Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gowanus Canal

12" x 18"

Here's a few new paintings I just completed.  They were done fairly close to my studio, where 2nd ave. dead-ends by the canal. The future site of the new Whole Foods is off to the right...big news in the neighborhood over the past few years.  Long story short, Whole Foods bought a huge lot in Gownaus (3rd ave. and 3rd street), did some tests on the soil, found it to be completely contaminated with heavy metals and oil waste, dropped the project like a hot potato, then resumed a few years later after agreeing to do the millions of dollars clean up on the land. The entire canal area was designated a Superfund site last year, which caused a lot of uproar and heavy debating about the future of the area. All in all, I think the designation was the best option, allowing for the most realistic option for cleaning up the area. Well enough about that...I'm just a painter.

The spot I was painting from was in a really weird area: a dead end overlooking the canal. To my left was the Department of Sanitation lot, where they store the trucks, plows and salt; to my right, the garage and dispatch unit for those double decker buses that do the city sight seeing tours.  It's sometimes oddly comforting painting in locations like this. The hum of the machinery and activity adds to my sense of focus and purpose...I guess I just like painting alongside mechanics and construction workers, too. A lot of them usually come over and check out what I'm doing periodically...with the occasional "Yo, check out Picasso" or "Hey, it's Michaelangelo!" They probably think it the strangest thing in the world that I'm out there with an easel painting this shit-hole of a place.

As I was painting, all these tiny gnats were swarming around me, coming up from out of the ground at the edge of the canal. They kept getting stuck in the wet paint, which I would have to pick out later in the studio. I also ended up inhaling a bunch while I was out there....hopefully they weren't carcinogenic.

10" x 15"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gowanus-A Work in Progress

So I've got 4 new paintings started. The weather has been warmer, that is over 50 degrees, and has peaked around 70 for a few days here. I've found that the temps need to be above 50 for the paint to work right for me...any colder and it sort of beads up on the surface as the paint gets thinned out. I guess it's also a comfort thing...hard to paint when you can't feel your fingertips. The light is very beautiful right now, the sun's position causing sharp shadows with a slightly grey-blue-purple cast. The sun's still relatively low in the sky, but with the spring equinox and the time change, things are noticably changing. Actually, the most beautiful time I want to paint is at dusk...a golden light with the sky turning a deep cobalt color as the sun sets.

The canvases I've been working on are a proportion that I like; a ratio of 2:3. I've bracketed them incrementally: 10" x 15"; 12" x 18"; and 14" x 21". There's something pleasing about this relationship which works well in a landscape format. With smaller, quick paintings like these, I pre-determine the size, rather than working out the size based on a drawing or idea. For these, I've started with a sketch book drawing, then sized up from there, using a grid and an appropriate canvas. I'm working on half of them during overcast days, half on sunny days, this way whatever the weather, I've got a spot to go to and something to paint. Since they are relatively small, my goal is to finish them in about 2 or 3 sessions, with some extra fine tuning in the studio.

Sketch book study
It's starting to bother me how really disgusting the Gowanus Canal area is. I'm not sure if the garbage problem is getting worse or I'm just noticing it more. This sign is close to one of the locations I'm painting from:

I like how the color of the sign works well within the painting, but somehow the warning becomes more and more disturbing the longer I think about it. What a complete environmental disaster this place has become.

"Kentile Floors" in progress

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Charleston, SC

So, my time living in Brooklyn is officially coming to an end. Since the beginning of 2011, I began the long, tedious, and exhausting process of finishing up our house renovations, with the intent to sell. This basically has taken up all my physical and mental energy since January (hence my lack of painting and blog posting). The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of craziness: We put our house on the market February 20th, went down to Charleston for 2 weeks, found a house there that we fell in love with, signed a contract to buy it, found buyers for our house in Brooklyn, signed that contract, and found schools for our kids to attend. Now we're back, and as the dust settles, I've got a few months left to do some last paintings of Brooklyn.

Both my wife and I feel like we're in this weird in-between area: not quite here, not quite there. I'm really excited to move down there, and think this the boldest and best decision I've made in my life. Our goal is to set ourselves up with a lifestyle that will allow both my wife and I to make our art. Our plan is to build out an old industrial space, converting it into artists' studios, thereby creating some income and an artistic community, while giving us the time to pursue our art careers. There's definitely a need for more studio spaces there and we've heard some great things about the art scene in general. I won't go too much into it now, as we still have a lot of planning and work to do on that once we move down there, but we're excited about the possibilities.

I'm also looking forward to seeing how this new place will affect my painting. There are definitely some similarities with New York: they're both port cities, have a lot of old buildings and different architectural styles. The light is much brighter being further south, and warmer (much warmer in the summer!) Whereas New York is a vertical city, Charleston lies in the low country. I feel my orientation to the landscape will begin to change. I'm intrigued by getting to know and paint the downtown area too...it has an Old World type of feel, with different vegetation and trees. I also love the gigantic live oak trees covered with Spanish moss....I know those are going to be fantastic to draw and paint.

But, for the next few months I'm going to focus on Brooklyn. I've prepped these canvases in my studio, and am basically going to try and draw and paint as much of this city that I love and have called home for the past 15 years. Stay tuned for seeing the work in progress...