Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saved by hot chocolate

Yesterday Jeanette and I had some errands to do in Kingston, New York, and we had a little time left over to do a sidewalk painting. It was just above freezing, with dirty snow lingering in clumps and a cold wind blowing off the Hudson River. Not an ideal day for watercoloring.

We picked one of our favorite off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, called Ponckhockie. It was originally settled by the Dutch, and later by Polish and Irish bricklayers and canal workers. No tourists go there. It's a really friendly neighborhood. 

We set up our folding chairs at random on the sidewalk in front of the White Eagle Benevolent Society and started painting the corner of Delaware and Third Avenues, where there is a defunct neighborhood deli.

Jeanette zeroed in on the market in pencil and transparent watercolor, emphasizing the wires, windows, and sign details. I used gouache, and I tried grouping all the shadows to a near-black composed of ultramarine and burnt umber, while the lights were a pale warm white in opaque gouache.

We both had mishaps: My water bottle leaked out its contents in my bag, endangering the camera, and Jeanette dumped water all over her painting. Our fingers were numb with cold and we were about to give up, when all of a sudden.....

 ....out of the blue appeared our Angel of Deliverance. Paul from the Benevolent Society appeared with two steaming cups of hot chocolate--with whipped cream!--and an invitation to join them for their pirogi, stuffed cabbage and kiełbasa dinner on Palm Sunday.

The hot chocolate and warm gift of kindness revived us and cheered us for the rest of the morning.
Previously: Art Department Traffic Cones
Media: Moleskine watercolor notebook, Schmincke Half Pan Watercolor Pocket Set , Winsor & Newton Designer's Gouache (Jim) Winsor & Newton Watercolor Set (Jeanette)
YouTube video: Watercolor Warriors


scruffy said...

Hot cocoa and invitations to pirogis? Wow. How benevolent :)

Celeste Bergin said...

haha--and I am warmed by your hot chocolate as well! I love everything about this post. I'm sure you made the hot chocolate-giver look at the old deli in a new light. Glad your camera survived!

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Thank you for sharing your adventure
It is heart warming to read.
When I think of home in MA, I think of the corner delis.
Reading your post almost makes me wish I was married again. lol

mp said...

Nice paintings, both!

Amber said...

Benevolent Society is benevolent. ;)

James Gunter said...

Man! That kind of benevolence never happens to me when I'm out painting! But then, It's probably not likely when I spend so much time painting by myself in the middle of nowhere. I have had vultures fly close by looking at me like I could BE the pirogi!

Christian Schlierkamp said...

That's a heartwarming story!
It looks so bitter cold!!

I just came upon an interesting tip in Felix Scheinberger's "Wasserfarbe für Gestalter" ("Water color for designers" ) that if it's freezing outside and you want to paint with watercolors use clear alcohol like wodka or schnapps instead of water.

(drinkingwise I would stick to the hot chocolate though ;-) )

Diana Moses Botkin said...

You and Jeanette are hardy souls to be out painting in freezing temps (and with no gloves!). Congrats on getting some lovely studies in such harsh conditions.

Roberto said...

You two are amazing!
I'm glad I live in SoCal, I'm such a woose! I have a hard time when the temp dips <60*. (No SnowCamp for me, but you two look ready!) -RQ

John said...

...and THIS is why I love art! From the photograph, you would think " maybe looks a little crisp with a chill in the air". But from both of your paintings I absolutely get the sense and the tactile feel of how bitterly cold it was out there. Wonderful work!

Jean At Home said...

Great story. Great sketches, both. Thanks, James, for your daily gift of art.

Unknown said...

Hello James!

You've really been inspiring me to do lots of plein air paintings lately. Yesterday I sat out for awhile painting my back yard in gouache. Really good exercise.
I do have a question that doesn't really apply to your post... I'm going to a University in Seattle right now (My home) that I feel isn't as challenging as I'd like. It's an art program at a university, not specifically an art school. Most of the illustrators that I read about and really admire went to art center, and at the pace I'm going now I feel like I'll never catch up where I am. I guess, I just want to know what you think, and if you have any suggestions for how I can... "compete"? How can I know if my school is preparing me well for what I want to do?
Sorry about the long post, this has just been bugging me for awhile now.

Thanks so much. I REALLY appreciate all your posts and teaching!!

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everyone!

Christian, I haven't tried vodka yet for a painting medium. I tried white wine once, but it froze!

Abigail, It's hard for me to know what kind of school you might need, or whether you're better off self teaching with the occasional workshop. There are a lot of art schools to choose from, and I have done posts about my visits to them, which you can read by clicking on the "Art Schools" button on the Blog Index. I learned some valuable things from art school, and enjoyed seeing how other students solved problems. But I learned a lot by studying old art instruction books, drawing at zoos and natural history museums, and just painting outdoors--experiences which art schools generally can't deliver very effectively. To be an autodidact takes self-discipline, but so does being a professional artist.

Brad Teare said...

I love such stories. LIke they say, it warms twice! Deb and I had some kids bring us popsicles once (cools twice?) It was summer of course).