Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Time For A New Subject - Stretching Outside Your Comfort Zone

Artists often get into ruts. You have success with one type of subject and do a few more and then, you become afraid to try something new. For me it was my cactus series....four paintings that seemed to capture with almost photo clarity the subject I wanted to be abstract. 
Original Scene

While on a trip earlier this year to the rock show in Quartzite, AZ I happened upon an old rusted Ford pick-up that was for sale. While the setting was anything but photogenic, the subject itself was. There was something both forlorn and yet nostalgic
as it sat there, rusted, sagging, hoping and waiting for a new buyer, someone who would breathe new life into its old bones. I had to at least photograph it and after printing out my photo I felt I had to paint it was but with a different background.

I don't know what it is about men and their cars, maybe cowboys felt the same way about their horses and whatever men used before they mastered the horse was cherished as well. 

One of my fondest memories was going to the Mercedes showroom with my caretaker when I was in the second and third grades. They had a silver Mercedes Gull Wing Coupe with a glorious red leather interior. They were kind and very gracious to let me sit in it. I guess the car that cost an amazing $5,000 then is worth about $500,000 today. That's not a bad return on investment.

This painting had a strange beginning. The background was basically a cloud of black and peach around the outline of the truck. The truck was painted first and there was a moment when I was willing to let it be just that way. Of course, I could always put that background back. Yet, I also remembered seeing scenes of rust and decay in the farmlands in Arkansas several years ago.
Midway through the painting
However, I felt that I had to forge on. I wasn't sure just how to create something I never saw and tentatively began with the sky. I made a horizon, played with blues and whites and thought at first I had made a mess of that. Then, using a fan brush I began adding grass and dirt being careful went around the painted truck. 

It wasn't until I stepped back from what I had done that I began to see that somehow there were clouds and mountains and that the meadow I had created in fact looked like scenes I had seen in Wyoming.

With a little imagination you could say they were the Grand Tetons and the meadowlands we saw. It all fit together.

Is it my best work? No. Does it capture the feeling of both the truck and countryside? Yes I think it does. There is some quality in the truck that makes you focus on it. The foreground and background give it a kind of place in space, but you are drawn again to the brave old truck. We all know that we most likely will never see vehicles made this way again. All metal that manage somehow to resist the rust of time.
Finished painting

I recently saw a terrible accident on the freeway where one car failed to stop in time and plowed into the car in front. When they separated you could see there was little of the car's front end left. The car that was hit lost control and flew into the center median. It too disintegrated into pieces of plastic that flew everywhere. I missed getting both hit and getting struck by the debris by seconds.

Looking at this old truck, it may have suffered damage in such an accident but more than likely the metal, while dented would have remained in place. The headlights would shatter and maybe the driver would go through the windshield as no one had seat belts back then. I would imagine this is some 1930's vintage Ford truck that has made it into the 21st century. Somehow, I just can't imagine any of our current cars lasting that long.

I urge all painters out there to stretch your wings and paint something totally NOT you. Find a subject you have never tried and you might be amazed as I was, that imperfect or not, this painting on some level ended up being a success.

No comments:

Post a Comment