Friday, May 27, 2011

Days Past

Days Past (Fremont Bridge) is almost completed.  I'm just putting in the final details and going through the ritual of just sitting and analyzing the work. I took the photo this morning out in the sun to capture the colors better.  I use color corrective daylight bulbs in the studio and it seems like that throws the digital cameras off a little. 

Remember a Day has been the tough one.  The pallet for the painting is so subtle.  There are lots of yellow, brown and blue tones within the white that just get lost when photographing it.  My photos from the last few mornings in the daylight have done a better job of capturing it. The beauty of this painting is that as the light changes during the day into night different elements of the piece will be fade in and out.  It will be a different experience for the viewer depending on when they're viewing it.  Most of my work is this way, but this piece is just more so. I'm told often by my collectors about how they notice something new and different about their paintings everyday depending on light or their mood even after five years of owning the piece.  For me that's what it's about - creating paintings that are living. 

Update: Tonight I started a new piece.  It's going to be called Thursday Afternoon it is 24x36 depicts a busy sidewalk with people crossing the street in the background. I will have photos tomorrow evening.  It's nice to be working on something a little smaller.  It's funny how fast things set up on a small canvas after two months of working on two really large canvases.  I think large canvases require and increase in speed to achieve results.  I know they swallow up hours of work like nobody's business.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Almost there and now I'm getting really happy with the Fremont work.  It's been a really hard piece and I'm not really sure why.  Most likely it's simply a fact that some paintings are just more challenging than others.  The irony is that the paintings that pin me to the ropes are the very works that make me grow as an artist. I might choose to perform a few works that will take it easy on me before I take on a hard piece again.

Lighting and the photographing of the works has been a challenge.  The funny thing is that the paintings will look different under different lighting and I purposely paint them under different lighting conditions for that very reason.  I figure when they hang on the wall of a home they will be seen in the morning light, the white glare of the afternoon, the warm tones of the evening and then under various home lighting during the night.  I figure if I paint under all these conditions that I can adjust so the paintings should look good no matter what hour it is.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Devil is in the details always. It's the small reference to the welds, the wear and tear from countless storms on a paint finish that make a bridge come alive.  It's also just the pure build up of paint of roughing things out and then doing it again that infuse the canvas with the history required to expose the spirit within the canvas.  Sometimes it's about an artist getting frustrated one day only to walk in the following morning to realize that what he was all worked up about looks fine and the said artist was simply tired from working all day.  Truthfully, if I don't get frustrated(commonly the result of working too hard) with my canvases I don't feel like I'm working hard enough. I know with Remember the Day (Steel Bridge commission piece) that I painted myself entirely into a corner.  It wasn't until I dreamed of painting the two canvases and using heavy gel medium to sculpt the letters onto the surface and obscure the design motif that it clicked. Now I have a technique that's going to drive the work of the next show.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Push and Pull & Lots of Masking Tape

The Fremont Painting was a bit opposed to the idea of being finished this weekend, but that shouldn't come as a surprise really.  Not the first canvas to have a mind of it's own and I doubt it will be the last.

Most of it has been really working out the perspective and making sure that key details of the bridge are there.  I've been painting things in, out and then back in again and in general pulling the bridge out of the sky and water.  There has also been a great deal of just looking.  I'm at a place where I have a lot of areas that are perfect and need to be left untouched.  I'm sure the piece will be finished this week it's just a matter of shoring it up carefully and being laid back enough not to mess up the finished areas.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Work Continues

Work Continues on the Fremont piece.  I spent most the time adding glazes to the water and further solidifying the bridge.  Figuring out the perspective has been probably the hardest part of this painting outside of figuring out the balance between collage and painterly elements.  I think it's there as far as perspective.  It's finally correct.  In the morning I'll solidify it some more.  This last session really brought the Fremont closer to completion.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One Down One to Go

One down and one to go.  The Steel Bridge work is finished outside of one more coat of varnish and figuring out it's name and signing it.  The Fremont isn't far behind, but is going to be another day or so.

It's really nice that both works are uniquely powerful in their own ways.  The Fremont work has a really nice skyscape that differentiates if from all my current works of the last eight to ten years.  My skies are usually filled with collage elements and just elude to clouds rather than out right depict them.  It marks a new strategy that will be used in the upcoming body of works.  The Steel Bridge has a very graphic feel within the bridge that contrasts to the more painterly approach used within the rest of the work.

I can't wait to employ the strategies of these works into the paintings of the upcoming exhibit.  It's going to be a really fun summer.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rainy Night

For all practical purposes the Steel Bridge work is finished.  I'm going to varnish it and then see if there are any loose ends.  It has been a wonderful four evenings with the temps dipping into the low 80's to 70's.  Tonight's rain really helped.  The humidity keeps the paint from drying so that I can blend larger expanses of paint at a time.  Most of my work was in detailed areas, but it still helped having a longer blending window.

Tomorrow night I will be working on the Fremont Bridge work.  I will be using the same mixture of black, grey and white graphic details.  This is a case where the one work informed the other work.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

More Experimenting

I woke up Saturday morning from one of those vivid dreams where I was painting.  It was 2AM, so I went back to bed and was up and in the studio by 6:15.  I had this idea of using the high solid gel medium from Golden in combination with my cardboard 2.5" letter stencils using the alphabet repeatedly to create a relief on the canvas. From there I glazed dark grey then scumbled it back into the white range and repeated the process again until the areas looked just right.  The process just about obliterated the flourish background, which I decided was the right  move anyway.  It forced the bridge into the foreground and created a sky unlike any I've painted before. I chose the alphabet due to repetition and the fact I wanted to only play subconsciously with the physical existence of language without the meanings of words being imposed onto the subject matter.  I also felt it reminded me of learning to write in school.  We had the old yellowed pull down alphabet followed by the teacher's writings on the chalk board.

I proceeded to use a same technique on the other piece as well.  Both works have been asking for me to do something different while keeping a tight relationship to previous bridge and building works.  Yet both have a more traditional landscape feel to them with the elemental relationship between sky, land and water.  The heavy use of motif here felt out of place, yet the the lack of collage was like sending them out in the world in their undies.  This was the perfect solution and both works are now singing and are pretty much in the final stages.  They were just needing something to make them pop.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Figuring It Out

Innovation and problem solving are a big part of a painter’s life. Whenever I read about other artists it always seems that they're struggling with problems big and small and sometimes blow out of porportion.  If you don’t  have problems (the scientific definition of the word problem) you don’t have anything to resolve or figure out I guess.  Well, the proverbial problem is the upcoming summer with it’s 2% humidity and triple digit temperatures and my September exhibit I have to prepare for. As silly and trite as it may seem painting in the hottest month of the year in Arizona isn't going to be much fun.  I can deal with it by painting early mornings and nights physically, but the fact there's no humidity has my paint drying on the brush and in the pallet before it even reaches the canvas.  Acrylics dry fast as it is and I'll simply switch to oils like I used to, but the asthma isn't very easy to get past.  I admit I find the wonderful fragrance of the linseed and turpentine in the studio absolutely intoxicating.
My solution is switch to Golden’s Fluid Acrylics for the under painting to mid-layers.  New impasse - Golden doesn’t make the grey tones I work with.  So I'm attempting to mix my own using Fluid Acrylic medium.  It’s a fairly good solution.  The opacity isn’t quite there, but it’s workable while I work to find an even better solution.  I might even have to purchase pure pigments and disperse water to mix my own paint from scratch.
The strategy it’s self produces a very graphic look and is actually very fast and makes me simplify elements.  It’s a keeper, so I may even use this when it’s not seasonally required. 

Work continues on the commission.  Tonight I just spent hours looking and thinking.  I have a number of things to figure out in regards to how much of the motif I want to show through or if I will strike it out entirely with another pallet knife painting session.  Will I add to the collage or will I just keep expressively painting and let paint carry the day alone.  It's almost midnight, so I'll sleep on it and see what the morning brings.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Summer has arrived...

The paintings of the commission are coming together quickly now.  Same amount of hours being spent, but they're moving faster nonetheless.

I have a feeling that the Steel Bridge work will be the first one completed even though it was the last one started.  I've been working hard to balance the collaged motif with the painterly sky.  Around Midday  I pretty much obliterated the painterly dark sky I'd painted with a pallet knife loaded with white, titan white and light grey.  The textures created are wonderful and don't have the look I generally see as the result of knife painting.  I guess that's why I so rarely utilize the technique.  Every once in a while I have a moment of inspiration and do something I hadn't done before.  I was just really hungry for the physicality of paint on the surface as much as I like my smooth blended skies I just wanted something more brutal.  I am softening it up just a bit, but the mass and textures will remain.

These two bridges are dramatically different.  The Steel Bridge feels like two rusty towers that jet up into the sky like monuments of a bygone era, while the Fremont spans the water with all the grace of a spider tracing it's web.  The constant is the sky and how these works are tied together.

With it hitting triple digits in the studio; summer has arrived. I purchased a portable evaporative cooler. I'm having buyer's remorse.  It just turned the studio into a sauna. I will give it a try again not waiting until it's hot in there to give it a go.  I may just have to work early in the mornings and at night, no big deal really.  Until the commission is finished I will be braving the blunt of the heat.  My goal is to have the commission finished within the next two weeks considering how fast the Steel is going.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The 2nd Piece

The 2nd piece of the commission is well on it's way.  From this point forward I will be bouncing back and forth between the two works.  I'm also working on titles for both works.  The Fremont Bridge work's sky is becoming a key focus of mine.  I've noticed that the emphasis on the sky of the Fremont is influencing the Steel Bridge work.  I think the dialog between the two works is really interesting.  They're definitely siblings.

My nightly stint working in the studio has been uninterrupted the way I like it;  thankfully.

This weekend my goal is to get as far as I can on the Steel and try to finish or at least be only a stone's throw from finishing the Fremont.  That's the goal, but I'm not going to rush anything. I'm just going to hit the coffee really hard and try to get things finished up.  These large works swallow hours up like they're minutes.

I'm going to start getting ready for my September showing once the commission is shored up. My San Francisco photos are going to be the driving force behind this show.  I'm going to have a lot of nighttime works.  It will be fun in the since that I will be using a colour pallet that is driven by the neon signs and the yellow glow of street lamps of nighttime streets.  I will have plenty of daytime paintings as well.