Sailing into Spring

Isn’t it nice to finally see some sunshine? I know I’m enjoying it. The sun inspires me. Tom and I actually got out last night and took a walk.

I also was finally able to spend some time in my garden. Gosh, I wish I were a better gardener! I think I may have cut back some of my bushes a bit too far. I hope not. I guess time, sunshine, and Mother Nature will let me know!

Meanwhile, the process of creating my new painting of the Ship Hotel has begun.

After last week’s newsletter, many of you wrote to me about your experiences with the S.S. Grand View Ship Hotel. Your stories were so much fun to read, and I really appreciate your sharing them with me.  A common thread was that feeling of surprise – driving in the country along the mountain highway, then all of a sudden saying, “What the heck is that?!” For many of you, stopping at the Ship Hotel became a family road-trip tradition on the way to a favorite vacation spot. Some remembered the excitement of watching for the ship or looking through that big telescope up on the top deck.

Your memories, in fact, would be really helpful to me right now. I’m gathering the resources to start on my new Ship Hotel painting, and I have papers and photos strewn all about my office. In the old days, I had to visit the library to look up old photos, but nowadays, Google Images is my jam. I look at everything I can get my hands on to get the best possible sense of what I want to paint. One photo may show the spectacular view to its best advantage, but another photo may give me a little more detail of the sign… Sometimes my compositions are cobbled together from multiple photos.

It sure would be a lot easier to go there and take my own photos, which I typically do every time I paint a new piece.  Unfortunately, the Ship Hotel was lost to arson not long after 9/11, taking away any chance for a new owner to come along and lovingly restore this wonderful bit of Americana.  So in this case, I must use old resources and base the painting on research.

The client who commissioned the project told me that, back in the day, one of his favorite cars was a 1969 Studebaker Avanti. I’ve been trying to find anything I can online, but if you happen to know of anyone who may have one that I could take a look at, it sure would be a big help. The car will be front and center in the painting, so it’s really important that I grasp its essence.

Here’s what I have in mind: Based on old black-and-white photographs, I’ll paint my client’s father entering the car and his mom sitting in the front seat.  The actual photos are really of his dad with friends in a living room and his mom (wearing cat’s-eye glasses!), playing cards with her friends. In another part of the painting, I’ll place my client and his sister with a dark-blue VW that he once owned. It’s my way of personalizing the painting for him and adding real people into my work – I think putting them into my paintings really adds to the story. And of course, I will find a place for Tom!

Once I had my composition in mind, I started with a pencil sketch, about 7 x 9 inches. Then, because the photos are a little difficult to see, I made it into a pen and ink drawing to shore up the detail. Next, I sent it to my client for first approval before translating it into a larger format.

While I’m searching for resources, I’m making other important decisions: What time of day will it be? What will the background look like? What elements do I want to pull forward to showcase, and which ones will I push into the background to support the painting? In the meantime, I can start the actual sketch.  Eventually, my process will be to sketch the entire painting onto a museum-quality pastel board that I will then paint over with my soft pastels.

Stay tuned for the next steps as the painting takes shape! Any thoughts?

P.S. –  My Facebook friends may have seen this story, but I would like to share it with all of you.

Three of my original paintings and my new Jolly Old Elf  book are displayed in the front window of Lee Heckman Custom Framing and Gallery on Beverly Road in Mt. Lebanon. I am greatly honored that a few of my clients were willing to donate their pieces. The display will be up in the window for a short while, so if you happen to be in the area, please stop by and see! Lee and Paul are amazing at creating the unique, perfect frames to showcase my art.