My favorite building in Denver to date, the Midwest Steel and Iron Works, was constructed in three phases, with the first built at the turn of the 20th century. Subsequent additions, including the art deco tower, which went up in the 1930’s, are entwined with a modern freeway built, while carefully wrapping around this sweet old building.
Each of the images below typically represents four to eight hours of work - sometimes more. As the painting matures, the progress is much more difficult to detect in these images and so I’ve excluded some of the later days’ work in order to maintain interest and relevance to you, the viewer.
So, at 40" x 54", let's look at how I created my largest painting to date.
Here is the drawing on the linen canvas prior to painting. I use a grid, which assists in achieving proper size and proportion, to hand-draw my design in the larger format, all the while paying careful attention to perspective.
As I paint in layers, the first layer consists of a lot of paint thinner and little pigment. In this stage, known as the wash, my oil painting looks a lot like a watercolor. Even so, this is an exciting step for me because I love color and this is the beginning of bringing my painting to life.
This painting is large and so even the wash may take quite awhile to complete.
Layers after the wash are made up of a greater proportion of pigment and less paint thinner until the last layer is almost entirely pigment. Below, I’ve started the layers, containing more pigment, which is particularly noticeable in the sky.
In this image, you can see heavier pigment work taking place on the freeway.
There’s lots of progress below, with the building, shadows and parking lot.
While I was working on this painting, I happened to make one of my many trips to Colorado. Over lunch, my best girlfriend, Shelly, told me about the Wyeth exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. It showed work by both Andrew and son, Jamie. I happened to have a few hours between lunch with Shelly and meeting another good friend, Barb, so I went to the show. Here, I read about and saw a video of Jamie painting and one of the methods he employed was called “dry brush.” Learning about this technique came in handy for the very painting I was working on back home! I had been contemplating how to paint the fences in this painting - the fence on the freeway and the fence down near the building. For these, I used my newfound dry brush technique. If you look closely at the painting you can see the difference in how the fences and the rest of the painting are painted. Rather than painting solid colors, the dry brush technique plays off the texture of the canvas, allowing a lot of the color beneath to show through, while the new color latches onto the high spots.
More work on the covered windows and other elements.
The pigments I selected for the building are fairly transparent, so it took quite a bit of work to build the darks of the brick building to a level with which I was satisfied.
I also debated about how to finish out the signage on the building. I started thinking I should keep it a little looser and less detailed, but it just didn’t feel right this way. So in the end, if you look at the finished painting, you’ll see the signage is fairly detailed in its rendering. I’ve even had a few people comment that when they looked at it, they thought it was a three dimensional object attached to the front of the painting.
The image below is still one of the work in progress, please check out the actual painting to see the final result.
Now that you’ve seen this progression, how many colors of paint do you think I used in this painting? While many artists will paint with a fairly large palette of 15 colors or so, I typically paint with pairs of selected complementary colors. For example, in this painting, I used Manganese Blue (and Prussian Blue) vs. Cadmium Red Scarlet; Raw Umber vs. Cobalt Blue; and Dioxazine Purple vs. Cadmium Green - so only seven colors - plus, Titanium Zinc White. I love using complements because they create awesome grays, tone each other down, and also create energy when placed next to each other. They’re really powerful.
I hope you've enjoyed the insights shared here. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.