Late Night At The Liquor Store
watercolour, 11 x 20
First the confession.
I was returning a book to the library late at night a few nights ago and looked over at the liquor store. For some reason I just saw it as a finished painting with the black sky and the light pouring out of the store and an arrangement of cars in front of it. I did a quick value sketch but I really felt that I needed to go back and paint it. In fact I did go back the next night with my plein air painting equipment. However, when I got there I just didn’t want to get out of the van. I was over come with feelings that people will stare (even at 10 pm there were quite a few people in the parking lot). My thinking was along the lines that this is quite a strange thing to be doing, painting in a supermarket parking lot late at night. I was on the verge of saying I’ll just leave it for tonight and then I realized if I do that I’ll never do this painting. I’m pleased to say that I did get out of the van and set up right in the parking light under one of their lights and had an incredible experience painting for about an hour. I was too focused to look around but I don’t think people even really noticed me. This may not mean anything to people who have no fear but as someone who frequently self sabotages this was a big moment for me.
Second the painting.
I love the painting. It’s exactly what I envisaged in the thumbnail sketch. I love the sense of light pouring out of the store. I also feel that there is a strong sense of story in the sense of getting liquor late at night and why that’s happening. I like the looseness, you can see all the paint runs. It was painted with abandon. At this point I’m still too caught up in the experience to be objective about the real quality of the painting which will come as I live with it but at this point I’m very pleased. The bright red circle on the left is the logo for the new Target store.
In terms of a critique the one thing I would change next time is the sky. It has the right value and it has a nice impression of the lights in the darkness but I used 2 washes on the sky. I knew it had to be almost black and I thought my first wash was strong enough but later I realized it wasn’t. I felt I was being so bold in putting in that first wash but I was comparing it with white paper and it was certainly much darker than white but I needed it to be stronger still. That means using paint almost straight from the tube. The other thing I would change is to lower the building so it’s closer to the composition of the thumbnail sketch.
So the lesson from this whole experience is to feel the fear but do it anyway. Where will we get to if we keep letting our fears control our life?
Sunny Morning, Kensington Market
watercolour, 10 ” x 15″
I was very pleased to hear just today that my painting, Sunny Morning, Kensington Market was accepted into the Federation Of Canadian Artists Autumn Salon Show at the Federation Gallery in Vancouver.
Don’t tell anyone but this painting was actually intended as a study for a larger version that I had planned and have actually painted. Once again when I’m just playing and experimenting with a study the painting often has more spirit and excitement than the full studio version. That is definitely true with this painting. There is something powerful about painting when you’re not caught up with the finished product but just enjoying the process. There’s a lesson there. I hope to learn it some day.
Just for those of you interested in the technical aspects of painting this is the first painting where I used a new colour Cobalt Turquoise. I used it straight from the tube for the awning on the left.
Living in Calgary the mountains are an iconic part of the landscape. They are certainly majestic but I find that I am drawn much more to the beauty of the foothills. The scale, rhythm, and line of the foothills is so much more user friendly. I was reminded of this again when I was a guest instructor this week at the Leighton Centre. On the way home I took this photo which I think really captures the colour and feel of these particular foothills.
Foothills & Cow
11 x 20
The painting is a scene just beside where the photo was taken. I think it has a very nice feel of recession into the distance and I love the pond as a centre of interest. The pond is actually located a few kilometres from the photo but I felt that the painting needed something to break up all the green.
I’m having an animated discussion with my wife about this painting at the moment. She thinks the cow blocks the eye from going to the centre of interest. She is also adamant that the tower on the horizon totally takes away from the bucolic nature of the scene. I feel that it helps break up the sky. I realize that the painting is too fresh in my mind and I’ve fallen in love with it and can’t see any mistakes. In particular I like the cow. As always, living with a painting will allow me see it objectively at some point. My wife is rarely wrong with her critiques. Sometimes but not often.
Fast forward one week!
Foothills & Cows
11 x 20
This new version I feel is a much stronger painting. Now, the arrangement of the cows actually connects with the pond forming a nice triangle. Removing the tower also helps to focus the front of the painting. It’s too much detail way back there in the hazy distance.
A very interesting aspect of this version is the use of gouache which is an opaque watercolour. With it it’s possible to create whites or various other lights right over dark passages. In this particular case that was the only way to paint the other 2 cows. The use of gouache is still, in some circles, considered to be a breach of the watercolour rules but I don’t subscribe to that view. If it helps the painting it’s good and in this case it certainly helps the painting.