Visitors: an homage to those lucky enough to travel freely, and to those who cannot.
I won’t get too political here, this is a blog about painting after all. I am fortunate enough to travel—I grab my passport and credit cards and go. I thought about that while painting this scene from a trip to Venice, Italy. It has been hard not to think about the freedom to travel and I am aghast that my government has put a policy into affect that makes it impossible for certain groups of people to travel freely to and from the United States. Is this really a solution to “American carnage” to quote #45, or is it a knee-jerk alt.facts disregard for the foundations on which the United States was established?
Let me move on to Visitatore. It is from a series of photographs I took during a wickedly-hot June trip to Venice in 2014. I came across these great-looking tourists in a packed Piazza San Marco and I knew that I would use them for something. I have been working on this complex piece for three weeks, and it has proved to be the diversion that I needed to get past a lot of unsettling daily news. Fueled by weekly life-drawing sessions, I chose to be crazy and paint a lot of figures in a detail-laden environment. I spent quite a few days making a precise drawing, and then painted in a wet wash of the background architecture in order to establish the tonal value of the piece. I concentrated on rendering the five foreground figures in full color and paid a lot of attention to their lighting and contrast. I then went on to paint the other figures, attempting to make them less prominent by painting simpler shapes with softer shadows and hues. I wanted the background to recede so I selectively blurred architectural details and flattened the contrast to make simpler shapes. Painterly brushstrokes and impressionistic color was a lot more fun to work on than having to put in all of that Venetian detail, as fabulous as it is.
In the end, the piece has a lot more going on in it than I really wanted. I would do the background with even less. Next time I decide to put fifteen figures in a painting—free-spirited travelers or not—I will handle it differently. I learned a lot, I am a little weary, and ready to move on. The next painting? Maybe a February snow scene from the park, with no people planned.
Arches cold press, 300 lb, 21.5″ x 14.25″