I completed a work entitled “Coming Home,” for the Jimmie Johnson Foundation. I am so excited that I had this opportunity to create a work for my favorite driver…well, kinda for him ;-), and I hope the resulting donation will raise money for the Foundation’s 2012 charities. I want to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the process of how I create a work and the why of this particular piece.
When creating a new work from a past photo, the fun is deciding what the narrative will be, what to keep, what to ignore and what to change. This work was created after a photograph of a house I pass each time I travel to Williamsburg,Virginia ride roller coasters. I prefer to drive the back roads because the family and I ride the ferry across the James River– always entertaining and a special part of a trip to the park and better than riding the interstate. There is so much more to see off the beaten path. On this particular trip, there had just been a summer shower. The image I photographed had little sunlight, and lovely reflective puddles. My interpretation has the sun out with sharp shadows, but I kept the reflections surreal, reminiscent of Rene Magritte’s day/night paintings. There are also past and future references in the architecture. The obvious is above the door, but there are more. If you see the more, I’d love to hear your interpretations J. I will not spoil it with too much of my intent.
In the process of creating this work, I first created a division of sky and land. While the oil was still wet, I sketched in the road and puddles. I played with the idea of clouds in the sky, but ultimately shaded is out as I thought it would make the top too heavy and I wanted a resting spot for the eye knowing how I create trees. After the layer was dry, I drew the tree height and space. I drew the bones of the house and, then, redefined the path to make sure the perspective was as correct as possible. I used charcoal to create the sketch before the canvas. Charcoal mixes with the paint. Graphite works its way through the layers of paint eventually. This is first under painting I used sepia toned charcoal instead of standard compressed charcoal or white charcoal. I found it useful, but I think it will be better to use it primarily for skin tones as it made the early whites of the house appear more warm than I would have liked. I had to “paint in” the charcoal and add an extra layer to thin out some of the unwanted color. I usually like the contrast of warms and cools in a work, but I think in the future when painting architecture I will use cobalt, or deep ultramarine pastel for my first layer to make better use of the shadow effect. I will try it out soon :-).
After blocking in a work, I work from back to front. I repainted the sky a bit and made it transition from a warm blue to a cooler blue. I created the base layer for my tree’s trunks and the deepest layer of trees and then added another layer of the dirt road. There is no increasing the speed of this process other than using drying mediums, which I already do. Unfortunately, quite a bit of painting for me is waiting for an area to thicken or dry. I will write “time passes” as code for – I let it dry. It has a better ring ;-).
The second layer of trees came next and a little shading and highlights. I added grass to the edges and detail to some of the ground near the house and the water around the picture. Time passes. Next came the third layer of trees, up to the house, and more detail work on the path.
After the trees were dry enough, I blocked the first layer of the house with very
littledetail. I let the paint stiffen and added in the lines for boards and trim around the windows.
After a night, I added more details of shadow and light on the house itself and started making the layers look three-dimensional with shading, highlights, transitions and layering of thin glazes in some places. Then I let it dry.
In the final couple of sessions, I put in all the finer detail, layered the last tree (closest to the foreground on the right) and splatter painted the soil detail in the foreground. I am really pleased with this piece. I am ever learning new things and this work was no different. I want to paint this little house one more time at least (there is a piece called “Waiting” that is a sliver of the house). Each will be a new story, as are my other works – of my Grandmother’s house particularly. Oh, and I need to have more houses with tanks. I know it is silly, but I love to paint them!