Thursday, December 11, 2014

Amtrak Station

This week, a painter friend named Scott Lloyd Anderson is here in the Hudson Valley, and we decide to go out sketching together. But it's freezing cold and raining all day, so we need to find an indoor subject.

Amtrak Station, Rhinecliff, New York by James Gurney, gouache, 5x8 inches.
We find a perfect spot at the Rhinecliff train station. It's warm and dry, with bathrooms and a bunch of coin-op machines. I want my view to include the ticket booth and the benches, as if it is a stage set built for a dramatic production.

I love train stations because they're the setting for a thousand little human dramas of arrival and departure, greeting and saying good-bye. People do a lot of waiting, looking at cellphones.

The day before our session, I email the regional operations manager to ask permission to paint there, and he graciously allows us, as long as we are neat and safe and don't get in the way of passenger traffic. Fortunately the landing where Jeanette and I are painting is unused. Scott finds a place on the main floor near the ticket window. 

We invite curious passengers and station agents to come by and take a look. One station agent sees the painting and says it sends chills down her spine. A musician pulls out a mandolin and strums it a little. The mood in the room is pure magic. 

Here's what my line drawing looks like. It's fairly simple one point perspective, but it takes an hour. The eye level or horizon is even with the lower crossbar on the window, and the vanishing point is the little circle at the right hand edge of the window.

With a half inch flat brush, I block in the far wall and the gradation on the floor. Even though the paint is fairly opaque, I can see my construction lines through thin washes. 

I am going for a quick overall statement of the values, with broadly stated warm and cool areas. The blue light is reflecting off the red tile floor and also off much of the woodwork on the ticket counter at right, so I drop in that blue color early in the lay-in.

The cluttered details on the counter are made up of a series of light and dark strokes overlapping like confetti. Any kind of gouache paint lends itself to such rapid impressionistic handling.

The paint I'm trying out is called Acryla Gouache, made by Holbein. They sent me a sample set to try out (thanks guys). In this painting I'm using only titanium white, jet black, burnt sienna, deep yellow, and ultramarine blue.

Mini review: The pigment density and opacity are comparable to regular gouache paints. Because of the acrylic medium in the paint formulation, I can glaze over previously stated passages without picking up those earlier layers. But I've got to be sure to keep the brushes wet until I have a chance to really clean them because the acrylic medium would wreck a brush if it dried in it. The paint surface dries matte, which allows me to draw over the top with colored pencils, something that doesn't always work in casein. Acryla gouache comes out of the tube slightly more liquidy than casein paint, so if I want impasto whites I have to wait for it to start to dry up.

The whole painting takes about four hours (scroll up to see the finish), and it's painted with just two brushes: the half inch flat and a smaller round.

You can see additional steps in the sequence at my Facebook page. 
Tomorrow: What Jeanette painted.

Materials used:
Caran D'ache Supracolor colored pencils (mainly for the lines between the floor tiles)


Abrian Curington said...

I love your plein air paintings! There's always such a wonderful sense of atmosphere.

I started using Acryla Gouache a few months ago and couldn't be happier! They don't replace watercolor entirely but they do make it much easier to glaze which I've always sought with watercolor. It also adds opacity without the reactivation of normal gouache which I supremely appreciate.

Thanks for another wonderful post!

Mitch said...

I agree with the ticket agent - this sends chills down my spine! What a beautiful painting, I love the blues in the floor, the warm yellow lights, the atmosphere of tranquility in a busy place.
You should perhaps work with my dentist: he can't get my jaw to drop as far as you can.

Grace Chang said...

Hi James, I found your blog a couple months ago but finally just worked up the nerve to comment. I'm currently in my mid-20s and still remember the day my dinosaur-loving, elementary-aged self discovered Dinotopia in the public library.

I’m a “self-taught” hobby artist doing small private commissions whenever my full-time job schedule allows. I just wanted to say that I've been learning so much through posts like these and I’m excited to try my hand at plein air painting soon. Thank you for inspiring me (and countless others) at all those years ago to never stop dreaming and bringing imagination to life through illustration.

Debora Missoorten said...

This looks great , it gives a special feeling and seems like a film still , I like the used colors and interesting info about this kind of paint .
Kind regards.

Abraham Evensen Tena said...

These are the gouaches I use and I love them, but not as much as I love you paintings. Thank you for sharing!

Steve said...

Amazing painting. Love the light on the wood floor. Reminds me of Caillebotte's Les rabeteurs de parquet (The Floor Scrapers).

gordie said...

I love your variations of color within a single value. This is such a vital principle of your lessons to us,thank you.
I've used this paint for about ten years and rely on the Sta-wet Handy palette to keep the paint from drying out.The white has a tendency to be less opaque then I'd like and easily becomes runny.Golden Fluid Matte Acrylic is a good substitute in white.

Gavin said...

Even in the photograph you can really see the contrasting warm and cools in harmony; initially I thought you'd taken the artistic liberty of really playing up the two.
Really nice painting - captures the ambience, and the figures add life.

Krystal said...

magnificent...Such a sense of mood ! I wish I could paint like this one day. My studio projects are more mastered, but plain air paintings isnt't yet half of what you do ! Thank you so much for sharing this, and all the steps. It is so helpfull...

Rich said...

Love to revisit that one.
The intermixture of cool light shining in from outside and all the warm interior lightings from the lamps: quite a feat!
Besides the well drawn perspective and all those countless superimpositions of people and things, the two "truncated" persons surfaceing from the staircase add even more to the Feeling of depth.
And of course once more, the shiney floor...

Robert J. Simone said...

Great work, James! Thanks for sharing.

Steve said...

Correction: I should simply have written "floor", not "wood floor." Still reminds me of Caillebotte's painting...

James Gurney said...

Steve, thanks for the link to the Caillebotte painting. Very inspiring. I think I saw that once in art history class but forgot all about it. Yes, actually it's a red tile floor, and in the reflection area, the apparent color was a mix of diffuse (red) and specular (blue) colored light.

Thanks, Gavrin and Rich. I was most challenged by the way the warm lights looked against the blue light of the window. That area sort of burned out in a photo, but the eye could see it. The challenge was how to represent it in paint without using too many darks. as you say, Gavin, a lot of those warms and cools were at close values.

Krystal, you're welcome. Sharing the steps helps me to make conscious what was largely an unconscious avalanche of decisions during the painting process.

Abrian, Abraham, and Gordie, glad to hear from others who have used Acryla Gouache. Thanks for the tip about the whites.

Debora and Mitch, it's interesting how a painting communicates mood. I had all these emotions as I painted it, but I was really just trying to paint it objectively. Paintings are just so different from photographs, maybe because they're reality filtered through a person's consciousness.

Thank you, Grace! That's so sweet (and brave) of you to comment. Great to hear from you. And whether any of us have been to school, really, we're all self-taught, and hopefully continuing to learn.

Allen Garns said...

Beautiful work, as always! I'm wondering about your brushes. I see that you are able to get a good point on your brush for details, as in the woman at the counter. Do the brushes in that Richeson set behave that well?

My Pen Name said...

Hudson and Poughkeepsie have nice stations as well.

Nice work

wilma vespa said...

such a great and awesome Arts....

John VanHouten said...

I too have a sample set of Holbein Acryla Gouache and I think they are wonderful. The paint is what I would consider an almost perfect consistency for normal gouache. You can still rework the layers for a little while too. And eventually you don't have to worry about framing under glass!

Glad you like them too.

John Fleck said...

I'm interested in trying the Holbein Acryla gouache.
One question: can they be used along with (and mixed with) traditional gouache?

James Gurney said...

John, yes, you can mix them with regular gouache.

Allen, yes, I'm using the Richeson set, and they're still working OK. With the Acryla Gouache, I have to be more careful to wash them out properly.