Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Your Gas Station Paintings

We had a tremendous response to the Gas Station Challenge. I put out a call a few weeks ago for you to paint a gas station on location in black and white gouache. One of the reasons I suggested that subject was because I figured no one would have any such painting already completed.

Thanks to everyone who took part. You braved biting flies, extreme heat, rain, and station owners who were suspicious or who thought you were crazy. Some of you painted outdoors for the first time, or painted in gouache for the first time. And there were some old pros stepping up to the plate. 

It was really hard to pick the winners, but here 'goes.

Grand Prize
The Grand Prize Winner is Randy Raak's painting of the "Dino Mart" in Golden, Colorado. I would have loved this one even without the dinosaur because it captures such a sense of place, with the new retail construction on the hills above the station. The perspective is really good, and the values are carefully observed. Translating bright colors into gray tones is a challenge. 

Randy says "The painting is 9" x 11" on 140# rough watercolor paper, completed 100% on location during five, two hour sessions."

 3 Honorable Mention Winners

Olivier Martin is one of three Honorable Mentions for this interesting study of a Parisian gas station. 

He had a lot of complicated forms and lettering to sort out, and he did so with real affection for the detail.

He said that it was hard to find a quiet place to paint in Paris, and that his position was a "little bit strange for people who pass on the street, but next to this tree I was in calm."

The second Honorable Mention goes to Eelis Kyttänen for his boat fueling station. He picked an unusual subject and viewpoint. He carefully observed the values of the shadow side of the building, which makes the lighting very convincing.

Here he is showing the painting from the bridge where he painted it.

But just to show that not all paintings have to be highly detailed, I'm giving the third Honorable Mention to Dave Lebow for this pump study (below). I like the way he described the curving forms of the modern pump catching the shimmery hot light from the surrounding environment. 

This is a good example of the selectivity you can get with gouache. He focused on the pump, and did some of his drawing over the opaque paint. He softened the edges of the distant buildings and trees. It's an artistic effect without calling attention to itself.

Soft edges take conscious effort in gouache, especially if you use full opaques in the hot sun. I also like the way he included a vehicle, knowing how briefly they stay next to pumps.

Pictures of Merit
Braelyn Snow did this study of a single pump. She chose to remove it from the surroundings so that she could spend her time focusing on the variety of surface textures, including the reflection of the hose on the chrome side.

She says, "While I was working at the vacant Apple Pie Inn, a van drove up beside me and the driver asked what I was doing. When I told her, she told me she was the owner and had been worried I was up to something suspicious. Apparently the other two pumps had been stolen. After I assured her I would not steal the pump, only paint it, she gave her blessing and drove away. This is why I like to call ahead when I know who to ask!"

Daniel New also chose to concentrate on a single pump. That way he could describe the decaying plastic covering the advertising sign, the bent metal pieces, and the eroded stickers.

In the part-way finished painting, you can see how he built a lot of those details over flat base tones. 

I was surprised how many of you painted from your cars, but judging from the droplets on the window, this was a rainy day.

Jared Cullum captured the full scene with all its detail: the signs, the plantings, and even the cars. The result gives a strong feeling of being there. 

He deserves special commendation for doing the painting while babysitting and adapting the stroller into an easel.

Matt Sterbenz painted this night scene. I find this study moody and compelling, with the solid black night sky on the right, and the glow of light under the canopy raising the values of all the darks. It feels like a weird space station, and it would be fun to go back there with full color.

Like a spy, Matt dresses in black and works from his car in a super portable setup. He's kind of a night-painting ninja who might strike anywhere anytime!

Evidently, Larry Kitchen has a lot of experience with gouache. He lays down those lines very professionally and gets the perspective right. 

Larry says, "There really is something great about going out on a cool summer morning to catch a scene."

This painting by Nicholas Elias picks up on the weird forms of the superstructure above the pump, with all those fire prevention nozzles. 

And it looks like he's got a cool palette rig to hold the sketchbook vertically.

Finally, Jeff Simutis, an experienced architectural painter, painted this old gas station. Nice relaxed handling throughout, with a lot of affection for that false front.

Jeff is using a gray scale called Rankin's Perception Kit that helps in judging values.

Thanks again to everyone for taking on the challenge. There are a lot more entries, and you can see them all at the Facebook event page. I'll be contacting Randy, Olivier, Eelis, and Dave about getting their "Department of Art" prize patches. 
By the way, does it work for everyone to upload your entries directly to a Facebook event page? That would save me a lot of work and make these more do-able for the future.


Tom Hart said...

Kudos to all. Really fine work! I'm glad I didn't have to single out a winner out of that bunch :^).

Jared Cullum said...

Thanks for mentioning mine. These turned out terrific! This was a really cool contest and great practice!

Robb said...

So fun to see everyone's setup. Awesome!

Steve said...

Great entries! Loved seeing the various equipment set ups -- some of which seemed to incorporate elements from previous GJ posts. Good to see international participation. Thanks for creating this opportunity.

Matt Sterbenz said...

Thanks James for the mention and for such a cool contest. What a great selection of work. Well done everyone!

HNK said...

Will there be more contests like this in the future but without showing a face? I want to join! And off - topic - will there soon be any of your CW broadcasts?

Monika Baum said...

Only one lady artist in the list!? I should have made more of an effort to find a gas station and contribute! I just don't have a car... Lovely entries, everyone!
When's the next b&w gouache contest?

James Gurney said...

Monbaum, Don't know why there were so few ladies. But you may recall that all three of the top winners in the "Lionfish Shampoo" contest were women. Regardless, I try not to be influenced one way or another by the nationality, enthnicity, or gender or any other extrinsic factors. We're all the same with a brush in our hands.

HNK, not sure when the next ConcertWindow broadcast will be. All the factors have to line up: Weather, WiFi, Motif, etc... In future contests, if you don't want to show your face that's OK, just the easel in front of the subject is OK. Don't know when the next one will be. It takes a lot of time!

And thank you, Steve, for sourcing the DofA patches. This is a good use for them.

Yes, Tom, it was tough to judge, and really the competition isn't the thing. Everyone's a champion for just getting out there in my opinion.

Daniel New said...

It's really neat to see everyone else's entries, and It was a lot fun to be a part of something like this. :)

Thanks for creating the contest.

Charley Parker said...

Wonderful to see all of these painters working in gouache! And in monochrome no less! What a great idea and terrific results.

Unknown said...

Thank you James Gurney for running the contest, and congratulations to everyone who won!
It feels like such a huge honor to be featured on Gurney Journey!!
The competition was seriously fierce, and the top winners are well deserved. The amount of time Randy Raak put into his painting shows, that's some serious dedication.
I hope this is OK to do James, but I'd like to drop a link to my website here to network:
Thanks again & congrats to all. This was a lot of fun! Looking forward to the next one - I've got my eye on that patch!

James Gurney said...

Nicholas, it's totally fine to add a link. I should have done it, but I got tired. If anyone wants to put their links in the comments, I'll add them into the post.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you to took time and energy to create this contest ! Very interesting to see all the different kind of approach and touch of every painters ( winners or not ).
It was a great experience and something who show ( me ), who concentration and reflexion are important beside capacities to represent what we see :)

Rich said...

...something to remember next time at the gas station.

Unknown said...

Hi James - I appreciate the link - you can find me at:


Sherry Schmidt said...

Wonderful pieces and I love your comments about each that was selected. Looking forward to participating next time.

Amai said...

I noticed this one in too little time to participate (I've backburnered following blogs for painting for the last while). While I don't (yet) have the chops of this impressive group of contenders, I would like to participate in the next one, and having it be facebook based would keep me out. I find their terms of service a little too scary to sign up. Just my two cents, since you mentioned it...

Guenevere Schwien said...

Very cool Assignment James! I just discovered you on Gumroad, and watched your gauche in the wild. I am looking into making myself an easel and getting out of the studio for a change!

I'll see if I can get anything going in time for the Weeds contest.

Very glad I bought your video it was well worth it, and totally inspiring.