Friday, March 21, 2008

Rainy Alley

Yesterday was a steady downpour, but I had most of the day free before the Malaprops bookstore signing in Asheville, so I headed out to the nearby town of Black Mountain in search of a non-touristy motif.

I found an alley with a good view of the backs of the shops. There was also a convenient public restroom close by—something to factor in after several cups of coffee that morning. Jeanette wisely opted for a ballpoint pen sketch from inside the car.

I figured I had only two hours before I would be completely drenched.

Here’s how the painting looked after a quick block-in. I’m using a method recommended by Richard Schmid, where you start a tight rendering in one area of the picture, and work the area of finish across the canvas, rather than moving the whole picture loosely along.

The wind was starting to pick up, knocking over the umbrella every time I took my foot off the C-stand. By the time I had to pack up, the paint tubes were swimming in water that had collected inside the box. The lower areas of the picture are just blocked in with tone, with no attempt at rendering.

By two-thirty in the afternoon, as the thunder and lightning started up, we staggered into the Dripolator coffee shop, my old raincoat covered equally in rain and paint.


Victor said...

You're dedication really inspires me. Rain or shine, you're out there working from nature!

How do you like the patch-to-patch Schmid method compared to the standard rough-in then render procedure? It seems like by the time you get far away from your starting point your proportions and drawing would get really off. When I try to work from an area outward, I tend to get bogged down in perfecting that initial patch and I end up accomplishing very little.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I feel that same as ^^Victor up there, very inspiring, seeing you trample through that mess.

It's also just cool to watch you use traditional methods, as I'm so very unfamiliar to paints, as I use a digital canvas :) So I enjoy the learning process from your means - as learning traditionally benefits a digital medium more than one can say.

jeff said...

Good thing you were not using water soluble oils..

I admire Richard Schmid's work but this method is not for beginners or intermediate painters.

The main reason is drawing, and is what Victor points to.

If your not able to draw well with all media that your using then this method is not going to work.

Frank V. Dumond said, " You can only paint as well as you can mass."

Anonymous said...

James Gurney, you made my week! I am an artist and rent my shop space out of one of the buildings Mr. Gurney was painting in the rain. What a humble and approachable person. I hope we get to meet again one day.

Shawn Escott said...

That's awesome! You are dedicated, I'll give you that! This painting turned out great despite the harsh weather and there is nothing like a painting from nature.

Erik Bongers said...

One wonders why a stand-up comedian would decide to take up the loneliest job in the world.
For a studio filled up with plaster heads - often without skin or muscles - is not quite the most responsive audience one can dream of.
But if the stand-up comedian is resourcefull enough, he might find ways to overcome this little dilemma and may effectively come up with ingenious ways to combine and exploit both talents.

It's not just the goggles and the love for public address and public painting that give you away Mr. Gurney, it is also the Art Dept. cones that not only serve as traffic aids but equally so as inviting light beacons for hesitant and innocent passers-by, unaware of the danger ahead, lured in by the bald art-siren, doomed to give in to their curiosity, their destiny.

But alas, alas
Thor himself hath wanted not
for this to happen here,
on this abbandoned parking loth !

And so the art-siren went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sens forlorn :
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.

James Gurney said...

Thanks for letting two drowned rats dry off in your gallery. It was great to meet a fellow artist, and I appreciate you leaving a comment.

Victor and Jeff,
I agree that the area-by-area method works best only if the skeletal framework is established first. I find it also helps to premix all the colors you'll be using, so that you don't spend all your time color-mixing. But I really like the method for a subject like this, where I was most interested in one area of the scene--in this case the roofline above the brown building.

Erik, you are a true poet and a gentleman, and I like the new color treatment to your self-portrait.

Thanks, Shawn and Lizzie for your encouraging words. I don't know if dedication is the right word for it--madness is more like it.

Gwen Buchanan said...

really enjoyed this too. play by play... your work is really great!!

jeff said...

James your now ready to paint in Scotland...

I used to live there and I remember freezing my butt of in early spring trying to paint a watercolor, it was cold enough for the water to start freezing.

They only have 2 seasons rainy and cold, and rainy and colder.

Honey P. Amplegood said...

My hero!

Anonymous said...

Good job, I know it's very tough under such conditions. I like to paint in the rain and in the snow so I can relate to your experience, the subject matter keeps you fully engaged despite tough, imposing conditions. It takes really extreme conditions to break that concentration and one such is when the rain and the paint intermingle to the point where you can hardly distinguish between them. So bravo! And thanks for posting it as well.

Maria Mercado said...'re hardcore.

BeatricCaldwell said...

As I'm preparing to take a class in plein air, I would love to know more about your set up!

James Gurney said...

Hi, Beatric,

In a nutshell, I use an Open Box M 10x12 pochade box. Check out If you go back through Gurney Journey, I talk about white umbrellas (in this case a RAIN umbrella) and the C-Stand which holds it.

william wray said...

I think a old hand like you could work with any approach and make a little masterpeice. Once you are experanced anyting goes. I think the pressure was good here, I like it when your a little more painterly like this. Masterful, bravo and I envy your journeys.

Michael Pieczonka said...

That is a beautiful plein air painting!! I love the way you've handled the buildings and the masterful way you've dealt with the cars as such simple shapes of colour. You da man!!