Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Last year, in preparation for a show at Cantrell Gallery, I pulled a few old paintings from the closet to rework.  I had shown these at one point but then realized they were actually failures.  I decided to start with a scene from downtown North Little Rock (aka Argenta.) It depicts 3 figures waiting at a trolley stop in front of a purple building. I chose the scene primarily because the purple building is a mainstay on Main Street in Argenta. You really can't hardly miss it. The painting was done in January of 2009 so it was 4 years old when I did this rework.  Here is my self analysis and thought process:

  Looking at it, I think it is obvious that my goal at that time was very similar to what my goal would be today if I started this painting from scratch: a loose, immediate vibe with economy of brush stroke.

This first thing I see is that light pole on the left side traversing the entire canvas HAS to go! Secondly, the foliage on the right side needs to either be eliminated or pruned back. Refer to Figure 1.

Figure 1

Before I went any further in my analysis, I went ahead and took about 20 minutes to basically re-mass everything but the figures. I knew something needed to be done about them but had not thought it through much. At this stage, I enlarged the building ever so slightly and fixed some minor perspective issues.

Now I'm confronted with the big question of what to do about the people at the trolley stop. The arrangement as it was painted in 2009 is cluttered. The purple building and the trolley stop with figures occupy almost identical amounts of surface area. The roofline of the trolley stop is perilously close to the same height as the purple building and this severely stunts any verticals in the composition. (Perhaps that was why I hamhandedly included the light pole??) So a critical decision must be made: what is the painting about? Is it about the people or the purple building? I had named it "Waiting on the Trolley" thus making it originally about the people. But if I genuinely want to make it about the people at the trolley stop then I really need to push the building back to subordinate it. However, the building is the reason I wanted to paint this corner in the first place. If I want to make it about the building then I need to subordinate the figures and the trolley stop. Ideally, I would do this by pushing them back in space and further to the right in the picture, possibly even cropping part of the trolley stop. This is the course of action I prefer but there is a critical consideration here. The trolley makes a left turn right beside this purple building so the trolley stop must be clearly indicated as existing in front of that intersection! In painting real locations, one must realize there are important details and not so important details. This falls into the important detail column I think. I could probably achieve the subordination I desire without sacrificing the reality of the location by increasing the presence of the road that cuts left to right across the scene. In effect, this pushes the viewer closer to the curb and might require a slight modification of the perspective of the both the purple building and the trolley stop.

In order to prevent having to do that, I could also shift the near corner of the purple building to the left. This would give the effect of moving the lateral street "back" relative to a diminshed size and location of the trolley stop figures without sacrificing the size of the building.

That's 3 options:
  1. Push the building back and keep figures where they are, figures are the focal point
  2. Increase the size of the building and street, move figures right and adjust perspective on both, building is the focal point
  3. Push building slightly left and figures to the right, should require little perspective change, building or street becomes focal point
Option 1 is the easiest to execute while option 3 will require the most effort. Option 2 falls in between I think. I opt for Option 1. I pushed the building back by reducing it's size and reducing the saturation in the color. After deleting the foliage on the right hand side I realized that this made too much open space and added a crepe myrtle tree further in the distance and much smaller in size.

Waiting on the Trolley

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