Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh No!... Chrome Green

"Vincent Thomas Bridge #5 - Study"
watercolor/gouache on wc paper, 2011
9" x 6" (22.86cm x 15.24cm)

A study for my Vincent Thomas Bridge series and included in the upcoming show. See previous post.

A few months back I began to ponder this series, especially regarding the show, and how it would present itself.
The challenge I found myself faced with was the color of the bridge itself. If I wasn't careful I would end up with a bunch 'chrome green' paintings... and green is a tough color, too much and your'e sunk. My Dad used to say "There is no such thing as a bad color... only a bad application of it."

Who would buy paintings with lots of green? Kermit the Frog. Shrek. The Incredible Hulk. They're not real so that leaves... Ed Begley Jr.?

The green of the bridge itself is spectacular in real life, the iridescent light reflecting paint, shimmering even on overcast days. But the moment it becomes a painting it's a different set of problems. Artistic decisions must be made. You can't merely copy real life.

I decided I had better use atmospheric conditions and time of day, light and shadow to control the green of the bridge within the paintings. This allowed me to modify the palette. Darken it by throwing it in shadow, lighten it with bright sunlight, increase the saturation, decrease the saturation or step on it (as Stapleton advises), use very little of it by featuring more of the surroundings, or eliminate the green altogether. All of which I've done in various paintings for the show.

This study shows the bridge in the afternoon under full sunlight, giving it more of a lime color. Lime green could easily overwhelm too, but used sparingly (as Dad would do) it pops, its bold, like it or not it's unexpected.
For a study I was free to throw down color. Here I put the more saturated color in the top half of the composition, the blue sky and the bridge, while the lower portion is deeper and richer in color and tone, chocolate brown and forest green, which helps anchor and keep the saturated colors under control.
To better integrate the bridge into its environment I allowed the warmer tones to spill into the background.127

Click on image for larger view


  1. a great study and very interesting post. i like the composition: it brings out the hugeness of this construction as the muted background colours contrast with the 'in-your-face' colour of the bridge.
    just out of curiosity: what pulls you to this subject matter? i ask only as i have an affinity to bridges: especially old ones, ancient ones and we have many here in Scotland.

  2. Thanks rahina,
    What pulls me to this subject matter?

    I have always liked industrial images. My dad was an industrial designer so was influenced by him, grew up working on cars, pulling engines out of them etc, building fences, repairing things around the house... generally working with tools. My Grandfather loved trains and passed that on to me.
    Both always pointed out the beauty in machinery, trains, bridges, industry etc. so it is in my blood.

    I also live right at the Los Angeles Harbor so I see all these things on a daily basis, This bridge I see or drive over almost daily, and we paint what we know, see and is a part of us. Thanks for asking.

    I'll bet you have some great bridges there.

  3. Oh yes, chrome green!

    I really like the colors. And the contrast between the strength and the delicacy of the structure. Magnificent.

    Thank you, David, for commenting on my blog. It makes me discover your beautiful industrial artwork.

  4. Thank you mimi!,
    I appreciate your visit here, your time to read about my work and especially your post on my work over there on your blog "LET'S KEEP IT WILD." which I have enjoyed following myself for some time.

    I am always interested to hear from other artists and art lovers.