I’ve been posting works in progress on my Facebook page lately, which you can view without having to sign up for a Facebook account. Hence, not much going on here.

3/30/09
This is a delayed posting, but here is how the West Village painting came about. Since my last posting, I noticed that the sidewalk was too wide which threw off the perspective. So, I narrowed the sidewalk and added a manhole cover in the street. I defined the cars parked in the background a bit more and toned down the background buildings, too.  Putting in the writing on the awnings and flag helped to bring up the light in the scene.  As did adding warm light on the sidwalk right below the streetlamp. I added the tree (which is there in reality), which helped to add “busy-ness” to the street without distracting.

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The scene still seemed lonely, so I added a couple of figures to see what affect that would have.  I also kept glazing and working on the lighting on the sidewalk and street, and added a “glow” coming from the streetlamp. I also reworked the writing on the main awning – the letters were spread too wide!

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After a discussion with the client, I added a fourth person.  For a night scene, the buildings and cars in the background had too much color in them; in reality they are much more washed out. When I greyed down their colors, it served to bring more attention (beneficially) to the main “characters” of this scene: the Village Tavern and the four women heading to the bar. Also, to maximize that focus, I re-painted the sky to “erase” the cornice at the top of the building on the middle-left (my studio neighbor rightly pointed out that it was kind of a distraction). And, I added warm lights in the windows of the bar to emphasize the welcoming feeling the bar might have on a cold winter’s night.

village-tavern-final“Heading to the Village Tavern”, oil on canvas, 9″x12″
[tThis photo is a bit fuzzy and there are reflections where the paint was still wet. I’ll take another one soon, which will hopefully show it off better!]

3/19/09
A client commissioned me to paint a corner bar in the West Village, The Village Tavern as a gift. This 9″x12″ painting is of the bar and the brownstones behind it. I’ve been working on it this past week – we’ve got a deadline to meet!

village-tavern-1After a short discussion about the composition, I suggested that it should be a night scene (a good time to go to a bar?!). I went back to the corner about when the sun went down to take some photos and notes. The street lamps put out a very pink-ish, orange-y light, which made the scene look all orange in my photos. I’ll have to compensate for that in the painting.  I started by putting in the night sky to establish the mood and light, and the background buildings which are not well-lit.

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I worked in the main subject , a one-story, faded brick building with well-lit, big black awnings  and bright, colorful neon signs in the window and over the entrance. At this point I tried to establish the areas of light and dark and color tones.

[Sorry about these faded looking photos! I had some trouble with my old digital camera picking up the dark colors with the north light in my studio.  Will try with a better camera next time.]

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The street looked really empty and desolate, not exactly the feeling I want to portray. I realized it needed human presence, both with a figure (this is to be discussed with the client, but I feel strongly that it starts to create a story in the scene), and with lights in some of the windows (just as there were in real life). I also played with where and how much light there should be on the various surfaces in the composition: the street, the sidewalk, the walls of the different buildings, on the lamp, on the cars.

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I also started to glaze some areas to add depth and complexity to surfaces. Hard to appreciate that in these photos. Lots more work to be done! Stay tuned.

[Snow scene below is on hold for now.]

3/10/09
I haven’t had much time in the studio lately, but the last time I was there, I managed to spend a couple of hours just diddling with the branches of the tree. Sheesh!! Some times things work out quickly, and, well, other times it’s a bit of a grind! But, I want the tree to be taken seriously and it needed to be stronger and have depth (still does), and the sky was far too pink.  Lots more work to be done here.

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2/28/09
Just before a week-long vacation, I started another painting of Prospect Park after a snow storm. This one is of a profile of a big hill with dramatic large tree on top.

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After I mapped in the general composition and placement of key objects I added in color, starting with the sky, which helped to determine the overall lighting of the scene, and then the far distant forest of trees. Then I added in shadows cast on the snow.  I started to put in the brightly lit snow last – there are many shades of bright white! Some areas with some burnt sienna with a pink-ish hue and others were more sunny, yellow-y white.

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I’m looking forward to working on it some more. I had lots of snow inspiration while on my ski vacation trip out to the Rocky Mountains.

2/11/09
A few days ago I put finishing touches on the Prospect Park snow scene.I added snow to the tree branches of the large foreground trees, and clarified the trees in the middle distance.

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I took these photos a few days apart, and unfortunately at different times of day so the tones came out quite different. While I did touch up the sky color, it wasn’t as drastic a change as it appears in these photos. I added some wispy snow to the middle ground trees, and made some highlights in the snow surfaces where there should be some “sparkling”.  It’s now on my website, called “Sledding Home.”

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I’ve been working on the street scene for several days, and here’s how it developed.  I thought the street looked too empty and so I added another pedestrian, crossing the street on the right, and car. Once I added the car I thought the street surface looked too dark and purply, so I lightened the tone AND made it a yellowy grey.
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Then, I thought the sidewalk looked much too garish, and so I made it less white by adding a sort of glaze mixed with yellow ochre, burnt sienna, a little raw umber with white.  I also made the light stone over the center of the entrance less pink. The bent tree trunk kept bothering me, and I realized it looked too starkly dark, too reddish and flat. So I addded some greys, and brought out highlights and surface texture. Sometimes it’s surprising how small changes can make a big difference.

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Having toned down the other elements in the painting, made me think that the stone on the church looked too pinkish, and so I added grey tones in areas, just touches here and there, too moderate the overall appearance of the facade.  Doing that made the brownstone down the street look too highlighted, with a glare almost.  I neutralized the yellow-orange there by mixing a new color with some green in it so that the color was calmer. That tree was still bothering me, it looked like a cartoon compared to everything else, and so it seemed like the right time to add spring-time yellow-green leaves and what an improvement! It seemed to bring everything together.

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I’m now going to let it dry, so the paints can sink in, glazing can get less glossy (which can alter our perception of its color), and I can take a more objective look at it later.

2/4/09
I forgot to photograph these paintings a couple of days, so you’ll see here that I’ve gotten further along than you might expect!

I further developed the church’s exterior, the wonderfully textured and rich-colored stone work was fun. I put in the tree with its many branches, most of them reflecting the low sun. The client also requested that cars be included, as they are a real part of the view. The scene needed some life on the sidewalk, so I added some pedestrians, and continued to work on the large tree and shadows. I think the street is too dark, a function of working from a photograph, which tends to accentuate lights and darks.

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I put this aside to dry and went back to the snow scene in Prospect Park. The trick is now to maintain the spontaneous feel of the loose brushstrokes that enliven this painting while bringing up some of the useful details, mainly the two large trees (when I left off, they were looking kind of scary!!). Also, I added some light shadows to the far distant background to help create depth, i.e.  “push back” that part of the scene.

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I made slight alterations to the park worker and the shoveled path on the left. I got a comment that it had looked like a person fishing in a creek before!! Also, I put some small touches of color on the kids on the sled to bring them up a little. Now, need to add snow to the tree branches to soften up the effect.

1/26/09
I went back into the painting of the street with the church. I finished laying in all the blocks of color.

church5Then, started to put in light areas and fine tuning color.

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A lot more work to be done!

In the meantime, while letting that painting dry, I started a scene from Prospect Park. I’ve never painted a snowscape before, and was excited to try one. There are a lot of colors in snow!!

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1/21/09
I’ve decided that the living room painting is finished. I went back to work on the view from my studio. I paid more attention to the buildings on the horizon, and softened the clouds. Not satisfied that I’m quite capturing the late afternoon light breaking from the clouds. The clouds look too heavy and the buildings insubstantial. Will go back into again when this layer has dried.
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Meanwhile, I’ve started the 20″x20″ commissioned view of a street view dominated by a church in Carroll Gardens. After I showed the client the oil sketch, we decided that it should be more of a streetscape and not so much a portrait of the church building. So, I added a bit more of the brownstone to the right. I’ll also be adding people and cars to add life to the scene.
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After sketching in the composition, I laid in the sky to establish the light source, which is often what I do when I paint outside on site, and started to lay in the dark areas.

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I started to put in mid-tones and other darks, especially the shadowed street so that I can start to get a feel for the overall balance of light and dark areas.

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1/17/09
Worked more on the living room painting these last couple of days. Kept working in the darks, cool shadowy areas (although in this view, several of the shaded areas have reflected warm light in them).
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Started to develop the rest of the furniture and add in where sunlight hit.

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Next, I added in some details and adjusted values.
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I noticed that the armchair’s arms were not lined up, and so I shortened the right arm (if you were sitting in the chair), added highlights, warmed up the wall where the light is not the brightest, but still washed with light, and tightened up a few details. Will look at it again in a couple of days, and then decide whether it’s finished or not. Seems pretty close!
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1/15/09
I started another 12″x16″ painting because the one below was still too wet to work on, and I like to keep several paintings going at once. This one is from a photo that I’d taken of my living room. I’d been thinking about painting this image for a long time. Because I knew that this was going to be a painting of lots of warm colors, even in the shadows, I toned the canvas a mix ultramarine blue and a little burnt sienna for a cool effect, i.e complementary to what the final colors would be.

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I started to lay in the dark colors of the chair, and then found myself working on it rather than putting in dark areas in general.
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1/14/09

I started this 12″x 16″ painting yesterday of a view out my studio window, which I had photographed previously.  I worked on it yesterday because the conditions – similar looking clouds with the same late afternoon light – were nearly the same as the photo.

I started by applying some reddish-brown (burnt sienna) on the canvas, heavily diluted, with a paper towel and wiped most of it off. This is to put a tone on the otherwise white canvas. (Working on white is hard!!).  I quickly sketched out the basic composition.

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I decided that this is a painting mainly about the big pile of fluffy clouds sailing over the Brooklyn skyline.

I started to block in dark and shaded areas, sky,  then lit areas.
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Started to fill in distant skyline of high rise buildings in Downtown Brooklyn and shadowed areas of the clouds.

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Finally, I put in hightlights on the clouds and softened edges.

painting51 When this first layer dries to touch, I’ll work on nuances and textures. Stay tuned!…