The Blog

Work in Progress: Sewer

Sketches for Sewer I painting

This is the first of several “work in progress” posts where I’m going to show how my paintings are created.

Saturday before last, I brainstormed a number of ideas for some upcoming paintings. (My goal is to do 15 - 30 paintings this year, so I can have a new body of work to take with me to start approaching galleries toward the end of the year.) I’m starting a small series dealing with sewer imagery, and it should tie in with the architectural themes in my work.

Reference photo for the first sewer paintingI started out with the rough sketch in my sketchbook, which you see above. The drawing is based loosely on a photograph I took a while back. (I made some desktop art with some of these photos.) Then I picked out a canvas, one that I happened to prepare a few years ago and never found a use for it. It is 16 x 20 inches. The canvas had been covered with plaster applied with a putty knife, so it has a great deal of texture which is appropriate for the subject matter. I had toned it orange back then. If I toned it now, it might have been something a little less electric, but we’ll see how it goes.

On an 18 x 24 inch sheet of paper, I blocked off the 16” x 20” area, then quickly roughed in my image, keeping it pretty loose. I’m going for a mood here, not an exact representation.

Sewer: Large Sketch

Once I got the drawing done, I removed the paper from the canvas, put charcoal on the back, and taped it to the canvas so I could transfer the image to the canvas by drawing back over it.

Sewer: Charcoal

Here you can see some of the texture on the canvas. You might be able to make out the faint lines where the charcoal got transferred. I think the plaster texture is appropriate for a scene that is about 80% concrete.

Sewer: Transferred Drawing

After mixing up a palette of blues and brown, I began blocking in the basic lights and darks for the piece, using very thin paint. It’s still very wet at this point, so there are some shiny spots here and there. I’m surprised how well it’s shaping up already. I’ve found that if I establish fairly strong contrast early on, it’ll save me a lot of time and frustration later.

Sewer: First Coat

This weekend I should start refining it a good bit, getting the paint a lot thicker, deepening the shadows and bringing up the highlights.