That is another Oak Grove Bridge oil painting in progress, but there is a character limit on the title.
This is the 24×30″ painting, also without a deadline. It has the same goal as the 11×14″ painting: make it the best possible no matter how long it takes.
Instead of figuring out the exact size and shapes as I paint, I first drew this on the canvas, using a pencil, ruler, calculator and straight edge. Painting this is hard enough without bumbling along with the proportions.
Very little difference between this and the previous photo, but after studying it awhile, I saw a slight addition. Can you?
Have I done anything new besides move the photo?? It looks less squishy than the first version. I worked on the bridge. That’s me – civil engineer with a paint brush.
This is going to take a very long time. It is a little bit above my ability. The overly bright colors are fun, and may influence the final painting. They are a way to get layers and shapes on canvas while using up paint from my palette.
This was a day of tiny little branches, painted while sitting, kneeling and standing on the scaffolding. The most difficult part was not falling into the branching pattern of a Valley Oak. (Did you think I was going to say “not falling off the scaffolding”?)
I had to draw these branches with my brush, which never works as well as a pencil. Lots of climbing up and down to see if the branches were growing correctly.
I adjusted the lightness and darkness of the branches to make them show up against the sky.
Such an unusual tree, the baobab. There are several varieties, but this is what I know about this type: very old, huge thick trunk (up to 36′ in diameter) that immediately narrows, and a flattish top. Sometimes it is called an upside down tree, because when it is leafless, it looks as if its roots are sticking up in the air.
Those cape buffalo. . . sigh. I tried a few new ones, then erased the ones on the left. Mrs. Customer was horrified, because she liked them. She loves buffalo – they are her favorite African animal! (I lean toward zebras, those cute little horses in striped pajamas. . .)
Okay, now we’re cooking with gas. If I can see them, I can paint them. The 2 on the left are looking good!
The end of the day: 4 buffalo completed, 3 to go. That thing on the wall is the photo I used for the last 2 buff. Cape buffalo, an interesting animal, one that kills more hunters than any other animal in the entire African continent. It was killing me until I found legible photos.
Only 1/2 day remaining . . . might as well tell you about it now.
Today’s assignment shouldn’t be all that hard: paint 3 cape buffalo from a photo where the shapes are more discernible.
Umm, does anyone know a good veterinarian? These critters look to be in severe distress.
Okay, this is better. It had better be. If I put any more paint on these creatures, you might be able to carve them.
I added more texture to the ground around the herd. Suddenly it all seemed too hard, and I didn’t think any more brush strokes were going to change the mural. It was time to sign it. Customer was away for the day, so if he calls and wants anything changed or messed with, I’ll return.
Since I was unable to lift the scaffolding over the boulder, this is the best photo I could get. I guess a return trip will be necessary.
I will miss Customer and this beautiful drive.
I may have mentioned that February is my favorite month a couple of times. It still is, in spite of the fact that on this date, 16 years ago, my dad died. Weird. I didn’t think I could make it a week without him around, and now it has been 16 years.
Every morning as I head down the hill to work on the mural, I check out the view. There is a wide turnout with a great view up the canyon, and on some mornings, it is fabulous.
About 2 miles from the mural site there is a stunning field of mustard.
Across the street from the mustard is an old olive grove that my dad owned. (I wonder if Dad would have let all those suckers grow on the base of the trees.) It is a beautiful grove, and I expect it to be torn down for houses in the next handful of years.
Okay, let’s tackle some Tanzanian trees and shrubs and sand and grasses.
I enlarged the photo on my computer screen and then made some little sketches of the different shapes of the trees. It was helpful. Customer was pleased with my progress.
Then, I had to face that herd of cape buffalo. I tried enlarging the photo on my computer, but it was too pixelated. I worked and thought and studied and worked some more.
If I can’t see a thing, it is very hard to paint the thing. One of Customer’s people showed up to relocate the scaffolding for me, and I was relieved to move back to the tree.
To use one of the most overused cliches, “at the end of the day”, this is what I had. Customer said it looks as if Dracula will be coming out of the sky.
A guy showed up this a.m. to move the scaffolding out of the way. I drew the base of the tree. Then I redrew it further to the left.
Are you wondering, “What tree??” Just hold on. . .
Then I began painting the distant trees.
A little ground work, more greenery in the distance, and some delineation on the base of the tree.
Another working lunch.
Time to put in a hint of cape buffalo. Customer came by and said the tree was too short – duh. That’s the highest I can reach from the floor! He thought the buffalo were the right size for the location.
I told Customer that it would be helpful if I could see the tree in person. I need to touch it so I can tell the texture. He contemplated having someone chop one down and shipping it here, but quickly abandoned that idea when we began discussing the age. Baobabs are probably as old or even older than our sequoias. He said the bark is smooth.
This is how it looked at the end of another day. Maybe I can finish the lower half tomorrow, and then get the scaffolding back in place at a lower level than before to
grow paint the tree.
It isn’t often that I get to paint 2 murals in the same location. This is one of those rare times. Customer chose his scene, using photographs he took in Tanzania.
That’s a herd of cape buffalo. Later he requested a crocodile between the water and the buff.
The logistics are tricky with that bed of rocks, including a boulder.
First steps are the same: tap off the wood, drop a chalk line in the center, get it drawn. Oops, lay out some plastic to protect the floor and the rocks!
Customer has people. Two of his people first placed, then moved the scaffolding to put down the plastic. Nice. While they did that, I mixed paint colors. There wasn’t really anything that needed to be drawn with the sky, so I just dove right in.
Lots of climbing up and down off the scaffolding.
This is the photo I’m working from for the sky. That is the top of Customer’s hat on the bottom left. There is more sky, but I am protecting Customer’s identity and privacy.
Hmmm, needs work, but it is a good start.
Keep painting. Lots of climbing. Stand back, study the shapes, the colors and memorize what to address when you climb back up. Oops, can’t recognize the shapes while on the scaffolding, climb back down and study it again.
At this point, I felt like calling it a day. Alas, it is 22 miles from home, and I am giving myself a tight deadline. Besides, it would be good to not need the scaffolding for Day #2, so I found some internal fortitude and started the tops of the trees and shrubs.
This part will be slower. I was on the scaffolding when Customer showed up. Customer kept telling me to be careful. I kept responding that while I look awkward, I am just fine. We began discussing a few points of the mural, and I climbed down to show him the sketch. I became aware that he was wanting something else on the wall, so together we changed our minds. Bye-bye, green.
He was thinking I might get mad at him. No way! He is a delight to work for, and I want to paint something that he will love. He has expressed his love of the baobab trees over and over, so that’s what will go on the wall. No sketch this time.
Oh. I still have to paint cape buffalo. Oh boy.
While I was painting a mural, Trail Guy (AKA RETIRED Road Guy!) went to Mineral King for a day. Every time he does that, he says, “This is weird. You’re going to work and I’m going to play.” I say, “It isn’t weird. It has been normal since you retired.”
Do not feel sorry for me. I LOVE what I do and will only retire when I can no longer paint or draw or teach people how to draw. (Or edit. Have I told you how much I love to edit?)
I know. Shut up and show us some Mineral King. I can read your minds – does this make you squirm?
From the last painting session photos, I made a list of things that the mural needed in order to be finished. It seemed like another day of painting should do the trick, but I never know. Sometimes the detail and fixing just goes on and on and on. . .
The ivy needed to be lightened, for sure. Better ivy leaf shapes, if the brushes were behaving. Here you can see that it shows up better than on the first layer.
It needed more dogwood, and Customer wanted the dead tree behind the building. I was thinking of another flowering dogwood, but it would make it a girly mural, and Customer is NOT girly. (As he said, “Nah. Too much pink.”)
There were some other fixes, too boring to show you. I thickened the ivy, detailed the grass, fixed the log on the ground, added detail to the fenceposts, trimmed up some trees, among other fiddly stuff. So, here it is, all finished!
Bummer. The bluebird is blurry. He was the cherry on top, the icing on the cake, the gravy, the best saved for last!
I rolled back the plastic to photograph this angle. The reason I wrapped the mural only part-way up has to do with the construction on the back side of the wall. There isn’t a good stopping place above the place where I stopped wrapping.
Sorry. That wasn’t helpful. Never mind. You’ll have to just trust my judgment. (The editor speaking here: Did you know “judgement” is also a correct spelling?)
Same thing from this angle.
There is a second mural to be painted in the same room. Stay tuned . . . it will be a week or so before that appears on the blog.
Since the sky is finished, I pulled the blue masking tape from the top. Then I reshaped the small window, widened the building a skosh on the right, filled in the posts with a first layer and then Customer came to say “Good Morning”. He had a smart aleck remark about the bluebird, so I offered to let him put some blue on it. He actually recoiled at the request, so I opened up a container of blue, dipped my finger in, and smeared a bit on the bluebird.
Then, I began the dogwood.
The dogwood tree puts out its blossoms before it leafs out, but this looked a bit twee with pink, white and blue together. So, I decided it needed to have some green; let’s call it another tree behind the dogwood.
I also began detailing the grasses at the bottom.
You can see there are grasses on the left and blurs on the right.
When I photograph a painting, whether a mural or an oil painting, things that aren’t just right show up. This photo tells me that the shrub on the left needs another clump in the lower back, and the large tree behind the building needs a little work. And it says, “While you are at it, could I have a few dogwoods in the distance? Oh, and maybe another branch or two on the lower edge of the big dogwood?” Bossy-pants photo.
Customer came back at the magic 5 minutes in the late afternoon when the sun is exactly across the doorway of the old building. Then he suggested ivy growing on the front of the building, which I thought was a grand idea. I began it immediately, and complimented him on the addition. He said, “I’m not just a pretty face, you know”. Except, being from Missouri (which he pronounces “Missourah”), he said “purdy face”. We are really having fun getting acquainted as I paint.
Okay, everyone just calm down from the bossy photo, brilliant sunlight, funny pronunciations, and creeping ivy. This is how it looked when I closed up shop for the day.
The ivy needs more detail, more leaves and some stems. I’ll check out the ivy at home before beginning on Day Four. This photo also shows the grasses before detailing, along with the not-quite-finished log on the ground and very transparent and sketchy bluebird.
Stay tuned. . .
The first task of the day was to mix a good color for the weathered building. That greenish tan was just the paint remaining on my palette from Day One.
Often I have a beginning drawing student draw something made of old wood for a first picture because the results are usually pleasing. Painting old wood is just as forgiving and satisfying as drawing it.
This is how it looked when I stopped for a brief lunch break. I went outside and photographed some oranges, so it was a working lunch.
Wow. Tomorrow I will add the dogwood branches in bloom on the left, detail the posts, detail the grasses, detail the downed log, and put the cherry on top – the BLUEBIRD!
Maybe. Maybe it will take 2 more days. My detail brushes wear out so quickly, and then doing the detail accurately becomes a slow and annoying process. It would make sense to keep track of which are the best brushes, and then just know I have to order a pile of them before beginning a new mural. I don’t think there is time to get more before starting mural #2, so I’ll have to baby these along.
Isn’t this an interesting free-standing wall? It was fun to figure out the borders and that I could wrap the design just a little.
Here it is from the other side. (Thanks, Captain Obvious.) The plywood on the floor is so that I don’t bruise my knees while kneeling on the river rocks that are at the base of the wall. Or, so that I don’t bruise my knees as badly.
All murals begin with a conversation. It moves into photos, measurements, and sketches. This conversation began in December at a man’s home in his events room. (No, I’ve never been in an events room at a private home before. . . have you?)
There are 2 walls under discussion. This is wall #1 as it appeared just before a Christmas party.
After some discussion, Customer chose a scene, which I sketched. He changed his mind, and sent me this photo of a place where his grandparents lived in Missouri until he was 5 years old.
This was more familiar to me, and quite straightforward. I looked up Missouri and learned that the state tree is a flowering dogwood, cornus florida, and the state bird is the bluebird! (I LOVE bluebirds!) So, I sketched the scene, and Customer was happy.
Two scaffolds were waiting for me, along with some heavy-duty plastic covering the floor and a very handy table.
Don’t you wish you had an events room at your house? I taped off the top wooden trim and dropped a chalk line in the center so I could have a point of reference and a sense of true vertical.
Then I had to move the scaffolds to draw the picture, a very simple scribble.
Starting is slow process. Every mural has its own set of challenges, most of which are logistical rather than artistical. (Sorry – just had to mess with that word to make it match “logistical”.) There is a special level of concern when working inside of someone’s home instead of outdoors. I procrastinated a bit by making corrections in a comforting shade of teal.
Time to put the scaffolds back in place and begin the sky. The photo’s sky was a very soft blue, which I made brighter. The whole photo is sort of dark, so I am aiming for brighter colors on everything.
I took a short break to enjoy the view and was thrilled to see Sawtooth out the windows. This is a very pretty part of Tulare County, and this is the most beautiful time of year.
Break’s over. Just paint. I feel a sense of urgency to finish and get my mess out of the events room so Customer and Mrs. Customer can resume their very interesting and active life!