Roadtrip to New Orleans

Thirty something hours later and I’m back in New Hampshire. My butt is flat and I have a persistent crick in the left side of my neck. This past week some friends and I ventured down to New Orleans and we drove both ways. It’s a long ride. Two long rides really. Next time I’ll bring a super comfy cushion and a neck pillow.

Before I left though, I managed to get a few more paintings done in College Woods. If you remember in my last post I said I’d finished a painting, but was waiting to post it.

Woods 5:17:15

There are many bridges that arch over the wetlands of College Woods and this particular one crosses over Oyster River. I think the painting came out decent, though it was hard to paint the path receding into the woods and climbing up around a bend. I’ve found that I’m not very adept at constructing convincingly deep backgrounds. You’ll also notice that the camera picked up the lines of the rough, underneath gesso layer. I wanted the gesso to give me a nice texture, which would have been fine if I was painting with thick strokes. Those days are behind me though and I tend to thin out my paints more now. I didn’t realize how noticeable the gesso was going to be underneath.

This painting was done on another one of my 5″ x 7″ canvas panels. They’re okay, though not exactly uniform in shape and they tend to warp when drying. The warp can be fixed however, and since I’m still basically practicing, the non-straight edges are not that much of a problem.

A few days later I got back out into the woods, exploring an unfamiliar entrance. It didn’t take me long to find my subject matter. 

Woods 5:20:15

This old tree was the perfect variety of color. The bleached-white, exposed wood was a great contrast to the grays in the branches and trunk. I had a lot of fun mixing colors and figuring out if they should be warm or cool. I got lost in the painting and I think that’s what makes it my best piece in a while.

The next day I went out looking for a similar subject.

5:21:15InProgressI remembered to take an on-site picture this time. You can see how I was once again attracted to the variety in color.

Woods 5:21:15I’m afraid that I once again floundered with the background. But I’m not sure. Sometimes I look at it and it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. A couple days later we were off to New Orleans.

The ride down took us 34 hours, while the estimated time was 24. We didn’t take extra long bathroom breaks. We didn’t stuff ourselves constantly at the roadside Waffle Houses and Popeye’s. We didn’t purposefully waste time. We broke down and spent an afternoon being towed and waiting for a new radiator to be located and installed. Everyone we met was so incredibly nice and hospitable. All the customers who came into the shop asked us where we were going and then gave us suggestions on what to do. The main clerk let us spread out in the waiting room and eat a lunch bought at the Winn Dixie next door. It was an experience. Eventually we got fixed up and drove the last two hours into New Orleans.

The next morning I woke up early and wandered around looking for a place to paint. It started to rain, so I wound up back on our apartment’s porch.

GnomeOnSite1The little house we stayed in had a wonderful amount of quirks. The kitchen wall was an underwater mural decorated with iron and wood painted silhouettes of fish and nailed-on fishing lures. The living room had a wooden throne and an antique artillery round. And all over were gnomes. I found one on the porch and moved him to a more agreeable area for painting.

GnomeAll my paintings have been drying dark. I think it’s because my palette has consisted of mostly earth tones. I also think that since I’ve been working alla prima I haven’t had a chance to really punch out the lights and darks in multiple paint-throughs.

Later in the week we drove out of the city to see a plantation and take a swamp tour. On our way out we passed by all the city’s beautiful cemeteries. I returned to one  the next day.

CemeteryOnSite2Since most of New Orleans sits at or below sea level the residents have many issues with the water table. One issue is that they can’t bury their dead in the ground. Either plots of land are raised up and walled in, mausoleums are used, or the dead are given small stone houses to rest in.

CemeteryOnSite1We had lunch reservations for 1 and I didn’t pick out a spot in Greenwood Cemetery until 9. I hurried along as fast as I could, keeping my shapes large and only working in finer details in the last 30 mins before noon.

CemeteryThough the painting is unrefined, my mind seems to combine the masses and make the gravestones clear. I was really going for the repetition of shapes and chose the spot because of the abundance of tall crosses.

On our final day I went with my girlfriend Sarah to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. I saw a lot of art I liked, but there was one painting I spent a good amount of time studying.

TheToiletOfPsycheThe Toilet of Psyche by Charles Joseph Natoire is a rather large painting full of life-size figures. But what caught my attention was the drapery at the bottom.

TheToiletOfPsycheThe piece of cloth is a strong example of how using complementary colors can make something pop. The red shadows work well with the yellow and blue greens in the rest of the cloth. The whole painting is extraordinary to see in person, but I spent most of my time staring at the cloth. I need to give the effect a try.

I like going to a museum every week. I might pop down to the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH next. Saturday mornings are free for NH residents!

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