Richmond From Legend / oil painting and urban legend

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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.

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Fine Winter’s Sky / woodcut by Kawase Hasui / Feb 1921

IMG_1363 This is a great exhibit at the VMFA. It’s so inspirational. The plaques say it’s ink and color woodcut prints on paper. I wonder if it’s watercolor because they have some watercolor paintings by the artist. The colors look transparent on the woodcuts too. A lot of depth is showing. One of the plaques says it’s not traditional Japanese landscape. They also have a lot of info on the process he used. It’s complicated. But good to see how much work went into them. You can see layers of colors. I tried to see through the layers. Kawase Hasui did watercolor studies and changed his composition and colors during the steps to the finished prints. He didn’t shy away from detail. The ones with snow have thousands of white dots for snow and the ones with rain have skinny gray lines to represent rain. I wonder if they did a separate wood plate for the snow and printed it on top or if they gouged out tiny dots on the wood block so the ink wouldn’t go in those places on every block. If you like looking at fine woodcuts you should see this exhibit.

Port of Ebisu / Dec. 1921

Port of Ebisu / woodcut print/ Dec. 1921

Corn Shed ’14 / oil

corn shed 14 oil
This is my second painting of the corn shed. I think it came out better than the one I did last year, so I guess my drawing and painting skills are improving.

I layered glazes on top of glazes here. I painted impasto with my palette knife and also used the palette knife to scratch through glazes. Using thick paint and thin paint on the canvas adds interest because the eye compares different sections of the painting and the textures keep the eye moving around the canvas.

That Alvi’s Maroger Medium is the best stuff, my artist friends. You can do glazes, bleeds, paint impasto, add texture.
Everything you can do with any other kind of paint you can do with oil paint. You can do dry brush, work into your bleeds paint thin lines without much turp, and the medium holds it in place and makes the surface nice and slick so the paint slides easily.

I posted my underpainting below so you can see the major changes I did to this painting. And I put some text on it about linear perspective.

Corn Shed ’14 underpainting

corn shed underpainting
My charcoal sketch for this painting is posted below. I can’t trace my sketch and transfer it to my tinted canvas, I had to draw it again freehand with charcoal on the canvas. Linear perspective is still difficult for me but the more I try to draw it the better it gets. The boards on the shed are warped and not all straight. The temptation is to draw lines horizontal on the canvas when I know they’re horizontal, but the eye sees the lines going up hill and getting that close to what the eye sees makes linear perspective work.

Sometimes when I’m trying to draw a building I hold my charcoal out at arms length and close one eye, resting my arm on my easel to keep it steady. I hold the charcoal or pencil out like that to measure. With figure drawing that helps get proportions and angles right but with linear perspective I have to eyeball it to make my corrections. I don’t get it right on the first try and not on the second try here either. I corrected it again when I added layers of glazes. That’s one thing I like about oil paint, it’s easy to paint over and make it look better. I can make major changes in a painting and if I don’t show you, you can’t see my mistakes.

Richmond, VA. and Shockoe Valley / oil

Richmond with shockoe

I posted a photo from this overlook on Oct. 20 / 2012.
I didn’t use a photo or ruler to do this painting. It’s all freehand in plein air. It took me over 40 hours to get it finished but I enjoyed hanging around on this beautiful spot for 2 or 3 hours every day. And I had to take my time and go over it again and again until I had the colors and values close enough to what I see. Getting the values and colors right gives the effect of aerial perspective. My lines aren’t exactly straight but close enough that it doesn’t bug me.

I have to keep challenging myself so my drawing and painting skill will improve. This is a complicated drawing and I didn’t want to leave anything out except the traffic. So I did simplify it a little. First I drew it on an 11×15 sketchbook and it looked kind of crowded so I decided to use an 18×24 canvas since it’s a little easier to draw larger. I knew I had my proportions and perspective close to right when it all fit into the space.

the Rose Garden at Lewis Ginter Botanical / oil

The air around me was thick with the scent of roses and Maroger Medium. Intoxicating!

The air around me was thick with the scent of roses and Maroger Medium. Intoxicating!


I’m enjoying the Maroger Medium so much! It smells great, just like in days of yore at York Academy of Art. It’s the perfect weight and consistency for painting glazes in the couch or mixing it in with the paint and layering it on thick.

It’s so nice to hang around at Lewis Ginter Botanical every day for a few hours while I work on my painting. Sometimes I get surrounded by a bus load of kids and I don’t mind. Most of the time I’m alone with few distractions.

More artists should go there and paint in plein air. Everyone thinks what you’re doing is beautiful even at the charcoal stage when you know it’s not right. They think the underpainting is a finished painting. What I’m trying to say is, artists, don’t fear failure. They can’t tell anyway. 🙂 So, go out to that beautiful place every day and paint. Become a fixture. It’s a Zen thing. It’s good for you.

Poe’s Enchanted Garden / my underpainting

problems with linear perspective

problems with linear perspective


I started with a charcoal sketch on my 11 x 14 sketchbook. I’m trying to draw architecture freehand by eyeballing it so my drawing skill will improve. As I’m making corrections on my angles and lines my drawing gets bigger and bigger on the page. I hold out my pencil and try to estimate the proportions but it still goes off. That’s when I know my drawing is out of control.

When I got home and looked at it I thought the perspective wasn’t too far off but it was too crowded on that size page.

Then when I went back to draw it on the 16 x 20 canvas with charcoal it worked out better. Practicing on the smaller sketchbook helped me to visualize it on the canvas.

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