Richmond From Legend / oil painting and urban legend


This is the story about the urban legend. When I moved to Richmond long ago, one of my first friends here asked me to drive her over to Southside to see her Dad. He was glad I brought her and wanted us to stay to eat. When he asked me about myself and found out I was new in town, he wanted to tell me things about Richmond that aren’t in the tour books. This is what he said.

“If Richmond is your home, you can go away. You can live and work somewhere else, but you will come back to live and work here again.”

I asked him if it was true and he said yes. I asked him why, but he didn’t know. I thought that did bode well for Richmond, because not every community has that attitude of expecting you to come back if it is your home. And it makes common sense too. Then I didn’t give it another thought for a lot of years until my daughter, Sarah moved to Atlanta.

Now, Atlanta’s a lot of fun, but it’s too far away, so I told Sarah about the urban legend, hoping she’d come back. She didn’t believe it was a true urban legend, but I said I don’t think the old timer made it up. Then one time Sarah was talking to a friend of hers who knows the urban legends here and asked about it. The friend said yes, it is a true urban legend that you will come back to Richmond. And she had another good piece of information.

How to Break Richmond’s Spell.

Dance Out of Monroe Park.

Isn’t that great?! I could do that! hahahahah !!

And here’s another good thing. Sarah left Atlanta and it looks like she might settle down in Norfolk, which isn’t Richmond, but it’s not too far and Norfolk is nice.

About the painting. WHEW!! That was difficult. A few years ago I wouldn’t have even attempted to draw it, but since I’ve tried to draw architecture a few times, I thought I could do it. The perspective isn’t perfect, but it’s not bugging me, so maybe no one will notice where I went off.

I had to work on it at home a lot because of the heat and humidity around here. It’s too hot out for your plein air painter. I got my colors mixed up at Legend and went back to check what I did at home against real life and made corrections. I wished the Legend Brewery themed show at Artworks was in the winter instead of Aug.

I painted the sky at home on a couple rainy days, from imagination.

The windows. I didn’t use my ruler for the windows, but I used my #2 round brush as the width of my lines. It’s easy to paint skinny lines if you paint in the couch with Maroger Medium. I hoped to catch the reflections. To check my lines I look down the edge of my canvas  the way you look down the edge of a piece of plywood to see if it’s warped. I had to try to paint the windows even though it was time consuming. The thought of the buildings without windows sounds nightmarish to me.  The city is more than just boxes made of steel and concrete. It’s layers of people working.

I wanted to paint the Federal Reserve so it would shimmer a little. So I did a layer of cool gray and let it dry. Then went over it with a glaze of warm white and scraped through it with a comb to show the first layer of gray coming through. And went over the lines with my palette knife scratching off more lines of paint.

The James River. I mixed up my colors on the floodwall. I didn’t copy nature, but arranged the rapids so some would fit in. Then I faked the river in at home.


Richmond From Legend / underpainting and photos

Camera perspective V the naked eye perspective

Camera perspective V the naked eye perspective

I drew it on paper, standing on the deck at Legend Brewery a few weeks ago in the morning before they opened, and left when the customers started to come in for lunch. It took me a few weeks to get my charcoal sketch, as seen on a post below, then more time to draw it on the canvas with charcoal. I didn’t use a photo, but measured the perspective by holding my charcoal out at an arm’s length and using the Federal Reserve building as a unit of measure. I thought I had the perspective close enough to real, then I ran into a stopping point when I started on the underpainting one morning.

The light is better in the afternoon on the city, but Legend gets crowded some afternoons, and the weather is still iffy a lot of days, which stopped me and was a problem I needed to work out before painting.

This painting is complicated, and after years of drawing from life outside in nature, I don’t enjoy painting from a photo. When you get used to seeing the subject life size, then have to look at a photo, it’s like the photo is so small and the perspective is smushed and the colors are flat. It was just more practical to use photos at this step. I had my camera set on automatic for the shots  printed out here, and taped them together, so I could get the afternoon light in my underpainting. I took these shots from the floodwall, which is a little lower and closer to the river than Legend. The skyline looks like 36 inches to my naked eye and looks like 18 inches to my camera. I did the underpainting at home. I’d rather have been at Legend.

I had to get a different  state of mind to paint using the photos. I hear other artists get stuck with a painting too. I went over to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and drew some Lotus flowers, meanwhile. And I need to draw more Lotuses before I can get a plan worked out for the Lotus painting. The Lotuses are a good distraction from the difficult city painting.

Our teachers at York Academy of Art told us to do a detailed underpainting. It wasn’t easy, but I got it, finally. At this rate, I’ll probably have the painting finished by Aug. for the show I entered at Artworks. Now I have to go to Legend in the afternoon to mix my colors. Building up layers of color on top of my dark underpainting with the lightest and brightest colors the most opaque, I hope to get the illusion of depth in the painting, and make my city POP!!