Monday, January 20, 2014

Willie's on Broadway Plein Air Oil

David Peterson, Sacramento's cherished watercolor artist, hosts a plein air paint out on the third Saturday of each month.  He has been doing this for a long time, I understand.  Currently the Sacramento Plein Air Painters site serves as the source for information about the time and place of David's paint outs, as it does for dozens of other plein air events, thanks to moderator Martha Esch's tireless efforts. ( )

Last Saturday, we met at the parking lot of Willie's a Sacramento favorite for hamburgers and chili fries.  Right across Broadway from Willie's is the Iconic Tower Theater which was the starting point for the world famous Tower Records.  The weather was incredible, and most of us were in shirt sleeves by 10 am.  The majority of the group painted the well known "tower" of the Tower Theater, but I decided to turn and face Willie's and give that a try.

My goal here was to capture the feeling of Willie's and the rear of a neighboring gas station.  I wanted to get the 'urban clutter' feel.   I had a 16" x 20" linen panel already toned in a pretty garish red-orange.  That's a lot larger than I usually attempt when doing plein air painting, but I wanted the width to give me room to block in the structures without getting too small.  I decided to ignore the bright tone, even though I was thinking "vignette" right from the start, meaning that the tone would be a major player.

I made a very conscious decision to try to paint the shapes and shadows and avoid painting things.  I also resolved to think in layers: block in of major shapes and shadow without detail, locate few edges to define shapes slightly, add some pieces of color placed as judiciously as possible and finally place the 'clutter'.   I think that plan worked well overall.
Willie's on Broadway    Oil on 14" x 20" linen panel.

It's surprising how many missteps can be made even when one knows better.  I made several here.  The most obvious is the placement of the large pole....almost dead center!  I even compounded that by sketching in a parking lot curb that leads almost vertically to the base of the pole, thus effectively splitting the painting in two!  I considered painting the pole out and relocating it, but decided against it.  I didn't want to start getting fussy for one thing.  For another, this is a plein air sketch.  If I were to try to translate it into a studio painting, I'd shift the pole -- maybe.  But in the end, I started liking it.  There's a certain tension that it creates.  It's all part of the mess.  It's edgy.  Maybe it's OK.  Maybe not.   But it stays.

I've cropped the painting in this picture to 14" x 20", cutting two inches off the bottom.  That's in keeping with the reason for the selection of this panel was the width I needed.  The height is superfluous.  I'm going to cut down the panel to this size.  

All in all, a great morning on Broadway.  I had a double cheeseburger and garlic fries afterward.  Don't tell my cardiologist.  Although overall, I think both my heart and soul got a boost by being in the sun with artist friends again....thanks David!

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

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