Skip to main content

The enormous blank canvas

I knew I wanted some more Sutro Tower for the living room, and was especially eyeing the space above the funky fireplace for just such a thing.  I planned on getting a canvas, perhaps something a little larger than I usually work with.  Then a friend called to say they were in an art supply store that was closing and would I like any of the clearance items?  Turns out they had some crazy deals on canvases and without really thinking of the measurements, I quickly said yes to what sounded like something sufficiently largish.  Perfect!  When I went to pick it up and transport it home on the bus, it really hit home just how dang huge the thing was.

waiting at the bus stop

It was an awkward bus ride, mostly because it was so much more crowded than it should have been and no one seated around me seemed to comprehend my death-stares when they accidentally kept kicking my canvas.  But I finally got it home and quickly set to procrastinating over actually using it.  

The thing is, the largeness of the canvas (36"x48") meant I needed to figure out how to work at a larger scale than anything I'd done before (other than painting walls, and that really doesn't count, now does it?).  

I started painting when I started seminary, in 2000.  I'd been creative-writing this and that until that point, very rarely finishing anything, but when grad school started and suddenly I was inundated with academic writing, both the reading and writing of it, I just couldn't really stomach the idea of even more words.  So I turned to painting as an outlet, and it served me well.  It was a relief after all the mental gymnastics of theological studies to just use color.  I've never needed my painting to be my "thing" (like writing) so I'm way, way WAY more forgiving of the giant holes in skills that I have than I am in things I really want to succeed at.  Which makes it a genuine outlet.  I was raised with the sense that there was always something fun to do as long as there was something you could make, and you could make something out of just about anything.  I credit my mom for that.  So, with painting, my favorite part is still in experimenting with color (read: mucking with it until I find something I like) and trying out different materials (like salt, green tea, coffee grounds, house paint or feathers).  As a ten-year-old recently observed after spying my paintings for the first time, "So, you do abstract art."  Which is a very generous way of saying that while I can't make anything look like the thing it really is, I can sometimes make it feel like it, at least for myself.  She's ten, she likes to paint, we have an understanding.  

So when I finally set to the enormous blank canvas I tried really really hard not to get freaked out by how huge the thing was, and took it step by step.  As I start my next novel and hope to try something much larger than what I've accomplished before in writing, its probably something I should to do more of.  No way to know how the writing will turn out yet, but here's how the blank canvas became a painting:

background color: fog

taped off the boundaries.  this little trick is great if you always failed the "can you draw a straight line?" test

Painter's assistant

The tower begins to emerge.  I ended up needing three coats of the orange paint (which just happened to be the same orange paint I used on my writing desk) for it to look solid.

Tape removed.  Removing the tape is by far the most fun part of the process.  I imagine it's like getting plastic surgery and not knowing what you really look like until you remove the bandages.

Close up of the fog.  I used modeling paste for the very first time.  A friend had given it to me and I didn't even know what it did.  Googled it and soon found what I'd been missing all my life: the ability to add texture to the paint.  


The finished product!  Fog enhanced! 
   
I'm 85% happy with how it turned out, which isn't bad.  I feel slightly less intimidated to try another similarly scaled project.  And perhaps best of all, now when it's too foggy to spy Sutro Tower from out the window (and because I'm in the Inner Richmond, that's like every other day), I have my little version above the mantle.  

Comments

  1. I think your painting is wonderful. It is truly an ode' to good ole' San Fran!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

For Mom, Twenty-One Years Later

I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not had her as long as I did have her.
It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares refreshments.
People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness.
I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom.



Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember her any way I want. Which means I can also mis-remem…

The 2018 Iceland Report: Part Last

The exciting (or at least the inevitable) conclusion of Part One and Part Two of Icelandic awesomeness....


Day Six: Ekra Cottage/ Lagarfljótsvirkjun to Höfn
This day was all about epic scenery. Kilometer after kilometer of stunning beauty. The ever-shifting sweeping views afforded us herds of wild reindeer, giant snowy fjords, a mossy valley, snow blowing across the road like dry ice, lava rock, waterfalls. It was a total feast.













Our halfway point was Djúpivogur which houses a collection of giant roadside marble eggs, each one fashioned after a particular type of bird's egg.



We arrived in Höfn and checked out the harbor and the free museum (a welcome respite from the windy harbor) before checking into our guesthouse. Which we had all to ourselves. We made one last meal of fusilli and bell pepper (fusilli meal #4 for the trip for those keeping track - I'll be taking a good long break from fusilli now) and read. I found a left-behind copy of The Silence of the Sea by Yrsa Sigurðar…

The Quarterly Reading Report

It's been waaaaaay too long since I posted a Quarterly Reading Report. I'm about to amend that situation. I have lucked on some pretty spectacular reading in 2018 so far--some recent publications but most not--and I'd be a bad friend if I didn't share these titles with you.

In the excellent crime detective/thriller department, we have Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's THE SILENCE OF THE SEA, which I've already posted about. It was the perfect book for atmospheric Iceland. I also loved Tana French's THE TRESPASSER. Set in Dublin, Ireland (I think 80% of what I love best about a crime detective/thriller is that it is placed in an incredibly interesting setting), the protagonist is a difficult (and therefore interesting) woman in a man's world working the hardest case of her life. The writing is super in this engrossing page-turner.

I got to fill in some sad gaps in my consumption of books written in the 80s and 90s and early Oughts. Also a thriller, Peter Hoeg's