After rambling around Romania, seeing beautiful summery farmland, busy cities, and a shepherd walking his sheep down a village street, suddenly it was Christmas with nativity scenes in front yards and this wonderful snowy hayride (virtually, of course via Google Streetview for the Virtual Paintout).
Yesterday I’d tried painting a different Romania scene (below) but soon realized I was laboring joylessly on a hopeless painting, fighting paint the consistency of toothpaste. I gave up, scraped off the panel (glad I’ve gotten smarter about when to cut my losses), and returned to Google’s wonderful new MapCrunch.com where I found the above photo.
This month’s Virtual Paint-Out location is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since I seldom travel I find it so much fun to do so virtually via Google Street View. I love being able to wander, exploring roads to see where they go without fear of getting lost (let alone dealing with airports or spending the money).
Here’s the way the scene looked on Google and then the way I cropped and the way I adjusted it in Photoshop.
As I do these each month I’ve noticed patterns in the way nicer houses and neighborhoods are near beaches or on top of hills and the poorer neighborhoods are indeed on the wrong side of the tracks.
I’ve also noticed a sense of freedom when painting these since I don’t have so much investment in the outcome. And maybe that’s what led to my liking most of my Virtual Paintout paintings more than the ones I’ve labored over.
It was so wonderful traveling around sunny San Miguel Allende, Mexico (virtually via Google street view and my paintbrush!) while it was cold and rainy here. I tried “driving” around to find the church at the end of the road, but just like I do with real driving, I got lost and never found it.
Once I’d adjusted the image in Photoshop to straighten the walls, crop to 9×12″ and warm the color a bit, I used the “gridding-up” method to create a drawing first. I displayed the image in Photoshop using”View/Show Grid” set to overlay a tic-tac-toe like grid). Then I drew a matching grid on my paper and started drawing, one square at a time.
Using the grid makes it easier to accurately see and draw the shapes in the image, section by section. Drawing first instead of going directly to paint helped me to understand what I was seeing and to notice interesting patterns like the pipes sticking out of the buildings and the circular motif of the windows in the building on the left as well as the church in the distance.
What a gorgeous little town! I’d love to visit there sometime!
When I saw that this month’s Virtual Paintout was taking place in Manhattan, I wanted to paint the Lower East Side tenement where I lived when I made my big move to New York City from San Diego, California at the age of naive and tender age of 19, chasing my dreams.
I couldn’t find the building where I lived on East 13th Street between Avenue A and B (possibly torn down and replaced by a small community garden) using Google Street View but I could see that now it’s fluffy with foliage and yuppified with yoga studios. There were no gardens or trees on East 13th Street when I lived there, just trash cans, junked cars and the occasional group of men playing dominoes on card tables in front of their storefront church downstairs or throwing dice on the corner by the drug store.
Next I looked for my favorite Greenwich Village cafe back then: the historic Le Figaro Cafe (New York Times article) which survived 50 years before closing down in 2008. It had famously been the haunts of Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, Dave Van Ronk, and Jack Kerouac.
During that year in NYC, I visited Le Figaro weekly for a little taste of home: their California Burger contained actual lettuce and tomato, unlike all other NYC burgers that were just bun and meat. They also served great espresso that you could sip while playing chess or people watching. (Although to be honest, at 19 I was more interested in their ice cream floats than espresso.)
I couldn’t find Le Figaro so I painted the next corner, Bleecker and Sullivan, which interested me as a subject. It turns out I gave up looking too soon, because in writing this post I actually found the remains of Le Figaro on Google Street View:
I’m back on the blog after an intense week spent alternately deep in the bowels of a massive garage clean up/reorganization, and obsessively fighting the acrylic version of the watercolor sketch above. After finishing the garage on Saturday afternoon it was time to clean up in the house and studio and prep for my Sunday morning watercolor class (which went great with a terrific group of artists who left me feeling inspired).
Virtual Paintout: Hawaii
For the Virtual Paintout we went to Hawaii this month via the very cheap Google Air (just kidding—to participate you use Google Maps’ Street View feature to find your painting spot and all travels are virtual). Here’s the original scene:
The painting got off to a good start with Golden Open Acrylics. I was trying to work from both my watercolor sketch above in which I’d changed the colors, warming up the scene, and also from the Google photo which just has a blur for the foreground. I first painted the gate purple for fun, but nearing completion realized the gate was too prominent and acting as roadblock into the painting so I repainted it green.
Then I started fighting the foreground. Over and over I painted, repainted, scraped, repainted. Here it is in its current state with the foreground (and some of the fence) scraped off again .
Part of the problem may be the Utrecht Masters canvas panel that I was experimenting with. The canvas texture is too coarse and too absorbent so first I painted a layer of regular acrylic to smooth it out and reduce the absorbency (which is OK to do according to Golden). But then I had a paint adhesion problem, easily peeling off several layers where I’d painted thickly or repainted over not quite dry paint.
Since I wasted so much time messing with this painting and because I really love the top half of it I just didn’t want to give up. But to enjoy the second half of my vacation I’ve banished it to the closet and have gone back to working on a big watercolor of a tulip that is going great and makes me happy when I paint, not frustrated. I’m becoming convinced that I’m meant to be a watercolor painter and should forget about oils and acrylics.
When I bought my house 10 years ago it had been a rental for many years before that and the standalone garage probably hadn’t been cleaned forever. Then for 9 years my son used it to dismantle and rebuild his 71 Firebird, leaving grease, car parts, tires, miscellaneous junk, and bondo dust on top of years of grime, cobwebs, and worse (we found a literal rats’ nest made of fluffy chewed up shop towels in one corner behind a piece of plywood but no sign of recent rodents).
After moving most of his stuff out and the initial trip to the dump above, the real clean up began. I hired the smart, hardworking 15-year old boy next door to help me clean and we worked together most of Friday and Saturday. He vacuumed the wood walls and concrete floors after cleaning out the Bondo-filled ShopVac, removed and cleaned all my storage bins from the shelving units and then cleaned the shelving too. Meanwhile I sorted my junk and took a carload to the recycling/donation center and made another pile for the dump.
Finally the garage is ready for its new life as studio annex and multipurpose room. And I’m ready for my last week of vacation which I will fill with art fun, rest and recreation!