The Little Caboose That Could

We are so lucky to have a working train yard in Alamosa and "scenic" trains, pulled by steam locomotives that go out of town in 2 directions.
Back in March, Sue McCullough and I went out early on a beautiful morning to paint this little caboose and got a pretty good start before the wind really kicked up. There is no protection out on the tracks and always a lot of dirt flying around. We were holding down our easels and chewing grit before finally baling out.
I really hate leaving the field with a piece unfinished and tell my students how important it is to do the center of attention (or the complex) stuff FIRST.
HA! Good advice I did not heed in this case.

So the "unfinished caboose" has been sitting around my studio -
until Cody, a 4 year old friend and train enthusiast came by recently - just because he saw it through the window. Cody is not a casual train fan; he knows his stuff, wanted to view all of my "train work", gave me a few pointers and suggested I finish the Caboose painting.
Thanks Cody!

Well, this piece, may or may not stand the test of time but it made one train enthusiast happy.

The Locals

Speaking of trains - this was Cody's favorite; a little beyond his budget, and as he pointed out, a diesel locomotive, when he would prefer a painting of a steam locomotive . . . . I'll get right on that.
"Commuter"(11"x 14"), was painted one morning while the locomotive sat in the station before heading out on the daily run from Alamosa to Monte Vista. This painting sold to another train lover just last week.

To the right, "Little Red" (9"x 12") was an unusual little engine, and only in the rail yard for a short time. I painted it on a beautiful day last March and it sold out of Earthwood Gallery in Boulder.

All these pieces were painted en plein air and depict areas around the Alamosa rail yard except for this one "Cold Storage" (9"x 12"), done one late afternoon at the tracks in Monte Vista. I remember it being very cold.

For awhile there was the coolest yellow diesel locomotive in the yard, and a red crane that I was so wanting to paint - and I did - in the rain, and I wasn't dawdling.
You can see, at the bottom, where rain drops have lifted my acrylic under painting.
At the time, I thought "Storm at the Railyard" (12"x 16"), was about the craziest painting I had ever done but it went on to win 1st Place at the "Trains, Planes, and Automobiles" Show at the Cloyde Snook Gallery and I was especially flattered when it was purchased by a railroad worker.

This last one (14"x 11"), on another rainy day, was actually my first trip to the tracks in Alamosa - to paint. It was purchased for the collection in the SLV Regional Medical Center.
So that is my train "stuff". Of course, not every attempt;
I've had my share of bombs and wipe offs. I hope I am getting better; sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but I will keep going back.


Class Notes - Methods, Direct and Indirect

A few posts ago in"Painting Out - Sort of"- I talked a bit about the benefit of a simple window view as a starting place for plein air work.
These 5 minute, 6"x 8" class demos use the same window view and simple composition to address 4 basic methods for laying-in a painting.
In the demo at the top I used the DIRECT method; opaque paint directly on to the white canvas.

The lower three employ different versions of the INDIRECT method. This refers to the use of an under painting which is paint mixed with thinner and used as a wash to cover the canvas and establish the major masses before going in with heavier, more opaque paint to bring a piece to finish.
In the second demo, I used a "Value" under painting of dark paint, mine is a mixture of Utramarine and Alizarin Crimson, to indicate major masses and establish a value pattern of dark and light. When the heavier paint was added on top, thin passages were left to add dimension.

The third piece has a "Complement" under painting, using washes of color complementary to what the final colors are to be. The complementary under painting shows through in places and adds excitement to the piece.

At the bottom I used a "Light/Dark" under painting, simply washing the major masses in a pattern of light and dark with 2 colors. The colors will serve as a guide to the pattern of dark and light masses.
These terse little demos show how different methods can make for big differences in the look of a piece. As well, good under painting (- good, not tight) can do a lot of the heavy lifting in a piece. Once the canvas has been COVERED with some kind of wash under painting, the opaque paint does the job of defining the subject instead of working to cover the canvas.
The INDIRECT method has been around for centuries. I put a more contemporary spin on it in my landscape work with the use of bright colors to indicate the pattern of light or add drama and excitement to major masses.
There is no wrong answer here, just different approaches.
Need a change? Try a new method and see where it leads.