Do your paintings talk to you?

This is the bridge that connects the small town of Bayville with the main body of Long Island. I thought I was done with this painting. I took it out to photograph it. Cleaned up the photo. I posted it here amongst the other bridges I have been enamored with, but I didn’t take it off it’s board. I didn’t remove the tape. The half size piece of watercolor paper was moved from room to room. Sometimes it laid in a place where I didn’t really see it, and sometimes it leaned up against a window, where I couldn’t miss it. Finally it migrated down to the studio. Did I take it off the board there? Nope. I moved it from place to place there as well. It was large and I really wanted to be done with it. But, it was having none of that. It wasn’t going anywhere because in spite of my beliefs, the painting was not finished. Moving it around was telling me that, but I was trying so hard to ignore it. I liked it. It was done. How many times had I messed up a painting by over working it. That painting and I were having a little dance. I would say time to put you away, and it was saying, no no no.

A First Impression

Did you ever have a painting like that? Like Chucky the movie doll that keeps reappearing and won’t shut up? Well, I finally gave in. Here’s where I started…

This is my first reaction to the bridge. I like the orange hue that disappeared in the end, and I really liked the super simplified water which maybe should have been left. This however, was just the beginning of the painting’s complaint. After laying around for sometime, we tried again, darkening the water, brightening the tower and just pushing it about a little to get this:

Oh what a mess I made. I thought I was onto something, but it was just loosing it’s simplification and it’s spontaneity. The textured water and the reflections weren’t helping and I still had that uneasy feeling that something was missing. So the painting continued to nudge at me.

Second and Last try

One night, I started to take the tape off and the painting to scream! I looked around and knew I was the only one that heard it so I backed off on the tape. I took a new look, wet my paints, darkened and evened out the water a bit, toned down the purple shadows but extended their darkness, added a sky and sat back and looked. Suddenly I saw it. The sky had definitely helped but somehow I had inadvertently missed adding in the lamp posts, and once I did, the painting shut the hell up. It was happier.

Do You Still the Voices?

I am wondering if you have had this experience too. It is a struggle to know when to stop. When to step away and put down the brush and when to keep going. Generally when I start to think that, I know I better do it that minute. But, sometimes I don’t hear the voice until it is too late.

In the End We All Win!

Somehow in the end, the painting came together more. The darker water helped to ground it and the lamp posts broke up the composition so that it wasn’t so split in half. I am content with it, and the painting, well, it hasn’t said a word.

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The Karmic Grind

Today I got to spend the beautiful Autumn afternoon watercolor painting in the lovely town of Locust Valley. I found @theKarmicGrind coffee shop with the wonderful pale aqua delivery bicycle in front. However, what sealed the deal, was the Long Island Railroad crossing lights. I am a sucker for their form.

What went well….

Here is a close up of where the painting went right. The values are all working together and I managed to maintain a looseness and freshness. I provided important details and left the rest to be supporting players.

Painting without a net or why values are everything.

subtitled: the light is moving, even when you are not looking!

I almost always work without pencil drawing first, going right to the brush but, foolishly, I didn’t stop to do a Notan or a value sketch. I only had about two and a half hours, and I wanted to get the painting down as fast as I could. What a mistake! The sun was moving as fast as the cars! It was frustrating as well as a ridiculous undertaking to paint without having the value sketch to refer to, especially in the late afternoon Autumn light. In this situation, keeping the light and shadows correct is everything.

I persevered and prayed a lot but how many of us I wonder make this same mistake over and over again? The painting came out very well and I am happy with my portrayal of the light. But it is a little too tight, (so many details, so little time!). Much of it could have been eliminated. I think that cute little bicycle was the beginning of my downfall.

The value sketches and Notans would have been a big help with the fleeting light. Having this value sketch would have helped to set the position of the shadows. Once I got the structure and shapes down, the value sketch would have been all I needed to finish. As it was, I had to do quite a bit of guessing. Mind you while I did this sketch from home, It would have taken me the same five minutes on site. Five minutes that would probably have saved quite a bit of headache.

Since I did a value sketch I wondered what would have changed if I had done a Notan as well. Here are two different ones. I think I might have gone with the second one and eliminated the table and chairs in front of the shop. I am not sure about the windows but, it is simplified and more clear, so that the crossing post and the bicycle cart stand out more.

It’s interesting to consider, even after the fact. But it definitely reminds me why I need to do them, BEFORE I paint! I would love to hear whether you have ever done value sketches and/or Notans before you paint? Do you think they help? And, if you don’t do them, why not?

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Got Bridges?

Bridges have been a theme for me for the past 6 weeks and I feel like painting them has been a real bonus for me. Because of their construct, they enable me to focus more on the values and positive and negative space in the composition. Their strong lines have really helped me to keep it loose not having to get into details and I see a definite improvement. Manhattan, being an island, has more bridges then one can imagine. I have spent time on the island’s most northern edge in Inwood, Roosevelt Island, Astoria Park in Queens, Dumbo in Brooklyn, and even Bayville on Long Island. I have been admiring the bridges that connect Manhattan’s upper east side including the Madison Bridge and the I am beginning to feel like the, “Where’s Waldo” of bridges, you just never know where I may pop up next! I have my eye on the Park Avenue Bridge and the Macomb Bridge as my possible next attacks.

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