An Impressionist Moment
photos by Judith Lane
This past August, I
entered a painting contest at the South Street Seaport. It was sponsored by the Muscadet
wine consortium and was entitled 'An Impressionist Moment.' Thirty artists participated;
we had five hours to paint a scene at the seaport in the Impressionist 'style.' During the
entire day my fiancée, Judy Lane, photographed the evolution of my painting.
The six images
displayed here represent key stages of my painting process.
12:25 p.m. I
found this scene interesting
compositionally because of the dynamics created by the steps going up, the cafe going back
into deep space, the hazy cityscape backdrop, the boats on the left and the people in the
foreground. In other words, it had a little of everything. There was a strong play of
color as well: the red boat on the left, the red door on the right, the pattern of the
green plants interspersed throughout the picture, the play of shadow and light on the
sidewalk, etc. I was excited and I got right to work! I began to paint at 12:25 pm.
( When I took this photograph the red boat was hidden behind a white boat, which came and
went all day long)
When on location, I take my half-size
French easel, which holds all the paint tubes and brushes I need, and a small container of
oil medium. The easel comes with a folding palette on which I pre-mix all my colors before
leaving the studio. (This was very beneficial for the contest; it gave me an extra
forty-five minutes to paint). For this occasion, I brought a 20" x 28" stretched
Belgian linen canvas, primed with acrylic gesso, with a thin ground of mixed white
(titanium and zinc) oil paint, onto which I painted a thin umber tone (I never work on a
white surface). This photo shows how I begin painting by drawing guidelines on the canvas
with a thin solution of burnt umber paint mixed with painting medium (I use Old Holland
Oil Painting Medium). I identify the largest shapes and use an economy of lines to block
out the whole image. If I make a mistake at this stage (for instance, if I need to shift
everything to the left), I take a soft, dry rag and rub the offending lines out. I cannot
emphasize enough how important this first stage is to the painting. The earlier design
problems are detected, the easier they will be to fix!