Abaondoned Gas Station on Missouri Highway 36
I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Finding myself impounded in a school classroom five days a week, my imagination goes back on the road that I enjoyed so deeply last summer, as travels took me to the Texas coast, to Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri. I started a painting of an abandoned gas station I encountered on Missouri State Highway 36, west of Macon, and watching the watercolor coming into focus over the past week has filled me with the most pleasant memories of that summer trek.
It has been surmised that Edward Hopper was so taken with a particular gas station in the Cape Cod region that he turned his automobile around and went back for a closer look, eventually creating a collection of drawings and a magnificent oil painting.
Edward Hopper, Gas
That was precisely my experience last summer–several miles past the abandoned gas station, I suddenly turned my Jeep around and returned to the location to take pictures and make thumbnail sketches for a future watercolor. In the Hopper painting, I have always been drawn to the dark woods beyond the station at night, thinking of one of Hopper’s favorite poets, Robert Frost:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Even though my watercolor is set in the blazing heat of a Missouri summer at midday, I wished for my woods backing the gas station to have that same dark look as I see in the Hopper painting.
Yesterday afternoon was quite rare, as I had the entire afternoon and evening free to do as I pleased. I spent the entire time bent over this painting, enjoying every piece of the composition as it slowly came into focus beneath my brushes and pencils. I used a good deal of salt and stale bread crumbs to help texture the gravel parking lot and scattered patches of grasses in the foreground. A good, sharp #2 pencil helped me render carefully the details of the frame siding, as well as the windows and doors around the structure, and the ridges in the roof. The continual layering of warm and cool colors in the foliage proved to be challenging, but I’m satisfied so far with how that part of the painting is going. I’m a little timid about finishing out the clouds, as it’s been months since I played with Q-Tips and grays, and am rather forgetful of what exactly I have done in the past to get the effects I want there.
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to learn.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself I am not alone.