Playing, I Mean, Painting "The Harp"

Whenever I create a piece, it's painted in layers. Each painting has its own personality and process. Sometimes I paint the wash, the first layer, with similar colors to the finished product and sometimes I use the "opposite" or complementary colors for the underlayment. In the case of "The Harp," I mixed it up a bit.

Although I neglected to shoot a photo of the drawing before I started painting, you can still kind of see it under the first layer. I used a grid to help maintain perspective and proportions - it's kind of like drawing a bunch of tiny drawings as opposed to one big blank canvas.

After the drawing is complete, the first layer is the wash where I begin blocking in the color. This layer has a lot of solvent and little pigment. For The Harp, I mixed up the colors a bit for the underlayment. In the end, I wanted the white walls to show some warmth, so I underpainted them with the Raw Sienna. For some of the other elements like the signage and the lower wall, I used complementary colors for the underpainting.

The Harp-Layer 1

After the first layer dried, I started building up the final colors in the second layer. This layer still contains a lot of solvent, but contains more pigment than the wash layer.

After the second layer dried, I continued building up the walls. It took a few layers of white to achieve the saturation I desired, while still showing a hint of the warm underlayment.

Here, I worked on the walls and windows some more.

Now it's time to make some of the elements pop a bit more. Yes, another coat of white on the walls and I simplified the standing sign. The big green Harp sign and the Harp itself needed some of the color "popping" too.

The image below is the final painting as shot by my pro photog pal, Jamie Stukenberg.

I've admired this little historic site for a long time. Instinctually, it feels like a lot of people have had a good time here - if only this gem could talk - I bet it has lots of stories. I love the character of this curved building, especially with the sunlight and shadows, creating even more interest and drama.

We finally checked out the inside of The Harp just a few weeks ago. It oozes history with two old back bars inside, and intrigued me to learn more about it. Turns out, The Harp was founded by a widow named Jo Dolan, and was previously located on Broadway Street, but when that building was torn down, Jo moved The Harp to this location along the river in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1965. Her brother worked with her for many years.

Interestingly, this specific location at the intersection of the Milwaukee River and East Juneau Avenue must lead a charmed life for taverns as it has reportedly been home to one tavern or another continuously since the 1860's.