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How to Paint a Wedding Gift

It’s Sunday, the clock has just passed 10pm, and my eyes are only open because I drank a little coffee with dinner. I’ve been trying to fill out this post since five, succumbing to short bouts of sleep along the way. The last four days have been long and tiring, but most importantly fun! Thursday night my girlfriend, Sarah, got out of work and we packed up our cars and drove down to her parents’ place in Massachusetts. Her sister was getting married! And she was co-maid of honor! She was meeting up with the bride and the other maid of honor for a relaxed night before the pre-wedding activities on Friday. I tagged along and gave the bride my wedding gift. More on that to come!

In the morning I got up and drove into Newburyport to do a 5″ x 7″ panel painting of historic downtown.

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Across Merrimac Street 5″ x 7″

It was a cloudless and blue sky day and the sun was tucked low by the water. The town was mostly empty. As I readied myself to cross a street, I looked up and found my subject: a modern street light superimposed on a town of centuries-old brick. Like in Portsmouth, I was drawn to the contrast between old and new.

The early stages of the painting were irritating and I was upset with my slow progress. Then I realized I just needed to go empty the bladder. I was able to stay relaxed with that issue out of the way.

By noon some clouds had drifted in and I decided to include them. But with the clouds came rain and I was forced to pack up. Needing a change of pace, I met up with the groom and one of his groomsman for some burritos and coffee.

I’m selling Across Merrimac Street for $70. If you’re interested, email me at: thewritingmann@gmail.com!

It’s now Monday morning and I’m back at work on this post, having failed to finish before losing my fight with sleep. But I’m awake and ready today. On to the next painting!

I wanted to contribute a unique gift to the pile of wedding goodies and it was an easy jump in logic to realize I should do a painting. I weighed the idea for several months and I was still undecided when Sarah told me I should go ahead and do it. Next step was to figure out how to make it meaningful. I did not want to go too symbolic, incorporating items that are traditionally associated with marriage. Being the younger sister, Sarah has a lot of the bride’s old stuff, and I searched around for something to use. I settled on a patterned vase.

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I stuck the vase full of flowers and propped it atop an Ionic column prop my mother had. It’s the same column that can be seen in Hammer to Fall.

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My main concern for most of the painting was getting it all straight and centered. My old apartment was full of dips in the floor and walls that met at odd angles, so I never had a good frame of reference. The low light didn’t help either. I relied heavily on a small level placed on top of the canvas.

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Initially the painting was to have a traditionally dark background. It was far too moody. I wanted something lighthearted. Weddings are supposed to be happy and it needed to reflect that.

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There was no easy way to approach the patterns on the vase. I generally sketched them out with simplified color forms. Detail could be added later.

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While working on this painting I was beginning to realize how import outlines can be. My former teacher Numael Pulido always talked about the transition from background to object, but it wasn’t until recently that I began to truly experiment. You can see my interest in outlines with the flowers. I used them heavily and in some places perhaps too heavily. I always tried to go back and paint over areas that didn’t work. With a dry brush and thick paint I could lightly blur the transitions with the background.

IMG_3070The highlights on the vase were tricky. I avoided the use of pure white and matched them with the local color. Still, I was unable to grasp the shine I was looking for. I will have to practice painting other glossy items.

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The Wedding Vase 12″ x 16″

I had the painting basically done a couple weeks before the wedding. However, when the frame arrived I tinkered with the background. I did not want it to be a static blue.

I’m very happy with the way the painting turned out and the bride and groom both like it as well! After the wedding, Sarah and I wound up coming home with a floral centerpiece that’s absolutely gorgeous and might just be my next still life painting. In fact, I might go arrange it now.

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New Years 2015

On New Year’s Eve I went down to Boston and stayed at a friend’s apartment. I’d never been to her place before and my girlfriend was talking it up all the way down. Well I got there and I was totally blown away by the view. So I suppose it lived up to the touted expectations.

I sat in the large windows watching ambulances and firetrucks speed by, used a pair of binoculars to follow pigeons as they swooped from rooftop to rooftop, and counted the number of people jaywalking

That night went by incredibly fast and it wasn’t until the next morning that I had time to sketch the skyline.

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I started out with a blind contour drawing to warm up. I think I will be warming up with blind contours more often. It helped me really see subtle aspects of buildings.

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I got a decent way into the actual drawing, but did not finish before we had to leave. I snapped a couple pictures and used them for reference when I got home. After finishing the drawing, I added watercolor. It was a bit of a struggle. My understanding of painting is derived from working with oils and the skill set use with oil paints is completely different than the skills used with watercolors. I’m all about laying down color and moving fast. It seems this method doesn’t work that well with watercolor. At least yet. I’m not sure I understand the basics enough to be able to push for speed. I’m going to have to check out some YouTube lessons and figure out how to better work the watercolors.

That being said, I enjoyed this drawing immensely. It was a breath of fresh air to work on a cityscape.