Thursday, March 27, 2014

Some Thoughts on the CPC Ruins Series (so far)

I'm working on some other projects right now so I'm reluctantly pausing on these studies.
Here are some of my thoughts and observations after the first ten. I have done more but some did not work out.

Even a simple idea or motif can have endless possibilities and I am not short of those in this series.

It does not matter what the subject is VISUALLY, these could just as well be landscape rock formations, still life's or ancient ruins, which I am basing them on. I chose the ruins of the industrial landscape.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Study 7

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Study 4

For the artist the same concerns apply the moment you sit down and begin working. You are faced with all the design issues of value, shape, composition, color etc.

But really all those are merely tools put to work to make the picture and present some idea or record some observation. You have to mold them into your vision.

The hard part is figuring out HOW to say it. And the combinations are limitless.
That is one reason for the studies. Another is to get familiar with the subject.

Some of these studies have a monumental scale to them as in 3 (below), 4 and 7 (above), while others rest within the picture frame peacefully like 6 and 8 (below).

Study 3

Study 6
Study 8

Study 9 (below) is close to that monumental scale but is pulled back ever so slightly. It makes a subtle difference. This is middle distance cropped close. It is a little less commanding.

The relationship of distance and cropping is very much like any relationship of the art elements, they can be separated but are really tied together.
Crop in close on an object, from a near, middle and far distance and you get 3 different results  relating to perspective and our perception.

Study 9

In Study 9,  in addition to the practical reasons I noted in the post, I wanted to downplay its overall block shape. To do this I needed to put the focus on some other feature in order to modify its shape.
I de-emphasized the blockish straight sides by making the value close to that of the sky, losing its edges, then concentrated on the busted up concrete in shadow, climbing from the corner to its scooped out top.

Simply by adjusting values up or down you can overcome predominant shapes to suit your end goal.

Study 2 could have that monumental sense too but is tamed somewhat through values and edges. And even though it is cropped tight like Study 3 its angles are less severe. It makes a difference.

Study 2

No one factor or element really does it on its own. It is the interplay of the various combinations.

See my Daily Paintworks page for available works from this series.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 10

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 10"
watercolor on paper, 2014
7¾"  x 5¾" (19.685cm x14.605cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

I pushed more color in this one compared to previous ones. I am still figuring out what I want to do and say with this series so in the experimental stage I am putting down whatever comes to mind.

As in others from this series of studies this one shows the excavator, but while at rest.
The 'Ruins' sub-series focuses on the plant, during its demise, but at its periods of inactivity. Much closer to the silence of ancient ruins in their depictions.
But here the silence is only for its short periods, not years and years... here it is brief.
So the excavator lingers nearby, ready to go at it again.

I like the bright artificial color of the machine against the earthy colors of the ruins. Coming in from the corner it does seem at the ready.279

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 9

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 9"
watercolor on paper, 2014
7¾"  x 5¾" (19.685cm x14.605cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

This one is similar to study 2 in palette, a palette of earthy color favoring the gray-greens, layer upon layer, but painted harder edged and more defined.

It is the same section of building as studies 4 and 7 but different views and at different times in the demolition.

The left side is kept light in value, especially the lower left corner to avoid any uncomfortable near-tangent. This allows for the tighter cropping with the structure pushed left and off center but still opens up the picture (frame) to let the light filter in.
The real substance of the painting is the shadow. It's where all the visual action takes place, busy and energetic against the sky and smooth face of concrete collectively.278

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 8

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 8"
watercolor on paper, 2014
7¾"  x 5¾" (19.685cm x14.605cm)

Again while looking at the art of ruins from history I take my cue from them so this view is presented from what I would call a middle distance.

The emphasis is on the talus in the foreground, ramping up toward the ruins so the color temperature  variation really takes place there, the background is left cool. The placement of the sun also creates a wedge-shaped shaft of light further emphasizing the talus.

The sky is slightly darker than the this photo so the painting looks almost like a moonlit night.

I might make changes/improvements in another version of this, but that is the point of studies, to explore options.277

Friday, March 14, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 7

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 7"
watercolor on paper, 2014
7¾"  x 5¾" (19.685cm x14.605cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

One thing I have noted while doing these recent studies is the absolutely great negative shapes that jut in and around the positive shapes of the ruins.

If you see this recent watercolor and this one from 2012 you can see the plant in its previous form rose into the skyline as a solid brick. It is a different animal in its battered state.

The previous 3 and 4 have those great negative shapes, that puzzle piece of sky. Some are sharp and jagged, slicing into the concrete as in study 3, others blunt and round, the middle punched open and exposed as in 4.

I love the alternating rhythm of the negative sky shape in this study. The sky punches down into the ruins then the ruins punch back up into the sky, again the sky punches back.

I have to really pay attention to this and use it to my benefit.

This one is another (near) monochromatic in black watercolor. I first laid down a wash of pale yellow to give it an underlying warmth.

Again, as in study 4, the forward most column of concrete and its base separate from the rest.
In this one warmer and lighter in value but raked in a half light instead of a reflected light, the shadows streaking diagonally.276

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 6

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 6"
watercolor on paper, 2014
7¾"  x 5¾" (19.685cm x14.605cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

I have always had a love for images of ancient ruins. I can't believe it has taken so long to do my own.
This study is the one most rooted in art history that I've done so far.

It has that romantic vision so often seen in the art from the past, it's airy with soft dreamy light and plenty of sky.

But again a hint of the excavator, modern machinery, to anchor it to the present.275

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 5

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 5"
watercolor on paper, 2014
5¾"  x 7¾" (14.605cm x 19.685cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

Although this is a more tightly controlled study my goal was to push the color. Not only rich saturated color but especially the warms and cools.

Here I placed the warms to the left side, the direction of the sun.
But there are cools interspersed, as in the tanks and the standing concrete slab, so it ties into the right side.

On the two archways I went to extremes. Although both are in shadow I painted one warm and one cool to show their different directions in the environment.
Sometimes despite their shapes forms can flatten out, especially when they are the same value. One way to 'turn the form' or show their different directions is through warms and cools and not value.

This is all part of doing these studies, to try out as many variations and ideas as possible.274

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 4

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 4"
watercolor on paper, 2014
7¾"  x 5¾" (19.685cm x14.605cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

With each study I do I play off a previous one to improve some point, test an idea or do some kind of variation. See previous two posts to see how they relate to each other.

This study has a hint more red and yellow to it than the previous monochromatic one. A whisper of burnt sienna and naples yellow in the mix, but only in and just enough to separate the horizontal broken concrete slab and what it rests on from the standing structure. Value plays a role too. I left it slightly lighter even though it is all in shadow (the sky has yellow only).
Together they impart a warm reflected light and essentially give me a foreground (the slab), a middle ground (standing structure) and background (the sky) and increases the depth in what would otherwise be a shallow depth of field.

The subtle color variations also give it a richness; from slightly yellower sky to the darker sepia brown to the red-orange of the foreground to the very important razor thin traces of the stark white paper,  referred to as rim lighting when backlit.273

Monday, March 10, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 3

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 3"
watercolor on paper, 2014
5¾"  x 7¾" (14.605cm x 19.685cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

I decided to try out some monochromatic studies. Many ruins drawings from art history are done this way and it gives it that old world feel. Once again holding the modern against the traditional.

I like this oblique view from the shadow side with the foreground bathed in light.
The dark shadow rising in the middle ground commands attention despite not being the largest element in the picture, it's all about staging sometimes. Light foreground, dark middle ground, middle range background (sky).
All of it conveys the massive weight of tons of concrete.

This one, although very similar to study 2 in composition, is its polar opposite, commanding and weighty vs light and airy.
Color aside,  just by utilizing different value ranges and controlling edges two entirely qualities come out of each.272

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 2

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 2"
watercolor on paper, 2014
5¾"  x 7¾" (14.605cm x 19.685cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

This study is almost not recognizable as architecture at first look. I don't mind. That in itself might be a contemporary sensibility.

The point of doing studies is searching and one reason for doing these small is to record as quickly as possible my impressions without getting hung up on one for long. My mind is ripe with ideas and I must get them down. Sometimes our initial thoughts are the best ones.

A close-in detail study like this will familiarize me with all the shapes with-in the greater picture.
My mindset here was the rough jagged torn up steel and concrete presented in a soft light. Two opposites.271

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 1

"Catalina Pacific Concrete - Ruins Study 1"
watercolor on paper, 2014
5¾"  x 7¾" (14.605cm x 19.685cm)
For sale at Daily Paintworks, CLICK HERE

I am on a little detour from working on seascapes so the next few posts will be of this continuing series.
As you will see I am trying out various approaches, from simpler and looser to tightly controlled. Some are rooted in art history tradition and may have that slightly romantic sentiment while others will have a more contemporary bent.

These 'Ruins' and the 'Demolition', first of it here, are both sub-series within my larger Catalina Pacific Concrete series.

The 'Ruins' focuses on the plant finally coming down. I have known for some time it would eventually happen so I kept an eye on it.
As I watched it slowly being razed I noticed the similarities between it and studies and paintings of ancient ruins from throughout art history.
I simply had to do these now. Strike while the iron is hot (sorry seascape lovers).

I will delve deep into this one and do larger versions in watercolor and in oil paint. For now I need to take a long deliberate look through studies.

In this first study I included the sign, light pole, fencing and the yellow arm of the excavator. I most often do this in my work, show some of the surrounding utilities, to lock it into the present.

My work is never a mere stylistic or subject rehashing of the past. Although some studies may focus in on the architecture in its ruined state, without the surrounding modern utilities and thus be a touch ambiguous, overall I want no confusion as to when and where it belongs. I live today so that is what I show.
I do however like the interplay of historical ruins artwork against my own contemporary versions.270

Friday, March 7, 2014


"Old Boat"
watercolor on illus. board, 2013
16" x 24" (40.64cm x 60.96cm)

I saw this old boat in the marina in the LA Harbor and it looked as though at one time it was being restored then was just abandoned midstream.
Although there was plenty in the background my treatment of this subject reflects my impression rather than its reality, its blank existence.

I originally began this as a sunrise scene but more or less let that go in favor of a more ghostly haunting lighting.

The green fencing was needed for compositional reasons but other than that I intentionally left the composition bare and sparse including leaving out some of the struts that held her up.
The dark ground plane helped to anchor the boat, keep it from visually floating away and to weigh it down psychologically.269

Links to similar themes in my work:
Tied up Dog
Gutted like a fish
Spot Lighted
Urban River 3
Industrial Purgatory

Thursday, March 6, 2014

HB Power Plant Landscape

"HB Power Plant Landscape"
oil on panel, 2013
6" x 8" (15.24cm x 20.32cm)

Here I painted the Huntington Beach California Power Plant from Costa Mesa. I have heard talk that it is going to be torn down although I have not confirmed it.
But with that in mind I decided to paint it from afar. The idea of it eventually disappearing from the landscape as new life springs up.

The power plant is pale in comparison to the vibrancy of the foreground.

The lively brighter vegetation painted with a sort of lyrical rhythm, pulsating with life while the background, nearly monochromatic, dissipates into the coastal atmosphere.268