An Oldie But Goodie. . .

3 Oct

I started this piece in 1980. No seriously, it was thirty-two-years ago. It’s a painting of an old supermarket in the West Portal shopping district of San Francisco. I did it it for an assignment in illustration class at the Academy of Art College, my alma mater (now called the Academy of Art University.) I never finished it. We were supposed to do a street scene for the assignment and I don’t even remember if I turned in something else instead, because I had put this one aside as a failure. I probably just took an incomplete for that assignment–I used to do that in those days.

I started in conventional watercolors on a really expensive piece of watercolor board, copying the composition from a black-and-white Polaroid print I took down at West Portal. (It was the really old-fashioned kind of Polaroid where you peel off a tan film covering after the print develops. I still have the camera–not sure if it still works, or if they even sell that kind of film anymore.) The conventional watercolors weren’t working out that well and the thing was getting overworked and muddy looking, so I switched to Dr. Martin’s watercolor dyes. Then I made a few mistakes and I decided that I would white them out with acrylic gesso; then I turned the whole piece into a white gesso board, with watercolor, dyes, and colored pencil all used over the gesso. Some of the effects were interesting, but on the whole, I thought the painting was a failure.

But there were parts of it I thought were really nice. That meant that the unfinished piece was in the too-good-to-throw-out, but not-good-enough-to finish, league. I carted  it around from place to place as I lived my life, and have kept it in a flat file for the last fifteen years or so.

Finally, I took it out earlier this year and looked at it and suddenly I knew what had been wrong with it all along: the values (what artists call the pattern of lights and darks in a composition) were too busy and scattered, and not unifed enough. A major problem was the figure in the foreground of the lady in the pantsuit–the pantsuit was originally white with blue shadows, and she just blended into the background instead of being a focal point. I took out some colored pencils and colored her pantsuit yellow, and then I started to complete the rest of the picture in colored pencil. (I lost the Polaroid print years ago so I had to make do with memory to complete some of the detail.)

The completed piece is not perfect, but I like it well enough to take it out of my unsuccessful pile of work and put it in the successful one. I’m not sure if I will sell the original or not–it kind of seems like a shame to let it go after all these years. I may just have some giclee prints made of it and sell those instead. In the meantime, here it is: the painting that took thirty-two years to finish:

“Outdoor Market, West Portal,” copyright 2012, by S. K. Cole. All rights reserved.

Outdoor Market, West Portal
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2 Responses to “An Oldie But Goodie. . .”

  1. Rose Mary Bucher October 5, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Susan, Your paintings are great! You are on a roll. Keep going? It is wonderful. Rose Mary

    • foleytown October 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

      Thanks Rose, I appreciate that!

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