Friday, October 25, 2013

On the train home

The train brought us home to the Hudson Valley last night, after about 48 hours of travel from Denver. 
We booked a sleeper for the first leg of the trip, and went coach from Chicago to New York. The small sleeper gives you two bunks in a private chamber with a bathroom down the hall and a shower on the level below. You're free to walk around as the train is moving.

We loved waking up to the view of small towns in Iowa.

Views from the Amtrak Zephyr, James Gurney, casein, 1x2 inches each.
I tried to capture some of the landscapes as they sped past the window. The scenes were composites, constructed from fleeting impressions assembled in my short term memory.

View from the Amtrak Sleeper, watercolor and gouache, 5x8 inches.
The train is a fascinating way for an artist to see the country. The route goes right through the center of all the towns and cities. Some of the older towns have brick storefronts facing the tracks, from the days when railroads were the lifeblood of the town.

But now America turns its back to the train, so you get to see our country in its most unguarded, squalid, and at times glorious, moments: back yards, junkyards, abandoned factories, refineries, wind farms, and miles and miles of corn. The views are entirely different from what you can see from a car. I was glued to the window the whole time, except for the meals.

Passage in the sleeper includes meals in the dining car, seated with other passengers. Having a conversation with a stranger can be a surprisingly rare experience in modern American life, so it's a welcome benefit of train travel.


Eric said...

It is regrettable that the opportunity to talk to strangers is a rare thing now. That is one of my favorite parts of traveling. New and interesting people to meet whose lives are probably very different from your own.

Great paintings!

Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to travel the country by train. About 10 years ago there were plans for AMTRAK to build a line running through North Louisiana, but it never happened because of the idiocy of the local population. It'd be so nice to be able to just hop on the train and end up in Dallas in a few hours, not having to fight the traffic on I-20.

Despite this my father and I planned on taking a bus north and riding the trains cross country, but sadly he got sick before we went.

Unknown said...

James, I am wondering if you have had any experience with casein paints on a rigid surface, so that the piece can be presented as varnished and w/o glass. I love oil painting, but find there are some travel situations that do not work well with oils. I don't like for my art to be behind glass. Thanks for any advice or direction to someone who knows more.

James Gurney said...

Claire, yes, casein can definitely be painted on canvas or panel, in fact panel is what you would want if you want to build up impastos. You can get a casein varnish to give the finished surface a gloss like oils, and then you can frame without glass. I also use casein for travel or indoor settings where oil would be impossible.

Check out Richeson's helpful FAQ:

J. Nathan Evans said...

Hi James, long time reader, first time commenter :) Grew up with Dinotopia as a kid and am now devouring "Color and Light" as I'm relearning my love for art and self-teaching myself illustration.

Quick question - as I transition from drawing to learning painting, do you have a recommended intro to painting book and what medium would you recommend to learn on?

Thanks for putting together such a great resource in this blog!

James Gurney said...

Hi, Unknown, I'd recommend Andrew Loomis's Creative Illustration. And for media, I would suggest trying oil and watercolor (separately, of course).

markmors said...

I rode the Amtrak sleeper cars many years ago and enjoyed it(that was 25 years ago). Much more comfortable than coach.
Did you find it comfortable?

James Gurney said...

Mark, the sleeper cars were a lot more comfortable than coach, but a lot more expensive. We brought neck pillows for the coach leg of the trip, which helped.