Monday, February 12, 2018

Painting an Abandoned Factory

Across the tracks from the supermarket is an abandoned factory where people once built mainframe computers. 

Here's a video (Link to Video on YouTube). After IBM pulled up stakes, the new owners renamed the seven-acre complex 'TechCity,' but it has sat mostly empty as the freight trains roll by.

As Jeanette did the food shopping, I set up my easel at the edge of the parking lot. I painted a view of the low building beyond the piles of dirty snow.

On Facebook, Joe Ongie asks: How did you choose your limited palette of colors?

Joe, For an overcast snow scene, I usually choose one blue to suit the subject (such as ultra, Prussian, or cobalt), plus a weak red (like burnt sienna) and a weak yellow (like yellow ochre). In this case I needed full-chroma red and yellow as well for the color accents. Since the subject was well within the gamut of possible mixtures, adding more colors to the palette would have just slowed me down, complicated the choices, and added to the cleanup, and they would have made a harmonious scheme less likely.

On YouTube, ThaBest007 asks: What makes you pick these scenes? Is it the history behind the place or the interesting contrasting colors? You somehow seem to be able to make even the most mundane looking scenes into beautiful and interesting paintings.
Haha! I pick something I can paint within 100 yards of the supermarket parking lot while my wife does the shopping (I distract her if I tag along). So I set up pretty much set up anywhere at random where I won't get run over or kicked out.

Keith E asks: I feel like one of the problems I'll run into though is dealing with hecklers...Do you ever find yourself dealing with issues like this, or do you have any specific strategies to avoid those situations? Like maybe going at specific time of day or on days when you know there'll be less of a chance of things like that happening?

That's funny, I did get heckled on this one but it was from my dear friend and fellow artist Gilles who recognized me at random. He said I was cheating when I brought out the camera. And I said No, I'm feeding the YouTube Monster. But seriously, you get heckled or approached a lot less by strangers when you're painting in one of these out of the way places that artists never go. No one is expecting to see someone painting, so 99% of the time strangers are very kind and supportive.

On Twitter, Maple E says: How come you never wear gloves when you paint? Are you just used to the cold or do you not like how it feels when painting?

It just didn't feel that cold. I think it was in the high 30s, and it didn't bother me—maybe I'm adjusted to winter. If the cold did bother me, I would have used gloves and those hunter hand-warmer packets, which I carry with me.

Turner asks on Twitter: Have you ever considered doing some plein-air livestreams?
Yes, I've done a few live streams on @concertwindow and Facebook Live. It was fun but a bit nerve wracking. I like to do it with Jeanette fielding the questions, but even then at least 75% of my attention goes to the questions, which makes the painting suffer. Painting for the video capture gives me more room to move. 
Previous paintings that I've done near the supermarket.
VW Dealership
Loading Dock
Produce Case
Sunset at the Supermarket
Strange Light at the Tire Place
Traffic Lights
Parking Lot Before the Storm


Timothy Bollenbaugh said...


You say the best place to submit questions is in comments. Mine doesn't pertain to this posting. Your painting in Color & Light of the view from West Point shows blue water with violet adjacent in the shadows. Here in Puget sound, the water is often pale pea-green, with violet in the cloud shadows or blue with violet in the gust areas.
Can you explain this? All I've read on scattering, shifting, absorption, incident angle, diffusion could apply, maybe even algae, sediment, U.V. light & electrolysis, and all seem possible simultaneously.

Thanks, Tim

James Gurney said...

Timothy, one post that deals with cast shadows on water is here:
The algae in the water affects the color of it most when the water is illuminated. When there's a cast shadow across that illuminated area of water, the dispersed light scatters into the shadow under water, so the line of the shadow isn't particularly sharp. The relative colors are indeed influenced by a lot of factors, including the sky color, the color of the light, and the light reflected from nearby surfaces. Hope that answers at least part of your question, but without seeing what you're talking about, it's hard to comment on what's going on.

Meera Rao said...

Thanks for sharing the video and your knowledge through answers ! As always you have a talent to make the mundane look beautiful :)

Unknown said...

i have one for me so important question. i have all your plane air Videos! They are all great to learn from no matter if it was about Casein, watercolor, Gouache,.. But one question never got answered.

when you go outside doing a sketch, how do you scale down that the view fits into your sketchbook.
do you use an anchor Point and fits everything to this Point/object....or do you place your sketchbook far away enough to measure by your full strechted arm and drawing tool?
Would love to know. greetings from vienna

James Gurney said...

Patrick, good question. Sometimes I set up my easel so that the view is sight-size, and I have even used a sight-size grid viewer to assist with very complex subjects. But most often, the subject is too far away for sight-size to be possible. In that case I'm using comparative measurements, where I establish a unit of measurement with a pencil held at arm's length, and then look for other examples where that unit appears. You can see this approach in action in my video "Street Painting in Indiana."