Long ago I worked in the multi-image industry, as part of a small, seven-person company that won many of the top awards in world-wide international competition. The image above was one of the animation stills that we crafted for a 1984 presentation we created for Newport News Shipbuilding (now a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries), one of the last remaining US Navy shipbuilders in the nation. The presentation was intended to illustrate to visitors of all levels just what the shipyard did and what it was capable of creating; it ran for the better part of a decade there at the shipyard. This particular still is an example of hand-drawn 3-point perspective – and as I recall – had some 35 different overlays that translated into 70 positive and negative pieces of film, which were then shot on 35mm film and combined entirely in camera to produce the finished image. This was all done before computer graphics burst on the scene a few years later.
Photo info: Still from a presentation created for Newport News Shipbuilding Slidemaker Productions Richmond, Virginia 1984 Kodak Ektachrome 100 film Nikon 50/2.0 lens FOROX rostrum camera and animation stand
A little over three years ago, Cindy and I were going through some high levels of stress while dealing with her elderly mother and the house in Annapolis, Maryland, that she had lived in since 1960 or so. At age 94 – some 8 months prior to the images on this page – her mother had finally gotten senior dementia bad enough that she could no longer safely remain in her home on her own, and she needed to be transferred to an adult assisted-living facility. Everything was a challenge during that time. After we finally got her mom successfully out of the house, we were faced with the onerous task of cleaning it out prior to putting it on the market for sale.
Why was the task so difficult? Because the house was literally crammed with the results of nearly 60-years of hoarding, with some items dating back all the way to the early 1930s. So Cindy and I began emptying the house one room at a time, filling up more than 12 huge dumpsters with junk over the course of 9 months – and that still didn’t finish emptying the property. We finally admitted defeat and called in the experts to complete the job, which took many more dumpsters yet after our initial efforts.
At one point in June 2019, after many hours of exhausting work filling up one of the seemingly endless dumpsters, I finally called for a rest break and decided that I needed to de-stress. And for me, that entailed getting some iced tea, breaking out my plein air watercoloring kit, grabbing a chair, and sitting in the shade of some trees in the backyard. The image above was where I found myself, and I decided to just go ahead and paint that. First I used my dip pen and ink to create a rough sketch, which you can see below.
Then I pre-dampened the watercolor paints and began to mix some colors, and applied them in approximate places on the paper, which you can see below.
Everything goes quickly on a painting like this. For one, even though I was seated in the shade, it was quite hot outside, and the paints dried almost as fast as they were applied to the paper. Two, even though I was taking a break, we still had a virtual mountain of junk remaining to be transferred to the dumpster for pickup early the next morning – so it wasn’t as if I could take all afternoon to complete this artwork.
Nearing the end of the time I had available, the painting looked pretty good to my eyes. Was it perfect? No, but then nothing ever is. Was it successful as a piece of art? Well, I was certainly pleased with it. And I had achieved my goal, which was to do something that I enjoyed immensely to lower my stress levels from the task at hand. The final result is as you see it below.
I later mounted this little painting to a blank greeting card, and sent it to my best friend for his birthday.
Painting info: Bucolic backyard scene Annapolis, Maryland June 2019 Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors Schmincke Horadam Aquarell watercolors Fluid 100 100% cotton 140 lb cold press paper 4”x6”
I feel compelled by Judith, over at Artistcoveries, to post these “works”… my earliest saved plein art pieces – which my mom proudly pasted into the family photo memory album at the time. There were other artworks – both plein air and studio – I remember doing prior to these, but those weren’t kept… for unknown reasons. Beyond these three, I don’t actually have any other art from my youth, high school, or college years left remaining; much of it was lost, thrown away, given away, or stolen during my many moves over the years. I now wish that I’d retained my earlier work, but life happens.
The top image was painted in July 1969, during a summer vacation we had at the La Grulla Gun Club, a favorite hangout of the wealthy down near Ensenada – in Baja, Mexico. A well-heeled great cousin (great-great-cousin?) paid for my parents and me to join her on her annual retreat there, and art supplies were one of the things available to keep youngsters like me occupied. I was 8-years-old at the time, and I only vaguely remember painting this plein air landscape. Instead, I remember more clearly that some kid a little older than me got his hand badly injured by fireworks while we were there, and later eating an abalone steak in a local restaurant that was real thick and the size of a dinner plate – something which is unheard of these days.
The middle image, below, I drew outside with pastels that my mom bought for me, just before my 10th birthday. From a young age I was focused on making art that looked reasonably close to what I could see with my own eyes, and that included perspective. Luckily for me, my mom – an artist herself – decided to push me in the direction of art at a pretty early age.
This last image, below, was one I made while taking a dedicated summer art class in an old two-room school house – the class being a gift for my 10th birthday. If you compare this drawing against the pastel drawing above, there’s a definite improvement to be seen, even with just a few short weeks of focused instruction. I remember my art instructor being impressed, because the other kids in our small class were still doing 2D drawings. We lived in Idaho Falls at the time, and the classes were in Shelley, a small town to the south of us; I’ve tried to find that old school house since then, but I guess that it’s long gone now.
My art continued to improve over time… initially progress was slow, then by late middle-school I began to improve by leaps and bounds. Once I reached high school and was able to take mechanical and architectural drafting, then my drawing skills – especially with perspective – really took off.
Painting info: Landscape – La Grulla Gun Club, Ensenada , Baja, Mexico –July 1969 White House – Idaho Falls, Idaho – June 1971 Two-room schoolhouse – Shelley, Idaho –August 1971 Poster paints and oil pastels Art paper 11”x14”