Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Firsts Cars

This is my first car painting. It will always be special to me because it was my first.
"49 Buick Roadmaster" oil on canvas, 24"x 36"
 Everyone has memories of their cars especially the magic of the  first one regardless of how great or how shitty the car actually was. And like first kisses or first dates you just don't forget them. My first car at age 16 or 17 wasn't anything too amazing. It was an early 80's Mazda pick-up truck. I think we paid $2400.00 at a used car lot. My dad helped me pick it out and paid for some of it as well. It had a lot of Bondo repair under the paint cause it was Pennsylvania and I don't think rust proofing was fully established back then. The bumpers almost fell off when I took it in for an inspection. It was mine and that's all that mattered. I had a lot of good times in that truck. It got me to Boston from Pennsylvania  albeit slowly because for some reason it just couldn't do more than 55 mph. 

 My dad was able to buy his first car after being in America for only a couple of years which was a game changer for him because buying a car in his home country of East Germany would have taken nearly 15 years. That 1958 Plymouth made all the hard work of farming worthwhile. He was able to live the American dream and so he stayed. 

Painting cars has also given me the chance to talk to people about their cars especially their first ones and there is usually a good story told with lots of nostalgia. I don't think cars back in the day were as reliable as they are now so it was a mystery whether or not your car would even start or it would only run if you did some ritual prayer before turning the key and you never had enough money for gas even though it was less than 25 cents per gallon! Part of why I like painting the old cars is that they had character and personality and that's what I try to capture when I paint cars.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Special Deluxe, the making of a painting

The Hunt

I go to a lot of car shows looking for new subjects to paint. I find that every show has something unique to offer. The collection of cars and the setting varies from show to show so I have to be open minded and willing to be flexible to see the possibilities at each venue. 

I was out at a local car show recently where I was taking pictures. I took a few pictures of this 49 Chevrolet Special Deluxe and then moved on to look around at some more cars. Its not until I got home and downloaded the files into my laptop that I can look closer at what are the results of my day's outing. I it's like going out collecting bugs or rocks or any kind of specimen hunting. Sometimes you come away with something special and sometimes not. Typical of my process I didn't see the gem I had until after going through my collection a few times. My photographic skills are not spectacular and it wasn't until I started playing with the image file, adjusting the lighting that I saw what was initially hidden in the black bodywork. It went form just a car to an exciting car with all kinds of reflections telling a story about this car. It's a show car. It's on display, the hood is ajar and ready to show show off the engine, its in pristine condition, the chrome is shiny the black bodywork and paint are perfect. The reflections show off the surrounding environment of other cars and people. The car itself tells a little about the owner of the car. They care enough to keep it in such good condition and they've added the extras features like the visor and the spotlight and the extra bumper pieces. All of it is finished to perfection. On the dash is a small American flag and a small state of the Virgin Mary. It's all these little details that make this painting more than just a car painting it's a story of that particular car owned by an individual with particular tastes that maybe cultural or regional or just personal. All together the picture had everything I like to use for a painting subject. I want to present a portrait of a car that speaks to its uniqueness and  its connection with its owner.

the process

So to tackle this piece I started with a 30" x 40" canvas. I used a medium weight primed Fredrix canvas stretched over Gatorboard which is glued to stretcher bars. I use the Gatorboard to give the canvas a rigid support because I don't like the wobble of free floating canvas. I've tried painting on wood panel but I don't like the feel of how the paint lays down on the wood. With the Gatorboard backing it is easier to draw on especially if you are doing a lot of fine detail.   
the drawing all laid out and ready to paint.

the rough coat is laid down for the back ground and some of the trees are laid in.
I still paint like I was taught in my beginning art classes. I lay down the foundation colors starting with the background and move to the foreground.

beginning to tackle some of the bodywork

These early layers are really just to set the overall tone of the painting. Firstly, I want to get rid of all the white canvas and then go back and refine refine refine and refine some more. I want to maintain a hierarchy of focal areas. To achieve this I use color intensity, color temperature, value contrast, and details to push some areas into the background like the trees while other areas get pulled forward like the front corner of the car. The end results gives the viewer a sense of dimensionality and a sense of spaciousness in the picture. I want the the viewer to feel both the mass of the car coming toward you and the depth of the reflections going way deep into the car.
"Special Deluxe", oil on canvas, 30" x 40"