After a two day rain delay I have had two full days splashing paint.  It feels very good.  Surface prep is vital for the longevity of an outdoor painting.  I have applied many coats of primer and gesso to the walls I am painting but wielding a roller was a bit maddening when my hand wanted a brush.  Now I am well and truly launched.

I transferred the sketches with a good old overhead transparency projector (endangered technology) using a method suggested by my friend Ray Troll.  I photographed my sketches, printed them as transparencies, bought an elderly projector from the list of Craig and, flashed them up on the walls here as evening fell.  It worked like a champ and two months of work on two giant sketches went onto the walls with ease.

PROJECT-A-SKETCH!  Allosaur stalking in a forest of conifers and ferns.

Now I am working mostly with a mixture of Payne’s gray and cobalt blue- a blue gray color that I am laying into all the shaded areas and also washing over distant landscape elements.  I’ll work through the entire painting laying out all the main elements and then begin to add color.  I have put a bit of color into the scene- a few rocks, a few trees and shrubs and a river bank but mostly I’m working in blue-gray.  Already the depth is showing- the atmosphere is a bowl of very thin blue liquid and the farther away an object is, the bluer and more faded and more lacking in detail it is.  Following this principle even as a monochrome the mural has depth.

And oh, the fun of paining in dinosaur shapes!

Allosaur in blue with two Archaeopteryx.  The Jurassic takes shape.

There are times when things just work.  I am painting effortlessly and joyfully right now.  I have studied my subjects well enough that I know how dinosaurs were put together.  I’ve spent two months working out solutions to compositional problems.  I have spent weeks visualizing how to approach the painting- the sequence of washes, color perspective, what elements to stress, how to guide the viewer’s eye, where to hide surprises.  The actual painting feels easy and I love stepping away from the walls and seeing two dimensions become three.

Representational painting is largely a lie- trying to convince a viewer that a flat surface has depth.  Color and line and arrangement of elements must harmonize to suggest that the viewer can step into the painting.  Representing nature requires that the artist be aware of and counteract the tendency to fall into obviously repetitive patterns- no forest looks like an orchard. A painting that extends to the ground offers a grand opportunity to invite the viewer to go for a walk and I am thrilled so far with what is happening here.  I choose the passive voice intentionally- when I am painting at my best I am engaged in setting up slightly controlled accidents, splashes of color that look unplanned .  The trick is not to think but to do and observe, letting the hand and eye carry on a dance and keeping the gray matter largely on the sideline.  So far so good.  There is much more to come.  Stay tuned.  Soon I will describe the idyllic setting in which I am painting 10 hours a day.