies forces me to draw and re-draw the same scene, preparing me for the scrutiny that's ahead. Let's hope this summer's not too humid and the mosquitoes not too deadly...this one might take awhile.