New work: 11am Continental

Painting of clouds over a grey beach with a plate of citrus

The title 11am Continental is a reference to continental breakfast and 11am checkout times at most hotels. This painting is the second in a series of images based upon photos I took of the grey Oregon coast. This trip was an offsite for work where we gathered in a hotel business-center conference room to plan and scheme for the coming year. The point of holding meetings like this away from the office is to reset your context and allow for freer thinking and hopefully collaboration. I enjoyed it; I try to make the most of it; I always have a nagging guilty feeling creeping up my spine. I would be very happy to meet in a rented conference room in town and have a nice lunch. I suppose I should accept the perks of my position with grace and gratitude. The tiny Marxist living in my inner ear is having none of it. He makes squeaky noises and I sleep poorly in the big hotel bed.

On this trip  I woke early and walked out on the beach each morning. The fog was super dense and dampened sound from the waking world. When I walk at the beach, especially in the fog, I see the ocean stretching out to infinity to one side, the shore to the other side, and the merging of the two in front of me. On a foggy day where the horizon disappears, I like to imagine I’m walking through time and infinity. If I take a hard left and scramble over the dunes I might find myself in 19th century England.

Come to think of it, we’re always walking through time and infinity, we just get distracted by shiny things along the way.

I knew I wanted to include iconic clouds in this painting. The abstract symbols of clouds playing off the photographic reality of cloudy, grey sky tickles my brain. It’s also a good excuse to play with thick layers of paint. It’s hard to describe the immense satisfaction of pulling precision-cut blue tape off a painting and leaving behind a perfect edge. It’s just so good.

Photo of a painting in progress, showing taped off shapes, creating the outline of a cloud.

With one cloud painted, the orange-yellow one, I sat with this painting for weeks. Work and life conspired to keep me too busy to execute. When I did find the time, the second cloud arrived shortly and I suddenly knew that this beach needed citrus.

In my previous painting in this series I included a half-peeled tangerine - which stood in for an absent sun. I liked this idea, but I wanted it to be less literal. I found a great stock photo of sliced fruit on Unsplash and used it as the reference for this painting.

Learning my lesson from a previously failed sunset painting, I decided to do a study before diving into the final painting.

I had extra prints on canvas lying around, so I glued one to a smaller panel and created a sort of mini-version of the same painting.

Photo of a small painting study with citrus fruit.

I hand-drew the citrus slabs here and painted them all in grayscale to try to get the lights and darks right before applying color. This mostly worked great. But I learned that the yellow and crimson I used for the flesh of the fruit was too translucent to mask the grey. The grapefruit looks more like a blood-orange than a luminous pink fruit. For the real painting I did use the same gray under painting trick, but made sure to paint the flesh of the fruit in crisp titanium white so the colors could glow from within.

Work-in-progress photo of a painting of plate of citrus, showing under painting and drawing.

The plate under the fruit frightened me a bit. I didn’t want to tape off a shape - I wanted a natural edge that blended into the inkjet printed surface. I found a (ridiculous) YouTube video demonstrating how to create an oval with a ruler and a compass. Perfect. This belongs right there next to my Fibonacci circles and other geometry.

The white background behind the lemony yellow and ruby pink worked great to provide the luminosity I was looking for. Painting the plate sky-blue with deep cast shadows under the fruit made everything pop.


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