Musings While Painting the Big Boy

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Union Pacific “Big Boy” #4014 Steaming into Palestine

The Gallery at Redlands was busier than usual last evening as some of the Polar Express riders passed through the hotel before and after their evening run. Some dear friends, Patti and Tim, gave me a drafting table they were not using, and I moved it into view of our gallery window. This seemed to offer an open invitation for restaurant, bar and hotel guests, along with the Polar Express passengers, to step into the gallery for viewing and conversation. I have never minded an audience while trying to make art.

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View of the Gallery at Redlands from the Lobby

This delicious Sunday morning brought my reading time a soothing visit from Emerson’s essay, “Experience”:

Into every intelligence there is a door which is never closed, through which the creator passes.

I recall an old proverb that promised “when the student is ready, the instructor will appear.” This morning I was ready for Emerson’s instruction. After a blissful night of painting and conversing with art lovers, I awoke this morning, approached the painting, and felt unprepared, flat, clueless. The surge of creativity ebbs and flows, I know from experience. But this morning, impatiently, I wanted to do something creative, yet as I looked over the painting, I had no clue what to approach next. So, I wisely set it aside, poured a second cup of coffee, went back upstairs and sat in a comfy chair to read in the soothing morning sunlight streaming through the window around and through the Christmas tree.

Emerson is the sage who never lets me down when I need a positive word of assurance. I love the opening of “Experience” as he described exactly where I was at the moment:

We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. But the Genius which, according to the old belief, stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday.

After reading about six more pages into the essay, I felt the scales falling from my mind’s eye, and though upstairs, I could now “see” the train composition, and knew exactly what I wanted to do next. I couldn’t descend the stairs to the gallery quickly enough.

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I laid in the handrails on the left side of the locomotive to set it off against the rose-colored horizon, and then stopped long enough to draft today’s blog. I now know what to pursue next, but thought I would pause long enough to share some of the new experiments I attempted last night as I pushed out this painting. I’m glad that I abandoned the fear long ago of losing a painting and regret the myriad of “stale” pictures I cranked out in years past, following the same old tactics. Each watercolor now is an invitation to adventure as I push at the boundaries to see what is on the other side.

After using a toothbrush to spatter liquid masque from the Richeson Mediums Shiva Series, I used a spritz bottle to moisten the paper and flood the upper extremities with Paynes Gray and mixtures of Winsor Blue and Cerulean. The rosy horizon is a mixture of Quinachridone Red and Permanent Rose. Most of my smoke and steam effects, so far, has been manipulated with the use of a ragged brush I modified with an Xacto knife (I call it the “ugly brush”) and Q-tips. I am at the edge of my technical knowledge here–I prefer the white of my paintings to be the naked watercolor paper, not white gouache. I keep thinking that I could swirl white gouache over the darker areas and create whisps of smoke and steam, but I prefer to remain transparent with my use of watercolor. In my old days of acrylic on canvas, I learned many ways to create steam and smoke with white over dark paint, and would like to try and find a way to create the atmospheric effects, using the white paper instead of overlaying white paint. We’ll see how that all works out.

I’m still trying to solve the problem of the amber glow of the headlamp caught in the swirling steam in front of the train. I’m not sure how to do that yet, but the painting is still in its early stages. And at this point, I am finding it a great pleasure, exploring all these problems and possibilities.

Time to get back to the painting. Thank you for reading, and I hope you will check out my new website davidtrippart.com, still under construction but visibile already online.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

 

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4 Responses to “Musings While Painting the Big Boy”

  1. periwinkleblur Says:

    I have used light lifting off to create smoke effects over objects. This is coming along nicely!

    Like

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