|"Train Crossing," gouache, 5 x 8 inches|
I went over by the railroad tracks while our car was in the repair shop yesterday.
A freight train rumbled past, smelling of lumber and oil and new cars. It shrieked its horn a lot because this is a deadly crossing.
I always shudder when a freight passes because my only uncle was killed in an accident at a train crossing when he was a teenager. My mom didn't like it when I left art school to ride the freight trains across America, and I was unaware of the worry I must have caused her.
But it was thrilling and wild to travel that way. We would throw our backpacks onto an empty railcar as it left the yard and it would blast us into the night through unknown cities in the pitch blackness and hurricane wind. We never knew what part of the country we would wake up in.
Painting is like that, full of unknowns and deep longings, but it takes place inside a contained universe.
I used three colors of gouache: Perylene Maroon (which sounds like the name of a pirate), Viridian, and Yellow Ochre, plus White. The underdrawing is just a framework of measurements.
Here's what the painting looked like after an hour or so.
Because every element in the scene was unloved and probably never painted by an artist before, I felt an even greater accountability to capture it as faithfully as I could.
I like gouache for a subject like this because it lets me paint the most delicate forms, such as the fine electrical wires and the far crossing gates in the distance, which were as small as slivers.