Saturday, November 30, 2013

Series - Locomotive, PHL 72 Limelight

"PHL 72 Limelight"
oil on panel, 2013
5" x 7" (12.7cm x 17.78cm)

This painting will be featured at Segil Fine Art Gallery in Monrovia California for the Eleventh Annual Holiday Small Works Show.

Opening night is Saturday, December 7th, 2013, from 5-7:00 PM

It is another from my latest locomotive series.

I'm not only using this series to experiment and put down paint in different ways but also looking to make each painting unique in some way, never losing sight of capturing the Southern California light I see everyday all year long.

This was one of those glory moments. I was down in the LA Harbor area and spotted this PHL locomotive towing its prize.

I chased it down, caught it just as it switched tracks, raced back around the corner to get a better position and was just in time to catch it backing up as it passed the lime colored fence. The low-angle afternoon light illuminated the lime green fence, literally and figuratively like a limelight, and since (shiny) black is so reflective... well, you can see.

To further enhance that moment and more importantly my impression of it, I painted the light of a thinly veiled marine layer into the painting for a beautiful atmospheric effect. Gentle, soft, low-slung bright light making long shadows.

I rarely paint a locomotive without having a point of view. No, no, no.
I always see first, the painting in all its totality, then one of a locomotive in its environment. It would be short-sited and do no justice to these mules of the harbor to do a mere depiction of it.

They are the true stars of the harbor. Not the huge bloated 'fat cat' cargo ships waiting to be unloaded, not the pretty white cruise ships with all their 'lace and doilies'.
So their moment in the limelight is well deserved.253


  1. Whoosh! I can almost hear this beautiful locomotive zipping by! Glad you got a chance to capture this one!
    I absolutely love this piece David! I always enlarge your work to better enjoy the spectacular detail and marvel how well you manipulate the medium! Earthy! Urban! Rusty laden! Beautiful grime! Industrial! So much more! Okay my friend!!! Enjoy!
    Michael Painter of Oceans Lately!

    1. Michael!
      It was fun chasing it down. Sometimes the pursuit is as fun as painting it!
      Your oceans are looking good.
      Keep painting...

  2. It's a beautifully composed painting, and a very thought provoking post. We usually think of ships when there is a harbor, but those locomotives do just as much work and have their own unique characteristics too. When you say you painted a layer of marine for atmosphere, did you wash the entire piece with that color? Or just in the background areas? I'm wondering how I might achieve a strong atmosphere with colored pencils. I'm sure it can be done... just a matter of figuring it out.

    1. Hi Katherine,
      I painted the LIGHT EFFECT of the marine layer, not a layer as in a painting wash.I know, it can get confusing. ; )

      Here along the coast it is referred to as "the marine layer" or a layer of coastal fog.
      It can be different from thick fog. Often the layer is literally that, a horizontal thin layer that hugs the ground or hovers above it like a thin veil. It lets the sun through unlike heavy fog or really cloudy gray days.

      All that to make a point. For us artists it makes for great atmospheric conditions that give it a unique light situation.

      I have a recent post "Urban Haze" that shows the same.

      As far as colored pencils, yes, it can be done in any medium.
      In capturing any given lighting situation it is primarily a matter of controlling/adjusting value, color saturation and chroma.

      Keep painting...

  3. Thanks for the information. I read something in artists magazine about how James Whistler did so much with atmospheric effects. I'm really intrigued by that idea of painting in a way that gives weight and substance to the air somehow.

  4. Yes, Whistler is one who did many great paintings with atmospheric effects.
    History is of course loaded with them. I am always discovering new artists thanks to the web.

    Good ones are the dutch, Vermeer (for interiors especially) and other contemporary artists of his time.

    I love the mid-century California watercolorists, because it is the light I see everyday and many of their works, even simple ones, manage to capture California's own light.

    For you, since you are on a different global latitude (and climate) you could search out Spanish artists and maybe Russian artists.
    Try 200 Russian painters:

    Of course some lighting conditions are universal, rain fog, bright days etc.

    Anyway, really look at the way any artists capture the light.
    Take one painting that resonates with you and analyze it as I said above.
    Forget subject, technique and all that. Just look at value, saturation, chroma. Go to another and do the same. Then another and so on. Study something consciously over and over, then apply it. Practice.

    After that step outside and look with the same eye at the current conditions.

    Keep painting...

    1. I should have added...
      See the mid-century CA watercolorists at:

      ... follow the light ...