When we gathered for our critique on the patio outside the funky Warehouse Cafe, a biker bar at the end of Port Costa‘s main road, I thought I’d gotten my painting of the Bull Valley Restaurant off to a good start. It was a sunny Saturday and the quirky local residents of the little town had been very welcoming, chatting and joking with the plein air painters.
Just as the critique was getting started the old lady bartender turned up the rock and roll so loud that we couldn’t hear each others’ comments and suggestions. Someone went in and asked her to turn it down and she sneered, “This is a bar. We play rock and roll!” Although some of our group had bought lunch and beer (served in mason jars), I guess we weren’t exactly their preferred clientelle.
Their usual patrons continued to roar in on their Harleys and wanna be Harleys. Some were dressed in full leather or raunchy heavy metal t-shirts and black denim. At least half of them were over 50, the guys paunchy and bald and the women, with their dyed thinning black hair, looked “rode hard and put away wet” as I’ve heard it said.
Anyway, back to the painting. As you’ll see from my initial sketch below, my perspective was even further off than it ended up in the finished painting above.
I’m always amazed how often my eyes fool me. Sometimes I’m sure a line slants one way and then I hold up a pencil to check and the line slants in the completely opposite direction.
This is the point when I stopped painting on site, planning to finish at home from photos.
Once home I realized that I had a serious perspective problem with the way the roof line and the line where the building meets the ground were parallel to each other instead of coming towards each other to finally meet at a vanishing point. I worked on the painting for a couple of days and thought I’d fixed it (blind to what was in front of my face from seeing it for too long).
When I shared what I thought was the final painting with some artist friends, they generously pointed out a few things that needed adjusting, including continuing perspective problems. Below M. added lines in Photoshop to demonstrate for me how I’d gone wrong with the perspective. It’s so great to have that kind of support!
Here’s the original photo of the scene.