One of my favorite things to photograph is rust. Rusty locks, rusty tractors, gates, trucks, chains, railroad lanterns…if I can find it, I’m probably going to take a picture of it. And when I take those photos, I’m always composing them with a future painting in mind.
That was the case with this gate and lock. Besides the rust, wear and general patina, I was captivated by the bright colors. Not wanting to create drab, brown, dirty rust paintings, this felt like a great candidate for a vibrant image.
Normally I would wet the entire paper, staple it to a board and tape the edges. This helps keep the paper from buckling while you work. Having just attended Carol Carter’s demo, where she said she likes to leave the paper loose to expand & contract naturally with the water, I decided to give that approach a try.
At this stage, each surface of the gate had been wet with clear water, and the color dropped in to merge and mingle. As washes began to dry, more concentrated pigment was placed to create some of the “dirt.” I knew I wanted the lock to be brighter and look shinier, so I wanted to establish the background elements first.
With the gate pretty well finished, it was time to start on the lock. This gives a really good idea of the section-by-section approach. The vertical portion of the lock was first, and then the blue base. By the time the base was finished, the vertical section had dried enough to start the flat top.
The very bottom of the painting was a bit of a challenge. The reference photo had a board that featured peeling paint and lots of distressing. Beautiful, but too busy and distracted from the lock. Wanting some depth and color, I put in a wash of cadmium orange, french ultramarine and shadow violet. Now to let it all dry so details could be added…
The focal point of the painting, and the title, is the stamped-in “HARDENED.” I love how the rust had started creeping into the letters, partially obscuring the shape of each, and nearly making the word unreadable.
Finished – 15″ x 22″. The board at the bottom of the gate has been simplified to look like unfinished wood that has weathered. The goal throughout the process was to create a vibrant, interesting portrait of something most would find mundane, if it was noticed at all…