Capitol Corridor Amtrak Conductor, Oil on stretched canvas, 16x12"

Capitol Corridor Amtrak Conductor, Oil on stretched canvas, 16x12"

When my Urban Sketchers group took the train to Sacramento for some sketching (posted here and here) I made a pest of myself taking pictures of our conductor, chasing him around the train and station. A train conductor for over 40 years, he kindly put up with me.

The painting above is my second attempt at painting the conductor (after working and reworking and eventually abandoning a previous canvas). I painted this in one day, intending to return and finish it after putting in my time at my “day job.” When I returned to the studio I realized that I’d said what I wanted to say with the painting and had nothing more to add. I was done.

This was really thrilling as it helped to reinforce my recent discovery that the path I want to follow in oil painting is to work directly, alla prima (all at once).  I find it so much more fun than fussing around with many layers, for many days, until everything is “perfect” (otherwise known as overworked, over-detailed and ultimately, boring to look at it because there’s nothing for the viewer’s mind to contribute).

Below is my unfinished, abandoned first attempt (scraped and repainted multiple times) from a dim, blurry bad photo shot with poor lighting inside the train.

Incomplete first attempt, oil on canvas 16x12"

Incomplete first attempt, oil on canvas 16x12"

I included way too much of the train in the composition because I was interested in the light and reflections on the ceiling. But painting all those seats was really boring. Eventually I figured out this version just wasn’t going to work and I started over with a better photo, cropped in more closely, for the painting at the top of the post.

I’ve been taking photos of people at work in my neighborhood that will be part of this series. Next up the butcher and the coffee barista.

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Category:
Art theory, Oil Painting, Painting, People, People at Work, Portrait, Series
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Join the conversation! 19 Comments

  1. Jana,

    I would think I had died and gone to heaven if I have painted your FIRST painting of the conductor. However, the second one is ALIVE! WOW! Congratulations.

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    • Really? That is so nice of you to say that. I know I’m always my own harshest critic but I think one reason I stopped working on that painting is that I wasn’t having fun with it and didn’t have enough information in the photo to do the subject justice. But in other ways there was too much information — like all those seats and windows and lights and carpeting and…wait…wasn’t it supposed to be a portrait of a conductor and not the train?! Instead it was both but didn’t do either justice. Jana

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  2. Hi Jana, I like both paintings. The ceiling reflections in the first one are wonderful, really translucent! The second one is very expressive – shows a friendly, open personality. I wish I could do as well. I’ve followed your posts on Peggy Kroll Roberts workshop practice and see the results of your hard work. Very nice! Ambal

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    • Thank you Ambal. I hadn’t consciously made that connection, but you’re absolutely right. What I’ve learned from Peggi has 100% affected how I work with oils and I’m so grateful for that. Jana

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  3. They are both great in their own way but the second one that is cropped and outdoors is really wonderful-I think because of the cropping and the outdoor setting. It tells a better story to me I guess. Congratulations on the alla prima discovery; I just couldn’t agree more. I almost didn’t go any farther with my own painting because the first one took me several weeks to complete! I like the alla prima deal:)

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    • I’m not sure why it’s so different with watercolors and oils for me when it comes to working times and methods. With watercolor I enjoy both working free and quickly but I also enjoy taking my time and working on a larger piece for weeks. But with oils the idea of layers and layers and tiny brushstrokes and getting everything perfect just doesn’t work for me I’ve discovered. I still really admire that kind of work (done by someone else) but it’s not me! Jana

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  4. Oh, and I forgot to say that I am really looking forward to your genre neighborhood paintings. I LOVE that sort of stuff:):):)

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  5. Excellent job Jana! I actually thought the first one was pretty good as well. I like this idea–of capturing various people you come across at their work. No end of subject matter and always interesting and challenging!

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  6. Brava! I like both paintings, but the first one speaks to me more strongly. I’ve thought lots about trying paintings of cooks, waitresses, bank tellers and so on, but haven’t worked up the nerve to ask permission. Your conductor is grand, and I especially like the way you handled the highlights on his suit.

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    • It’s kind of embarrassing to ask for permission, especially at the butcher’s counter in my natural food market–I felt so stupid. But I did it. And now every time I see him (or the barista at Peets who I photographed) I feel like I need to explain that I haven’t done the painting yet but will soon. But it’s so worth it anyway.

      Jana

      Sketchblog: JanasJournal.com Website: JanaBouc.com UrbanSketchers-BayArea,blogspot.com

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  7. Jana,
    Both paintings are great; actually the second attempt is wonderful! You were right to ‘fuss no further’. Fabulous!

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  8. My experience has been that the more you love painting, the more it loves you back. Glad to see that you’re making these exciting discoveries with oil paint!

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    • Well said! And those times when it doesn’t love me back, I try to remind myself that when it seems hopeless and like I’ll just never get it (like when I was plein air painting Saturday morning) that’s usually when, if I hang in a little longer, the breakthrough happens.

      Jana

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  9. What an awesome painting!!! You aced it!!! I envy you for your painting clarity….but it was hard won. You’ve been consistently and conscientiously working on your painting and deserve all the good results you’re having! I look forward to more…..do you think portraits will be your focus? This one is outstanding!

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    • Thank you so much! It’s so nice that you’ve followed along on my efforts and are there to applaud happy results too. I do like painting people, but I don’t think it will be my primary focus–there are just so many fun things to draw and paint. Jana

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  10. Ace for the first one, lovely. Second one – hey, where are the people? It’s a great idea for a series of people at work because there will be the personality and the job connection. Oils or watercolours? You can be passionate about both – one at a time. Peceli has been drawing faces for months now with only pencils but yesterday bought a couple of canvases and the acrylic paints are all over the place. I’m still not in the mood – too much other stuff going on with a household of eight or nine or ten.

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  11. Really nice paintings!

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