Works in Progress #1
The Original Mall
Completed on February 19, 2003
On October 31st, 2002, I went on a photo shoot with another artist to Moriarity, New Mexico. Lesa Cutler took me to the Larson & Son Farm where we came across a bunch of old farm machinery behind an abandoned tiny white farm house. This tractor painting is the first in a series from that day.
We wandered to a spot where the Larson's sold pumpkins and found this rusty Farmall red tractor. I took my photographs with an Olympus Camedia Digital Camera, 3.3 megapixels. Unlike 35 mm photography, my images from the digital camera become very fuzzy and grainy when they are blown up. I crop and play with the photo (I never adjust the color, just the contrast and sharpness.) on my PC and increase the size until just before the image becomes an abstract, fuzzy picture. Then, I crop into fourths, or as many sections as it takes to print out a complete image. Next, I use my daughter's glue stick and the old fashioned cut and paste method to create a large image about the size of a full sheet of watercolor paper. I end up with a soft focus reproduction that I use as a guide for the final contour drawing on Hot Press Illustration Board.
I chose this paper because I needed a smooth, slick surface to capture rusty, dirt encrusted metal on a sunny New Mexico afternoon. A pebbly textured cold press paper like Arches creates a surface that fights the smooth look of a metallic surface that must be duplicated to make this piece successful. Arches hot press holds the paint and will not allow me to soften the edges with a wet brush or create these multiple layers of texture.
January 26, 2003
At this early state, I have determined the combinations of reds I will use to document the glowing red of the tractor. The darks are a true black that I mix using Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. The first layer of the landscape consists of a combination of Viridian and Cadmium Red. This creates a fairly accurate record of the washed out pale greens of a typical high desert New Mexico landscape.
February 1, 2003
By this time, I have finished the steering wheel, seat, tractor tire and most of the very bottom section of the watercolor. Once the darkest values are established, I decided to use Viridian (a transparent sedimentary cool green) for my shadows layered on top of the brilliant red areas. My black mix turned out to be too dull as a shadow for the reds.
February 9, 2003
Everything on the right and across the very bottom of the picture is finished. I am working across the top now and starting to work on the chain. My next challenge will be to duplicate the contrast of the color temperatures in the body of the tractor on the upper left. The section with the word, "mall" is much cooler and duller than the red in the far upper left. These two sections have their first basic washes on them. I anticipate using at least three or four more washes on that section, then layering viridian for the darks and using a slightly damp brush to soften edges around the highlights.
The upper left section with the metal label was finished with a slightly damp brush across the top to suggest a shadow blurring the letters. When the water was added, the under painting softened quite quickly because of the slick hot press surface. To achieve a more controlled but slightly softer edge to the rest of the label, I dabbed it with a damp Q-tip to get that soft washed out look.
February 15, 2003
The brightly lit logo below the headlight and the peeling paint in the upper left are my next problems to solve. Intense, bright white sunlight baths both areas making these sections difficult to figure out from the photograph and even harder to paint.
By next weekend, this painting should be finished. It will either be ready for framing or become firewood.
February 19, 2003
The painting is finally finished. Over the course of three evenings, I went back over all the lettering with a T-square taped to my board and a plastic triangle. Then I took one night to paint the word, mall, and the next morning to do the logo. When all sections were covered with final washes and after I studied the painting from a distance, I created sharp white highlights with an exacto-knife. An old fashioned typewriter eraser was used to soften the edges of washes or create a transition between an area escaped white and the adjacent washes. I softened areas that I felt were too dominant with clear water and a stiff brush.Sometimes, I blotted a large area with a kleenex. or gently lifted color with a Q-tip. I also, punched up the darks and adjusted the color temperature of some areas to make them recede or become more dominant..
February 19, 2003
In this detail of the peeling paint section, the stark white areas have been scraped with a sharp excto-blade. Then, with a very dark mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, I added very dark washes next to the highlights with my rigger brush. Next, I added soft layers of rose madder to turn the edge of the large red wash cool. This created a gentle transition that visually makes the curved piece of metal turn into the dark shadow and flow into the highlight.
My palette for this painting consist mostly of Winsor Newton Artists' Watercolor:
Viridian; Cadmium Yellow; Burnt Sienna, Winsor Red, Rose Madder, Cadmium Red, Crimson Alizarin (Rowney Artists' Watercolor); Cerulean Blue; Cobalt Blue; French Ultramarine Blue; Prussian Blue; and including a Thalo Blue by Grumbacher Academy Artists' Watercolor (a permanent, rich blue that I prefer to its close cousin, Winsor Blue).
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