There is something really beneficial in joining an organization and jumping in to participating in challenges. The NMWS local chapter in Las Cruces is hosting a “For the Love of Art” show at the Las Cruces Railroad Museum, and the theme is railroad architecture. I’m not horribly comfortable with drawing or painting architecture, but I wanted to pitch in and have something to contribute to the show. Just this very process led to a great experience in learning about perspective, and trying new materials.
Well, I’m calling the masa paper that I have “new” but truth be told, it has been in my supplies for years waiting for “just the right time”….haha! I know you understand how that goes… I also have a lot of books on my shelves, several at least have to do with perspective and drawing and architecture, and again…they have been on my shelves for quite awhile. I guess I think that if I own the books, the knowledge is in my head automatically. A little learning turns out to be a great thing!
So on a gloomy day with some sun shining through, I drove down to the El Paso Union Depot and sketched and took pictures. The sun never came out when I was down there, of course, but that’s ok.
El Paso Union Depot tower sketch
El Paso Union Depot sketches 2
Rough painting El Paso Union Depot
I went to my painting group and tried to paint it without a good drawing underneath, no ruler, and no ability to concentrate. Life gets like that sometimes, and I knew that I’d have to try it at home.
After a day or two, I thought the colors and basic shape were interesting on the painting and thought, why not try and collage masa paper over it?
After viewing several tutorials and videos on the paper, I jumped in, cut paper to the right size, wadded it up several times, dunked it in water and glued it down to the wc paper with a mix of diluted gel medium and water, and then put some layers of color over it and let it dry.
first stage of masa paper overlay
second stage of masa paper overlay
So I had a decent collage with potential, some of the previous painted image painting through, and I thought, ok, perhaps that could be the “historical” depot shining through the collage with the present day painted on top, an idea that didn’t come through because of the logistics of the size, but again, playing with possibilities was fun.
I used the book The Art of Perspective. On page 115 it speaks about your eye level, a line you determine and you use to establish the sideways angles on buildings with the vertical lines parallel to each other. In this sketch, my eye level is below the tower, so the angled lines on the sides of the building go DOWN to meet the eye level line, and if I were looking down on the tower, hovering in the air, those same angled lines would be angled UP. it makes perfect sense when you see it in black and white, and even better sense when you get out a ruler and try to make the lines and angles match what you see in real life or in the photo.
I used the angle of the left side of the cupola or steeple top from the photo and copied that angle and laid my paper on a much larger paper with a yardstick and drew the line down to that eye level line I drew and that point where they intersect became my vanishing point. Then all the other lines on that side met at that vanishing point which made the window tops and bottoms, the decoration on the building, etc all line up in perspective.
Masa paper collaged and painted overtop with accurate sketch
positioning on the lightbox
I took the collage and the sketch to the lightbox and played with where I wanted the sketch to be in relation to the existing lights and darks of the painting. The piece must be 8.5″ square, so that limited where I could put it, so I couldn’t do the vague idea of a shadow depot in the painting, but I’m much happier with this and how the lights hit the side of the steeple.
graphited on back, spray fixative, light marks on piece
Because of the layers of paper, I couldn’t use the lightbox to transfer the sketch onto it, so I used an 8B graphite pencil to darken the back of the sketch, sprayed it quickly with a workable fixative, and then lightly sketched. I didn’t want to put graphite smudges onto the collage, and I could see that even with the spray the potential was there, so I kept my marks light, but I could, and should, have darkened the details on the tower because I had to go in later and do that roughly after the background tower was on.
So here are the final stage of painting the tower. I really like the misty effect of using the masa paper to add texture. Because it is soft and fragile, this technique doesn’t allow for much lifting color, but I could do enough manipulation of values and color to be happy with it.
Stage one of the finished painting
Stage 2 of finished
Stage 3 of finished
Stage four of finished
So I am now looking forward to the show! The opening will be on the First Friday Art Ramble of February, and all of the pieces in the show will be framed identically in 12″ square metal frames with an 8″ piece of art inside the mat. All the pieces will be $125. I will blog more details about the opening as it gets closer.
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