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

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Rising Above"

Happy New Year!  2014 is here, ready or not.  Is it possible that it's been 14 years since Y2K, when planes were going to drop from the sky and computers worldwide were going to stop working?  And here we are more than a year after the end of the world.  Looks pretty much like it did before.  Guess I should stop procrastinating and get back to work!

This painting has been on my easel for quite a while.  I put some final brushstrokes to it yesterday and signed it.  Time to move on.  My object and focus in this painting was the evening light strongly hitting the old Elks Building in downtown Sacramento.  I pushed that light by darkening the foreground somewhat more than it appeared to be in real life.  I also minimized the detail on the old building, letting the rich native color of the building and the light of the setting sun be the star.

As I painted along though, I couldn't help but notice and reflect on the stark contrast between the Elks building, built in 1926, and the newer and closer building which also edges into the light.  I simplified the newer building, leaving out a fairly plain vertical panel at the corner, letting the windows run to the corner instead, so I can't hold the architect responsible for that.  But in either version - the actual or my simplified one, the contrast between the soaring architecture of the Elks Building and the squat structure and prefabricated panels of the newer building is much the same.  Although change is always inevitable, it makes you a little less enthusiastic about tearing down the old to make room for the new. So maybe that's a theme for this painting as well.  It certainly gave me the idea for the painting title.

"Rising Above"    Oil on 20" x 12" canvas

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art