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!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ready for RED! (But not till next post)

Just about finished the orange glaze...only a few more vacancies to fill with the breaking detail.

A distant shot shows the organic growth of the orange glaze across the wall. I love my magic mural-painting brushes that do all the work. I just hang on for the ride as the brushes do their thing.

For this photo, I climbed up to the top of a ten-foot ladder. I figured that would give us a more square-on impression of the work-in-progress. From the side that is.

I backed way up about fifty feet for this shot. You can see now that the orange glaze pretty much uniformly inhabits the golden flesh-colored field. There is a nice interplay between the positive (orange) and negative ( golden) space. Or is that the reverse?

The cluster of images that finally anchor the extreme lower right-hand side of the design have been carefully balanced and counter-balanced to act as a landing spot for the eyes after they have perused the entirety of the composition.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Orange is the Color, Mural-Painting is the Game


Slowly inching my way across the eighty-foot span of the wall with the preliminary orange glaze. This glaze basically serves to separate what is dark from what is light on the wall.

Even the first glaze has to be applied with a lot of care and attention to detail. Though each glaze gets continuously more detailed and specific, it is important to nail down the main elements right away. So, you better be a proficient drafts(wo)man from day one in this process. You need to have extremely good drawing skills to work in this technique, as the base glaze has to get it right. That means you have to know how to get the most out of every brush stroke.

A grouping of prominent figures begins to emerge in an interplay with the letters 'Y' and 'O' of the word YOUNG.

Slowly the forms are emerging from their prolonged imprisonment on the drafting table onto the gloriously huge space of the mural. It feels good to see them taking on a life of their own...even if at this point they are only orange (against a golden-flesh colored background).

Even at this early stage you can see the perspective of the design taking shape. The inclusion of the street-scape with the 'Jubilee Parade' for example leads the eye into the design and relates nicely to the gigantic letters of the word "YOUNG".

Now you can see one of my little visual playful bits where the three steers loom large up and behind the buildings of Main Street, Young; creating the effect of udderly HUGE cows. In scale to the buildings, they soar perhaps eighty feet into the air, though in reality they are only about four or five feet high. It's really all a question of relationships to scale that create this illusion.

Even at this early stage in the painting process, it is critical to define the main elements with strong, authoritative brushwork. All of the subsequent glazes...detail that is... must rely on the strength and fidelity of the preliminary 'sketch' to be finally realized.

You can see now that the orange glaze nearly reaches to the end of the eighty-foot expanse and eight foot height of the final chunk of mural.

Some of the elements from the previous 4' x 80' section were deliberately left unfinished awaiting the bottom eight feet, such as the two soldiers representing the WWII vets. The reason for this is to make registration easier in mid-element, rather than reverse-engineering the complete glazing process halfway through a figure.

Getting down to the last few square yards of preliminary glazing/layout.

That was a productive two or three orange-y days. I think after one more good day I will be onto the next glaze, which as you may recall is read. More definition, richer shadows and stronger contrast to come!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Orange you Glad that Phase II is Started?

There's something about starting the day off with a nice cup of orange...glaze...that soothes the soul.

Facing down another -albeit the last- long stretch of 8' x 80' wall. Taking a deep breath, I steel myself for the final slog on this marathon of painting.

As per usual with my technique, I invest in a 'global glaze' where each successive glaze (in the first instance 'Hansa Orange Medium') is applied over the entire surface to basically separate the dark from the light. I consider this and all of the subsequent glazes to be a 'full-spectrum tonal study' that eventually sidles up to the natural color.

One day's painting yields about one-third of the first glaze. If patience is a virtue then this must be a truly virtuous undertaking! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Just when I thought it was safe to give my brushes a rest...

Since there is 'no rest for the wicked' I must be evil incarnate, I think to myself as I contemplate yet another six-hundred and eighty square feet of mural-painting yet to be started and finished in order to wrap up the 'forever YOUNG' mural project. Oh well, I pretty much knew from the outset that this was going to be challenging, both physically and mentally. But there really is nothing better than a daily challenge to keep a person sharp and on his toes, so to speak.

I saw a poster on Facebook this morning that said something like "If it's true that what don't kill you only makes you stronger, then I should be bench pressing a Buick!" . How appropriate! I like that.

The panel that was formerly on the bottom right is now mounted on the upper right in preparation for the final long jog to the finish line.

Sherwin lifted each of the top panels up to me on the scaffold where we then wrestled each one onto the 'lip' of the previously installed row.

Making our way down the length of the eighty-foot wall of primed panels with the top row carefully registered to each seam for a hairline fit between panels.

Sherwin decided it would be easiest for him to carry each of the sheets to me up on the scaffold. It was my job to re-position the scaffold for each sheet and then climb up to receive each of the ten panels as he hoisted them up to the six-foot level of staging. Sherwin is a big, strong man so everything went quite smoothly. And I ain't exactly a ninety-pound weakling myself, though I must admit after some of the heavier days on this job some of my muscles are singing a tune...

Sherwin screwing in the final pin to hold the panels in their position for registration of the design to flow downward and across the final 8' x 80' section of the 'forever YOUNG' mural.

What I am facing come Monday morning...another six-hundred and forty square feet of utterly blank wall yet to draft and paint. Just when I thought it was safe to give my brushes a rest. I guess not quite yet it would appear!

A distant shot of my summer studio from the far side of the rink shows the first set of twenty panels in the corner on the right along with the freshly primed panels awaiting mural-painting on the left.