Following on from my Calais Tracks painting, I decided to have a go at something more complex. The scene I chose is very busy but offered scope for some strong graphic elements. The source inspiration was a few pics of mine and one I found online, all with dull daylight skies. From the start I had an image of a dramatic sky and kept this throughout the process.
Stage one was to draw the skeleton, then add the tracks with masking fluid. These were put down in single confident strokes to give a flow to the line.
The next stage involved a thin grey underpainting of abstract cloud. Over this (once dry) came several washes with a bias towards a warm red. Whilst still wet, I lifted a few rays, but not so many as to make it cartoonish. Happy with the sky, I laid down the thin graphic lines of steelwork and cabling, using the reference images as pointers but making up most of it. A railway engineer wouldn't recognise any specific part but it sort of works. Lots of dry brush for this and the track area below. Then came the thicker, wetter paint for the dark areas. This is where I bacame aware that I was painting on the back of another painting, and the paper even dry, wouldn't become flat. Anyhow, cheapskate or not, I was really enjoying this piece and getting quite excited with the verticals and horizontals. As always, I used a pointy synthetic brush, never smaller than a 12.
When this lot dried, I removed the masking fluid and softened some edges. This compostition, unlike the Calais tracks, has a number of red lights, and fewer figures. The effect is quite dramatic. I also added some shadows to the tracks and the posts.
The finished item presents a striking scene and enough unsaid for the viewer to make up their own story.
Earlier this week I was commissioned to paint a large (30"x22") version of my Calais Tracks piece. It is a subject which I knew would successfully scale up from the original 15"x11". The paper is Saunders Waterford 200lb rough, my current favourite and easily up to the task of a full-sheet work. I didn't take enough photos for a full sequential process but hopefully these few might explain my approach.
I taped the paper to the board and using a 0.5 HB propelling pencil drew the skeleton of horizontals and verticals. Then the tracks and a number of lights were then drawn in single flowing moves with masking fluid and a mapping pen. I experimented with and without masking fluid in other versions, and decided that in this situation, it's essential. Once dry, the first wash was laid, a dark, red blue mix with a few dabs of a blue/umber mix added at random.
Subsequent washes of a less saturated mix using blue/umber, were laid, each time leaving the light in the middle, feathering the edge with clean water.
In the next image, you can see that I have leapt ahead withthe darks and graphical elements. The finer lines were paintied with a pointy Jackson's Perla brush, nothing smaller than a 12. Both wet and dry brush employed. The dark is a magic mixture (thanks to Deb Walker RI for this tip) of Winsor blue and umber laid on with my 14yo 2" Da Vinci flat brush. Once I was happy with the general arrangement, I removed the masking fluid and softened some of the edges prior to adding red or yellow for the lights.
You can see in the image above that the figures are simple blobs applied quickly. I tried to capture furtive movement and study sketches of people in the wild really helps here. My goal is to use as few marks, as little information as is possible to convey the figure.
In this final image there are several small tweeks evident. The foreground track highlights were painted over to offer a plainer lead-in. The red light to the right was knocked back to leave only one key red. I softened the join between figures and horizon. Plenty to improve but getting there.
I hope the painting's new owner likes it.
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