I was happy to receive 2nd place in the Desoto Arts League Annual Member Show with this entry. I titled this “Cold Desolation” and painted it back in 2007. I photographed it much, much earlier, over a Christmas holiday season back in the 1990’s. My father was driving me around abandoned towns in Franklin County, Missouri so that I could shoot my 35mm camera for potential watercolor compositions.
It was about 10 degrees when we came across this abandoned filling station in Robertsville, Missouri, not far from Pacific. I had to add the signage, as the building had been stripped of all identification and advertising. The automobile was photographed in New Mexico, years later. As to this site, I still recall how frigid cold it was, and how I had to keep putting my hands back into gloves to survive the photo shoot! I stayed around long enough to shoot over thirty pictures, though some of them did not turn out the way I wished.
This painting has had a hard life. After I had finished the sky, I leaned the watercolor against the wall of my study. In those days, I was stretching D’Arches watercolor paper over canvas stretchers. I love the dynamic spring of the paper while working on it, and the water dries much more quickly than it does with blocks or 300 pound weight. While the picture was leaned against the wall, I pushed some books off my desk, and they tumbled across the floor and punctured this painting in several places. For that reason, I have been unable to sell the original through galleries (though I’ve sold a number of limited edition giclees, and now the original has won two awards in competition, including a Best of Show. It was also juried into the annual show of the Southwestern Watercolor Society. Nevertheless, it remains a damaged painting, scotch-taped from the back.
I’m attached to this work because to-date it remains the best watercolor sky I have ever laid. I still cannot believe how the colors worked and the blotted clouds emerged the way they did. It also marks a former period when I worked only in neutral colors, mostly under the spell of Andrew Wyeth. The creation of the work also evokes warm memories, as I worked on the sky in the winter months, then abandoned the work when the spring semester got under way. The next thing I knew, several years had passed. Finally, I decided to take it with me during a 3500-mile road trip one summer that took me through Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. It was during my Colorado fly-fishing expedition that the painting was completed, in Canon City.
I plan to re-visit this Robertsville, Missouri site in a couple of weeks when I return to St. Louis to visit my family for Christmas. Currently, I have over twenty 35mm slides taken from all angles of this station, and I’m considering a fresh start on this composition again. I think the time is overdue. When Christmas comes, this is one of the few paintings from my past that I still own, and still spend plenty of time studying. The painting will remain in Desoto City Hall until the first week of the New Year. I”ll be looking forward to retrieving it and re-hanging it in my home.
Thanks for reading.