Jefferson County Courthouse
11X14, Oil on Birch Panel
Last weekend I went down to Pine Bluff to paint what I think may be the most striking courthouse in Arkansas. The Jefferson County courthouse is this marvelous white with a glowing golden painted dome. While not the most ornate courthouse in the state, it certainly does stand out. It was built in 1856 and partially burned in the '70's. I had never been to Pine Bluff before last Saturday. It is a small town with big city problems and the reputation of the town is well known. I found a downtown deserted on a Saturday morning. Almost no business was open and the traffic count on Barraque Street, what should be a fairly major street in downtown, was probably no more than 30 cars the whole time I was there. Several passed by me more than once. Only one person came by to talk to me and I only saw one other person on foot.
I set up in the shadow of a building across the street from the courthouse, knowing the blazing hot sun would soon rear up over the top of the roofline and bath me. I had been hoping to catch the building fully backlit so I could explore some more color in the sky but by the time I got there, the sun was already high enough that no cool sky colors were to be found. You might could call this a modified Sargent palette. I used Cobalt blue, yellow ochre, and transparent red oxide which I consider to be in essence the same as what Sargent used for a lot of his architectural work. He probably used ivory black which can appear very blue when tinted and used alongside warmer colors.
I struggled mightily with size and perspective in this one. The color of the shadowed white building also gave me fits. I should have done it from the eastern side so as to avoid that problem but it's always good to take on a challenge. There were several moments when I almost gave up on it.
After I had had enough of this one, I wandered about the streets for a while, taking photos. It was enough to rend the preservationist soul of me. I could clearly see what the town of Pine Bluff had been and what it still could be. But the fact I could stand in the middle of Main Street for minutes on end trying to find the best vantage point possible on a Saturday morning spoke volumes for how far this town has fallen.
As is all too often the case with me, I fell in love with what I could see the town becoming. I know I'll be back.