Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stifling Air

"PHL 67 at 47 Underpass"
watercolor on illus. board, 2012
5" x 8" (12.7cm x 20.32cm)
For Sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

My Pacific Harbor Line Series:
The Pacific Harbor Line, the workhorse of the LA Harbor. These black/white engines are part of the low emission line of locomotives for the move towards a greener port. Black and Shiny as tar with striking graphics, they don’t blend in, they stand out. Not graceful looking, they look like they mean business. The back end diagonals point down, the front point up to distinguish front from rear when seen head on. Its side panel graphics angling forward. So a nod of beautiful work to the designers of these burly beasts of burden.

The PHL 67 about to pass under the 47 bridge approach, which in this case is the Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge, too long for the title. The 47 includes two bridges, the other is the Vincent Thomas Bridge.

Representing a hot, humid, sticky day I painted in a warm overtone, yes, an overtone, not undertone as in oil painting. My palette tends to lean to the cool side and this was going that way too so as I approached the finish I consciously began overlaying warm washes and mixing warm versions of each color. Previously the sky was blue, the foreground concrete a cool gray, the bridge a cool green... and I was starting to get bored. I spared the locomotive and the underside of the bridge, leaving them a cool black and uniting them in a single dark value shape.

This is part of experimenting and in watercolor usually leads to muddied up paintings if not done thoughtfully and carefully. However this is one of my 'non-traditional' watercolors, which means the surface and technique are non-traditional giving me a lot of freedom to work the medium in unusual (for watercolor) ways. The paint sits on the surface initially and can be pushed and moved around, lifted out back to lighter values, shaped, carved, sculpted etc. Changes, even major changes, can be made at almost any stage of the painting. That is a fun way to work and is much more akin to oil painting.

It was crucial to saving this one. On a traditional watercolor paper I would not have been able to paint out the overall cool cast and would have scrapped the work. On paper the pigment stains or absorbs into the surface and unless you go darker you are stuck with it. In addition it is almost impossible to change the warm/cool cast.

I also had some shape design problems in the foreground, the bottom half of the composition, that needed to be worked out. What we see in our minds eye, before we start, does not always pan out. This puts the work in artwork. It's the challenge of problem solving. And I wouldn't want it any other way. I redesigned the shapes into more angular ones and 'troughed' them towards the center. This loosely echoed the upper half triangle arrangement and put the attention back on the locomotive.

As I said in the beginning, I was getting bored with the painting and boredom is a sure sign you need make some serious changes. That was when I decided it needed something else. Not other added elements or objects but something else. Other than fixing the foreground shapes I still wanted something additional to focus on.

Choosing a weather phenomenon or condition seemed like a good solution. But one that is invisible and is felt or sensed so rain, fog or stormy weather was out. I decided to challenge myself and try to depict the temperature or more specifically the air, hot sticky air. The kind that you can't escape, that offers no relief... the dreaded humidity!
When it is cold you at least stand a chance to get warm somehow. When it is hot there are ways to keep cool but humidity you can't do much about. You can't see it but its everywhere. You feel it, it's stifling and permeates everything.
Finishing with a warm overtone seemed to accomplish that.209

Others in this non-traditional approach can be seen here, here and here as well as all the recent "Past Work" posts


  1. What a wonderful train, amazing watercolor.

    1. Sergio DS,
      Thank you and thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.
      I live near the LA Harbor so I see many of these and of course I must paint them. If you click 'LOCOMOTIVE PAINTING' label you will see others.

      Sergio DS,
      Gracias y gracias por visitar y dejar un comentario.
      Yo vivo cerca del puerto de Los Ángeles, así que ver a muchos de ellos y, por supuesto, tengo que pintar. Si hace clic en la etiqueta "PINTURA LOCOMOTORA 'verá otros.

  2. A great painting David! Also a very informative narrative on the process. Very interesting and well written!
    I love your trains! Powerful and dramatic! So much better than a photo!
    Bravo buddy!
    Art on and train on!
    Michael From The East!

    1. Thanks Michael,
      Hope it warmed you up a bit. Seems you Northeast Coasters are still sittin' in snow. I appreciate your comments always. I know we both share the love of trains...
      Keep painting...
      Southwest..............................................................................; )