Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mural to Hibernate ( 'til spring '13 )

Mounting this mural will not be easy.

It comes as no surprise with a mural project of this scale that the permanent mounting will be a formidable undertaking, especially now that the planning committee has decided that the superstructure will be engineered to hold the fifty 4' x 8' panels up so that the bottom will begin ten feet in the air. This means that the top of the mural extant will soar a full thirty feet off terra firma. Considering that the surface of the mural is a whopping one-thousand and six-hundred square feet, it will constitute an engineering challenge to overbuild the structure to withstand the inevitable force of what can amount to gale force winds here on the Canadian prairies. That is a huge 'sail'! 

In the coming months, we will be unveiling the master plan for the dedicated site where the mural will be installed, just south of Young School facing the #2 highway. The plan is to erect the mural on its own site complete with a drive-in access off the highway, a rest stop with washrooms and of course a viewing bench at the so-called 'sweet spot' where the view is optimal. I mention this because you will find that a certain distance is required for the best viewing experience...too close a viewing position will be counter-productive as it is so huge that the whole thing will not be visible. I don't think there will be any issues with distant viewing; I have looked at the mural from as far away as bout 100 feet (inside the rink) and can report that a distance of twice that far would still be well within reason.

Taking this into consideration, the committee has in their wisdom opted to contract with an engineering firm in Saskatoon to draw up and certify the plans for the steel structure that must be over-built by a factor of X10 to ensure that it truly is permanent.

Thankfully, we have a very generous corporate sponsor in place that is underwriting the cost of engineering. Now the trick is to generate the final chunk of financing required to pay for the actual steel, cement and hardware that the engineers will call for with their plans.

Nor will it be cheap.

Word on the street is that the cost of erecting this mural will likely surpass the fees that I have required for my professional services as the designer and painter of the mural proper! 

But it WILL happen. In the spring of '13.

Recalling that the mural was painted inside the hockey rink at Young, it only stands to reason that as the weather evolved from fall to early winter, it was imperative to clear out of that space to allow the rink committee to proceed with preparing the natural ice for the onslaught of the hockey season, as the Young rink hosts a very busy agenda of games starting pdq.

Although I would be the first to freely admit that this 'process' is about as exciting as watching paint dry, I thought I would faithfully chronicle the de-construction of the mural as it came down off its temporary frame and was securely packed and stored in its steel container ( "C-Can" ) where it will hibernate until the spring of 2013.

Dismantling the temporary frame was a fairly tedious undertaking that involved a lot of un-screwing. We planned ahead and used screws throughout in anticipation that it would have to disassembled after the mural's completion.

Shewin and I stacked all of the panels in position in the corner of the rink closest to the exit, in preparation for their winter storage.

I suppose that this picture might seem to be rather anti-climatic...but trust me, it took a LOT of energy to get to this point where all that remains standing is the basic skeleton, ready to drop onto the rink floor for the final dis-assembly. Remember, the frame is a full eighty by sixteen feet, so it represents a bit of work even at this late juncture.

With the help of a couple of very generous volunteers, we were finally able to send the wall back down on its face for the final un-screwing. As you can see, only about three pieces of lumber were shattered in the process. Not bad considering the huge 'boom' that occurred at the moment of impact.
Once all of the panels were removed from the frame and stacked methodically in the corner  of the rink, we recruited several generous volunteers from the community to assist in carrying each panel into the C-Can for winter storage.

All of the fifty panels were stacked with spacers in between and beneath to allow air flow as well as to prevent any shifting over the winter. Great care was taken to ensure that all the panels were not allowed to contact any of their neighboring panels so that scraping or scratching of the precious painted surfaces would be prevented.

A final sweep of the snow, dust and debris was carefully performed by Dennis Sather of the Centennial Committee before the C-Can was sealed for the winter.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sprinting to the Finish Line

Now that the so-called 'full-spectrum tonal study' is nearing completion, I can start adding the 'native' or 'local' colors. In my opinion, the advantage of using the 'full-spectrum tonal study' throughout the entire composition BEFORE committing to local color is that this approach lends an overall continuity and warmth to the painting. No part of this mural appears isolated from the rest; rather, the whole things hangs together as a unified field.

The richness of the shadowy parts in contrast with the highlighted colors is really apparent as the steam locomotive comes into sharp resolution.

The cluster of figures is now about ready for 'local' color after the last treatment with pthalo blue strengthens the shadows. At this point all of the colors represent only the 'full-spectrum tonal study'. No effort has yet been expended in introducing the actual colors of the clothing or flesh tones. That will take place in the coming days so wait for it. You will see quite a radical transformation as it progresses.

The horse and buggy now stand out in sharp contrast from the background (more muted) colors. Also, the perspective of the horse creates a convincing illusion that he is popping out of the surface.

The parade of vintage vehicles begins to come into its own as increasing contrast and resolution (those two elements seem to go hand-in-hand with this technique) begin to enhance the three-dimensional dynamic.

A more distant shot of the parade shows the marchers along with historic downtown Young...with the seemingly gigantic cows calmly overlooking the scene. I wonder what they are thinking?

Backing up even further to show the relationship between the horse and buggy and the parade. The diving perspective is accentuated by the sweeping lines of both the parade route and in opposition...the horse's torso that proudly stands in front of the letter 'N'.

Looking back on the lower section of the mural towards the end of the work day.

I think the fairly busy collage of shapes is sorting itself out quite nicely at the lower right-hand side of the composition.

Turns out that the two portraits of our honored WWII vets will be every bit as prominent as the weathered figures at the upper left-hand side of the mural. I was a bit surprised at how large and eye-catching these two figures ended up being. Sometimes it really is difficult to anticipate how things will look until they show up on the wall.

Just modeling the various textures in this vista that shows a clerk at the 'Bean Farm' operation. Again, I was just a bit surprised at how prominent this figure turned out to be. He nicely anchors the middle right-hand side of the composition.

The parting shot of the lower section of the mural shows how the overall continuity holds the composition together in a coherent fashion. Even with such a complex phantasmagoria of shapes and colors there is certainly a visual and conceptual order.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Purple Glaze all in my brain...

Advancing with iron-willed determination with the remaining few square meters of red glaze...already anticipating the rush of 'purple glaze'...

There. That should just about do the trick for the application of the translucent red glaze. Time to crack open my ( probably ) most favorite glaze...purple! Or, more accurately, dioxazine violet if you want to be exact.

Can you spot the encroachment of violet?

Everything really pops with the addition of a translucent violet glaze. Suddenly the shadows start to make themselves known and the earthiness of these first three glazes with all of their infinite intermingling becomes apparent.

You can see the steam engine grows bolder and more powerful looking with the addition of violet. Maybe I am getting just a bit ahead of myself but I thought I would have a little fun with some steely blues to create the beginning of an impression of reflective iron on the front of this huge machine. Rules? What rules? It still has to be fun!

The composition of the first several objects starts taking shape with the gradient blue bits adding incredible depth and perspective.

There's something about atmospheric blue that intrinsically suggests depth and atmosphere. I think our brains via our eyes are hard-wired to accept this color as meaning "far far away", especially when it is a graduated tone from quite light on the bottom to rich as it ascends into space.

The cluster of figures just to the right of the train begin to dramatically come into their own once the violet glaze is applied. This glaze interacting with the previous red and orange glazes set on a base of golden flesh color begins to set up a dynamic surface tension that starts to convince the eye that the various shadows, highlights and contrasting shapes are surprisingly life-like.

Progressing to the right with the violet glaze forces the images to stand out in vivid contrast to their so-called 'negative space'.

I usually start my day with a certain goal in mind. This picture was taken yesterday...the goal was to to tease out the horse and buggy from the background and also to tidy up a variety of smaller details. Mission accomplished!

You can see the steady advancement of the violet glaze popping features out of the golden-flesh field.

One final parting shot from up on the sixteen foot step ladder...we have been here before! I think one more day will suffice to finish the purple glaze. Then it's on to...pthalo blue. Just wait, you will see the shadows and contrast pretty much leap off the page with the blue. But you already know that if you have been following.

One added pleasure for me while working away on the mural is when visitors pop in to check out my progress and (in general) cheer me this is truly a marathon of painting. I try not to think too much about the formidable scale of this piece and just stick to the program...paint, paint, paint. Rest, drink, snack, paint, paint, paint.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Red Red Red and then more Red

While it is a somewhat slow and meticulous process, the 'red glaze' steadily blooms across the eighty foot span of panels. You can just see the man's torso emerging inside the letter 'O'.

The scaffold is rolling, rolling, rolling across the wall as the red glaze is methodically applied. There is really no rushing this process...each glaze must be patiently added in a certain order to achieve the full-spectrum tonal treatment that will ultimately lead to the final glazes of 'local' color which will cinch the process.

The red glaze defines the character and depth of this group of figures quite dramatically, coaxing them out of the long slow simmer of their ethereal existence trapped within the confines of the mock-up for the past two years. I am enjoying the daily progress of realization that is bringing them and the rest of this sprawling menagerie of characters and events to life.

Not showing any signs of slowing down yet as you can see by the blurry right hand wielding the magic brush

Goofing around with my friend the formidable Miss Lizzy G at the far right-hand side of the first ( ie: upper) set of panels which now form a semi-circle at their temporary resting place in the curved corner of the hockey rink at Young, SK., which is serving as my summer studio.

Working on the beginning of the 'Jubilee Street Parade' which will eventually feature quite prominently in the lower center of the composition. I like this scene because the vintage cars parked along Main Street Young create a strong time-based impression of years gone by. This adds to the overall theme of historic Young and also presents a dramatic, plunging depth of perspective that accentuates the three-dimensional illusion of the design.

Betty, Lizzy G and Marnie pose alongside the almost life-size team of oxen. We were laughing about the fact that once the mural is up on its permanent mount outside, these beasts will be soaring about twenty feet up in the air. So it will be a bit more difficult to get up close and personal at that point.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ready to Rock the Red

With each successive glaze, the contrast grows stronger but just as important so does the resolution. And the red glaze is no fact it is one of the most powerful defining moments in the evolution of the mural.

The images are no longer merely amorphous...rather, at this stage the strength and character of the brushstrokes becomes abundantly obvious. It's a 'do or die' situation when it comes to the red.

The previous glaze (orange) needed to be applied super carefully, because the only guide was the 'plot point' sketch created with pencils. It was time-consuming to the utmost, due to the fact that it felt like a high wire act without a net, as the very sketchy guide lines do not help a whole lot in shoring up confidence. At that point I was heavily reliant on the dossier of source photos for reference. But now that the base glaze of orange is successfully applied, I am more free to fly with my brushes dipped in the powerful cadmium red medium.

As was the case with the orange glaze (as I pointed out in my previous post) it is paramount to make every brush stroke count, as these early glazes set the mood and template for all of the future glazes that will ultimately land us at the finished product. If you look carefully you will see that there is a lot of character and personality in the brushwork that defines the details and textures of the railway station. Even at this early stage.

I like the way that the railway station nicely anchors the lower left-hand side of the composition while forming a solid gravity that stitches it to the other buildings that sit at about 2:00 directly above and to the right. As I am just seeing it for the first time in the mural, I appreciate now that my design instincts were right on the mark with the scale and composition in this case.

You can see that the massive steam engine is rapidly coming into resolution with the addition of the red glaze. Although it will be a few days yet, I can already imagine how imposing it will appear with the following glazes: violet, pthalo blue, etc. Can you spot the two figures just beginning to emerge? They are there to establish the scale of the steam engine, incidentally the very first to pull into the rail-yards at Young back in the mid 19-teens.

What you are seeing is the result of almost a full day's patient glazing as I work methodically from left to right in two passes of about 4-5 feet swaths. If all goes well, I oughta be able to finish this stage in two or three more long days and then it's on to what is maybe my favorite glaze...violet. So stay tuned!