Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Painting an Abandoned House Results

The results of our recent Painting Challenge: Abandoned House were so moving and fascinating that it was hard to choose the finalists. Instead of picking five, I've chosen eight.
Ard Berge
There's something so sad and moving about a piano left outdoors to the elements. Your faithfully observed capture of that scene would have been impressive enough, but it's incredible that you even painted the dramatic following story of the fire.

Here’s a painting entitled “Upright Grand” that depicts an abandoned piano in front of an abandoned farmhouse in northern New Hampshire. The piano was being removed by an antiques dealer. When it fell on the front porch, he just left it there. I covered it with a tarp to protect it between going back to the site to paint it. 

My favorite technical aspect is that the bright white on the front porch in my painting is the primed linen. The farmhouse ultimately burned down and I painted that too. 

Sandy Derrick
Wonderful choice of subject, good writing and fun results. The gas pump looks like a sleeping robot.

The small gas station has been vacant for over a year. It never had a name; it was just known as the Corner Store. It sold cigarettes, beer, and brain-freezing Slurpees. Later, it did a brisk business renting VHS videos. It only had two pumping stations; and if you were hauling a horse trailer, you took up both of them.
At first, I was drawn by the barber poles placed around the gas pumps. But as I painted, I couldn’t help wonder[ing] about our love affair with trucks and cars and the oil industry. You can place charging stations almost anywhere…Elon might be right.

Paints used: Ultramarine blue, Yellow Ochre, Transparent Oxide Red, and White.

Nathan Loda
Such a great backstory to the cabin and a painting adventure as well.

My uncle built this Dream cabin in Central NY back in the 70's. Right after the roof was put on, disaster struck and a series of events crushed the cabin-in-the-woods dream. From what I can gather, a storm brought the roof in and a family disagreement led to overall abandonment of the dream.

Upon packing up my gear, wouldn't you know it, disaster struck again and my painting nearly fell down a woodchuck hole! I had to clean it up and refinish the painting in studio. 

I really like the challenge of limited palette and since I've rarely use Sap Green so I thought two complementary colors (Ultramarine Blue, Raw Sienna) along with Sap Green and titanium white would give me a great challenge. Overall I felt decent about the painting and it's probably the most green painting I've ever done!

Anna Rich
A thoughtfully written caption accompanies a carefully painted study. The store happens to be where my wife's Aunt Josephine worked in S. Klein's accounting department.

Western Nassau County NY, not known for its public architecture so no picturesque Victorian structures slowly being reabsorbed into overgrowth here. All that was paved over long ago. My family moved here in 1967, I don’t remember a time when downtown Hempstead wasn’t being economically challenged, probably because malls were being born nearby, siphoning shoppers away.
I’ve painted a classic Big Box store on Hempstead Turnpike that operated as S. Klein’s from 1955 until 1974. I can’t remember ever going in there, my mother favored Abraham and Strauss (also now defunct) a mile or so down the road. In 1974 it became E.J. Korvette until 1980 then Shoppers Village from 1980 to 1995. Shoppers Village was a concession store if I remember correctly with many merchants selling their particular goods, here luggage, there, watches or sneakers. I think they were bustling in the go-go 80s around the time 10k gold jewelry became popular.

In 1995 it became National Wholesale Liquidators where the merchandise was an ever-changing assortment of stuff from food to furniture. My son and I share a hobby I’d call Tat Trawling. I liked the remaindered books, foodstuffs, and dangerous Christmas ornaments. He was there for the small electronic components, lightbulbs, and dangerous Christmas ornaments. One day we showed up to engage and it was closed. It re-opened after maybe 24 months.
There were always shoppers in there but in 2018 it was itself liquidated.

The building was so big I couldn’t actually see all of it at once unless I sat too far away to recognize detail. As for architectural or even visual features to draw interest well, as we say here in New York, ‘you can fuhgeddaboudit’. I used casein in cadmium yellow medium, alizarin crimson, and permasol blue with white.

Mike McCleer
Here's a boarded-up old house in Detroit, with a monumental feeling reminiscent of Edward Hopper.

An abandoned house on East Canfield St. in Detroit in the evening sun. Gouache on 9x12" toned card stock; Winsor & Newton gouaches: Ultramarine, Vermilion and Spectrum Yellow. 

The progress photo shows that I originally made the sky too bright, and I had to repaint it in thick lighter blue.

Samuel Alvarez
The use of dark values of the building gives this painting a tremendous sense of realism. Nice upshot angle.

Found this abandoned church near me. I live in the middle of the countryside in the UK and this is the best I could find. The 3 colours I used were; ultramarine blue, indian yellow and sepia. (oils)

I've never tried gamut masking like this, normally I use a much more extended palette. It made me realize how much I can get away with. I don't need that many colours. I will definitely try this again!
I also recorded a time lapse of me painting this, unfortunately fakebook didn't allow me to upload it here. I will however be uploading it to my IG.

Dan Sharp
Sad to see such a venerable old diner left to the elements. Dan's return to physical paint is a big success. 

I’ve spent about the last 20 years of my life doing children’s illustration digitally. This gave me a good opportunity to get back to paints and brushes that I haven’t used since the 90’s. It felt really good to paint again, to get outside and also deal with the challenge of working with three colors. It was a nice challenge.
Rosie’s Diner has had an interesting history, (see “Rosie’s Diner” Wikipedia page) and has been abandoned for the past ten years. It’s ten miles from my home in Michigan so I drove there this week. 

I started with a yellow ochre acrylic wash, and worked in gouache using yellow ochre, indigo, flame red and white. I worked for about an hour on site, then an hour at home from a photo, then finished up with another hour on site.

It really is a beautiful diner and sad to see what it’s become now. The shot through the broken window is the spot they filmed the Bounty commercials you might remember. Hopefully someone with a vision for this place will rescue it one day.

Tyler Gedman
I'll end with a nice painting accompanied by a thoughtful written piece. Let's hope some of those towns and homes can be re-populated.

English painter David Hockney once said “The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you're the artist.” I love this quote because as plein air artists we are constantly trying to simplify the complexities of nature. It’s impossible to render everything exactly as it appears. Instead, we’re forced to make spontaneous decisions, probably thousands during the course of a typical painting. Nowhere is that more true than when working with a limited palette.

For my submission, I worked in oils on a birch panel, 11 x 14”. The colors I used were Cadmium Red, Hansa Yellow medium, Cobalt Blue, and Titanium White. I chose a fairly traditional primary color scheme in order to remain as true to my scene as possible. I worked en plein air (on location) over the course of 5 days. Returning to the scene at the same time on a similar days.

For this challenge, I thought I’d search for a subject somewhere along the Monongahela River Valley. Growing up in the southwestern Pennsylvanian city of Duquesne, I am no stranger to the coal mines and steel mills that defined the heritage of this region.

The Mon Valley was basically the Silicon Valley of the Industrial Age. Once a bustling region that produced steel that helped build America and drive the Industrial Revolution. The steel that was shipped out of this area was used to build skyscrapers, automobiles, and to strengthen America’s war machine. The Mon Valley was known for being a place of American ingenuity and promise. Today, due to unprecedented deindustrialization and globalization, its landscape is littered with the skeletal remains of an industry that once seemed unstoppable.

The residents of these former steel towns are in the midst of a decades long postindustrial depression that has shown no sign of letting up. As I drove through the towns of Homestead, Braddock, Rankin, Clairton, McKeesport, and Duquesne looking for subjects, it is clear that they’ve largely been forgotten. I saw thousands of decaying abandoned structures to choose from. Mostly abandoned houses, due to the declining population, but also many buildings, storefronts, churches, and schools. Most of these abandoned structures have been reclaimed by nature, while others have succumbed to fires.

I’ve come to realize that these towns share one cruel but unshakeable truth: they’ve outlasted their original purpose. When most of mills shuttered and work disappeared, the local economies began to fail and many new problems arose: unemployment, blight, population loss, violence, crime, addiction, and poverty.

Poverty is what saddens me the most about these towns. It has remained a persistent problem in the Mon Valley even with many of these towns being just outside of the limits of Pittsburgh. A city with a growing reputation around being a tech hub and its innovations. Where tech giants such as Amazon, Uber, and Google have set up headquarters.

Moving east from Pittsburgh’s urban core into the towns of the Mon Valley like McKeesport or Duquesne can feel like transitioning between worlds. You feel isolated, the remaining population is aging, the economy is mostly gone, storefronts are shuttered, and the children of these communities are bused to neighboring school districts that have not closed.

The scene I chose to paint is on Madison Avenue in McKeesport. There were many vacant homes like this here due to the city’s severe population decline. In the 1940 census the population of McKeesport was around 55.3k whereas today it’s at a mere 19.4k. I was attracted to this scene because of the contrast in architecture between it and the apartment building erected in the background. Both great examples of architecture from 2 separate eras. Something you see often in the Mon Valley. But ultimately I was drawn to this specific abandoned house because it simply felt left behind in a world that has moved on. A theme running through this region and feeling that we as humans all can relate to.

One of the greatest things about being artists, is that we have this ability to give a voice to the things that most people overlook. And if I’ve learned anything as a 21 year old painter it’s that once someone see something as a painting, they tend to never see that thing exactly same way again. They will now see it through my eyes.

Lastly, I just wanted to say it was a joy to participate in this challenge, it’s caused me to deeper explore the region which I’m from. And I can’t wait to check out everyone’s pieces. We’re all in this together. Becoming better artists every day.
See all the entries for the Abandoned House Challenge

To all the finalists, please email me your mailing address so that I can send you a Department of Art patch, and what instructional video download you would like.


Stephen and Nyree said...

Congrats to everyone!

Unknown said...

Great art, background stories, and commentaries! XO

Tyler Gedman said...

Such great pieces came from this challenge!

Ryowazza said...

Wow this is beautiful! I like all the paintings! Congrats to all

CerverGirl said...

These are great works, and thoughtfully written stories. Congratulations to the winners! James, Thank you for the challenge.

CatBlogger said...

Wow, yes!

Salty Pumpkin Studio said...

Congratulations to all the Artists!
Great selections

rmlsing said...

Marvelous artworks! Congratulations to all!

AdrienneMaps said...

What a wonderful challenge! Terrific work, congratulations!

Jenny said...

I really wanted to enter this challenge but never found the right house at the right moment. But now I'm constantly noticing abandoned houses all around me (in Western Mass) - in particular I frequently see falling down or completely collapsed barns or outbuildings next to a fully occupied home. It's quite odd that people don't either repair them or take them down altogether!