Monday, October 29, 2012


GANT HOUSE    11x14     oil on canvas
This is another of my entries for the Columbus Paint Out, "Paint Texas History", which I mentioned in my previous post.  Columbus, Texas is a beautiful memory of a small town built in a curl on the Colorado River and covered with ancient live oak, pines, pecan, magnolia, and elm.  The neighborhood streets are wide and canopied, many without curbs.  Many of their sleepy neighborhoods are filled with proud, old victorian homes with flower gardens, sidewalks and front porches reminding you of a neighborly culture that has disappeared from modern times.  Columbus was, and still is, a railroad town, and must have once thought its future was prosperous and secure.

I set up to paint this scene at 8:30 in the morning, with hardly a sound but the chirping of birds.  I had just about finished blocking-in the color shapes when I heard a series of distant, long, moaning blasts that were growing louder.  Suddenly the bells began ringing at the crossing, red lights began flashing and the traffic arm slowly dropped across the road.  Three linked diesels rounded the corner a hundred yards down the track and came rumbling and thundering my way blowing their horn.

I was set up about five yards from the track, and it was absolutely deafening as that behemoth began to pass. Diesel engines pounding, horn blowing, crossing bells ringing, earth vibrating under my feet, wheels shrieking and clacking and the wind-draft blowing the pages of my sketchbook and hat.  I finally sat down and weighted patiently while over a hundred freight cars of all types clattered by.  As the giant retreated and faded away, the quiet seemed extraordinary, and the birds slowly picked up their chattering.  I returned to my painting with more keen attention to gathering the crucial information I needed, and a heightened sense of getting down the essentials.  I figured there would be another train coming, and the sun wasn't going to hold still.  I learned something from that kind of "seeing".  It cuts out the finicky dawdling that can sub-consciously plague a painter.  I was forced to see the important things in relationship to one another, make judgements, mix colors and values, and put down the marks with an uncommon definiteness of purpose. What may be lost in the way of detail and diddle is replaced by an invigorating vitality of awareness.  I wrote a reminder on my pochade box, "Paint like a train is coming!"

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