Sunday, October 26, 2014

Saturday on the east side of Austin

People told us to go see the weird side of Austin, Texas, so we walked around Sixth Street on Saturday morning. The dance clubs, comedy joints and sports bars had shills out front trying to lure people in with cheap drinks.

People sketches in Austin, Texas by Jeanette Gurney
But they weren't getting customers. The street reeked of vomit and urine and spilled beer from the night before. There was a head shop with a window full of old clown toys, and a gift store with cute skeleton trinkets and a girl trying to sell tickets to the Museum of the Weird. But no one was buying.

Ballpoint pen sketches by Jeanette Gurney, "20% observation, 80% memory."
There were too many tourists and the sun was blazing hot, so we walked east. We found some shade and quiet up on Seventh and Waller at a bus stop in front of a family services agency. Young mothers held their new babies. A few dads pushed strollers past us, stopping to smile when they went by, but not saying much.


I looked across Seventh to an average house. There was something strong and dignified about it that spoke to me. The owner came out at one point to pick up a couple of beer bottles that someone had left on his front lawn the night before.


Any house that you might choose at random is like a stage set for a thousand family dramas. Between its four walls play all the stories of life—the wonder of new love, the laughter and tears of raising children, the frailty of old age.


Big trees shaded the house, and wires connected it to the worries of the wider world. As I worked on my little painting, I tried to see the sketchbook page as its own little microcosm, a self-contained world.


I had to think about paint and the tools and techniques, but I was trying to ride those tools into the world of the picture. I was trying to pour cement on sidewalks so that a kid could skateboard on them, and build a porch so that someone could sit there to drink lemonade and escape the heat.

Waller Street, Austin, by James Gurney, watercolor, 5x8 inches
For me the joy of painting is trying to get beyond the paint, to be able to enter the tiny universe of the image.

16 comments:

Yorky said...

Super sketch. Here it is in Street View showing just how accurately you painted it.
http://goo.gl/JVlhjz

jeff jordan said...

Every picture tells a story, don't it? (Rod Stewart, when he was good.......)

TomB said...

I don't know all your work james, but "Waller, St., Austin" is one I'll remember.
Art is more than the paint.
really well done.
tom

Tom Hart said...

This is a beautiful little painting. Thanks for explaining your goal of getting "beyond the paint". Mission accomplished!

Willow's Quiet Corner said...

You were using words as paint in this post! Both the story and the painting are beautifully done!

Glenn said...

Another inspiring study or maybe it is more accurate to say another inspiring "story".

I think "the story" is one of the main strengths and appeal of your work. You are always painting a tangible drama that unfolds on some level whether subtle or overt.

Based on the reviews and comments I have read of "The Artist's Guide to Sketching" this has always been your approach. I'm eagerly waiting to finally read "Guide to Sketching", but its coming via an inter-library loan which means 3-4 months. Any reprint possibiities in the near future for this book?

Steve said...

Thank you for a post that is as beautifully written ("...wires connected it to the worries of the wider world.") as it is painted.

KM Ryan said...

Thank you for allowing us into your thought process. I truly enjoyed following the story of this painting. Very inspiring.

Mordy said...

I love the switch from first seeing the finished painting to seeing the steps you have taken first. It caused me to look at each step and notice what was added and accomplished in that step. I tend to overlook all the steps when I see the finished product first.

A.j. Trahan said...

while you are in Austin check out http://geminischool.com/ up in cedar park.

Paddy Schmidt said...

Great and every time impressive to see, how you wrap up a painting with detail and thoughtful pen lines. So much to learn from just studying your process.

Sherry Schmidt said...

Beautiful story and watercolor. And thank you for the step by step.

Randall Cogburn said...

Hey James,

Are you in the Houston area. Maybe we could meetup and paint. I was at Downtown yesterday and today at Galveston and did some watercolor paintings. ~Randall

Katherine Thomas said...

Awesome painting, and well-written post! I like your philosophy about the magic of painting houses and all buildings in general. The stories those structures can tell...

Patrick ROOM said...

I realy love your blog,art, videos.....
You do a realy great Job. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
I have a question. When you are painting streetscenes or just houses i noticed your measuerment and perspektive technic.
But i always struggle with for example Windows. Do they run also just on another perspective line down to the vanishing point, parallel to the other lines? Because if so not many artists made them accurate.
Greetings from vienna

James Gurney said...

Patrick, yes, the line of the top and bottom of the windows go back to the same vanishing point as the top and bottom of the building. If you can't reach the vanishing point, you can set up a perpective grid: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2008/01/perspective-tip.html