Monday, July 26, 2010

A Rainy Afternoon in Fair Oaks

Winters get me down, and this winter dragged on forever.  During one particularly heavy downpour in April, facing yet another gray day locked inside, I got in the car and drove around town just to get out of the house.  The sound of the rain on the car roof was comforting, the wipers rhythmic. As I entered Fair Oaks Village the rain began to come down in torrents and I pulled to the side of the road to watch.  Ahead of me the warmth of the light from the coffee shop stood out as a welcoming beacon in a world of gray.  I snapped a couple of pictures while sitting in the car.  Later I was looking for some painting inspiration and came across the photographs.  I liked them and decide to make a few sketches and create a panoramic view of the cafe, street and the edge of the park.  The first sketch looked like this....

I liked the idea and I sketched it again, this time with a little more attention to the shapes. 

I thought it was beginning to shape up, so I made one more sketch, this time going for a elongated panorama.

I felt that the concept was working nicely, but I was also very conscious of the potential imbalance of the composition, particularly with the only bright light to the right of the painting. In my notes on my sketches I wrote that the lightest area in the painting other than the sky and the reflections on the ground was actually the building to the left.  I decided to try a 'color sketch', not something I've ever done before, to see if this would bring some balance to the composition.  I was reluctant to use a new canvas on this experiment, so I taped off a 8"x16" section on a slightly used canvas and with oils I did a direct study in color.  I spent a little extra time on the sign trying to learn to paint neon for the first time...

Without really planning it, I moved the buildings slightly to the right, and inadvertently solved another problem.  The left hand vertical line of the building faces no longer bisects the canvas.  A big improvement.  At this point, I'm very happy with the subject.  I think the composition is OK and I feel like the grayness of the day has been captured.  I really like the subtle colors of the neon sign and the window.  I want to avoid the fictionalized Kincaid look, but I do want to have this light the focal point of the painting. And I want it to be the invitation to come in from the old and it was in real life.
The struggle continues in Part 2

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