Caution: Construction Site

In the old Star Trek episodes Doctor McCoy often said , “I’m a doctor Jim, not a ___________!”. Insert any random job. So, like old Doc McCoy, I’m saying “I’m an artist, not a construction worker!” Or am I? Said with my eyes rolled up to the top of my head and my index finger tapping my chin in an effort to appear contemplative.
So don your hard hats and safety glasses and we’ll get busy.

I’m often asked if I always use photographic references for my paintings or if I sometimes just paint out of my imagination. The answer is yes to both. I’ll use this painting as an example of how I usually ‘construct’ a painting.
On my recent trip to Tuscany I took my usual hundreds of photographs of the countryside and ancient streets in Tuscan villages. In one town we walked past two obviously lovingly restored antique Fiat 500s. So of course I snapped a picture. Our rental car was a new Fiat 500. I took a picture of that too. Back home in my studio I got the idea that combing the old and new Fiat 500s in a painting would make a nice composition. I then searched through my village pictures to find a street with the right amount of curve, angle and ancient charm to match my vision.
With my photo references chosen I was ready to begin construction. First I sketched in the street and buildings with thinned paint. Once I was satisfied with the perspectives I worked on placing the cars on the street to make them look believable and not pasted on as an after thought. This is the part of my construction project that took the most time. The lines and angles had to be rendered as accurately as I could manage, but also the scale had to be right

Many layers of paint later I decided to bring some people into my composition. The people were necessary to add life and keep my viewers eyes roving through the painting without getting stuck, bored or stagnant. This is where painting out of my imagination came in. Sometimes I have great figure references built right into my photo. This time that wasn’t the case, so I imagined people on the street noticing the cars as I had done a couple of months before. Once again I had to pay extra attention to placement and scale so as not to have my figures appear abnormal, but rather as though they belong in the scene.
A few more layers of paint on the sky and figures and I’m ready to include some foreground details. In house construction this might be paint, carpet and maybe decorating. Here I have added a suggestion of stone detail on the street foreground making it fade back in the distance.
You can take your hard hat and safety gasses off now and do a walk through. If I don’t see any immediate problems I sign my name and take a photograph. Sometimes I don’t notice a glaring defect until I look at the photo. Time to put the ‘For Sale’ sign out in the yard because I think this painting is truly finished. What do you think?

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