Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Hudson River bridge project

Here's a letter from a reader:

A friend of mine is embarking on “painting the Hudson River Bridges,” all 11 or 12 of them. I will join her for several. I agreed more from companionship and friendship than artistic curiosity. However, I do want to do a great job. Question to you- Where do I begin? How to make it interesting when the focus is the bridge. I guess I feel a little overwhelmed dealing with the expansiveness of the Hudson, challenged foreground, etc. Any tips are welcomed.

..............................Regretta Snackfood

Dearest Regretta;

That sounds like a great project. Your friend will have the work for a show when she is done. She could call it "The Bridges on the Hudson", or maybe a little print on demand book with some text from the artist on the bottom of each page about the bridge. You intend to do only a few of them, so I will address my suggestions to your friend, who for convenience sake we will call Xanthippe Cleavage-Heaver. You can use these ideas for the fewer bridges that you do, but I am imagining what would have to happen to get a varied and interesting show out of the larger series of paintings.

If I were Xanthippe, I would have in mind from the outset making each of the paintings a stand alone and individual work, yet have a common thread running through the entire group that knits them into a unified presentation as a group. Bullets please!
  • I would take a look at where the show is going to be held, and figure out how a dozen or more paintings could fill it's walls. I would hope to group them in arrays of three or four, but the size and shape of the walls of the gallery or Starbucks will make that decision for me somewhat. It is nice to know this upfront when you can.
  • She could do a series of small paintings all the same size and that would be the least work, but a more interesting show would have groups of paintings containing a large picture, probably an elongated shape like a 24 by 36, and several medium sized paintings. I would also include at least two square or nearly square paintings in the mix, one large and one small.
  • I don't think I would do any small paintings, or perhaps better, hang them in the next room or add them to the series as a subgroup. I think that having some of the bridges presented as very much smaller and less important pieces would detract from the unity of the show. It might be good to have a half dozen small paintings to bring the number of pieces up from twelve to eighteen. That's enough pictures for a full show, twelve is a little thin.
  • Having the small ones might make you some sales anyway if the red dots don't show up, you may sell a few little ones and have some succor for all of your time and effort if the collectors don't sweep in and buy the big ones. In our current economy that might happen. Things is tough out there.
  • You could tie all the work together with a unified coloring system or treatment of some kind, but I think I would just make em and respond as best to each location as I could. My own style would probably be enough to make the show look "of a piece" letting some be more colored or dramatic and others have a quieter mood.
  • The really big impressive bridges like the George Washington (love that guy!) go on the big canvasses and the less interesting bridges go on the smaller canvasses.
  • Some of the bridges are going to be a lot less interesting, I don't know them all but I imagine a few of them are pretty plain I would do vignettes of quirky closeups or interesting angles on those. That should hopefully deal with that problem, rather than just showing them in a matter of fact way in a ll of their ordinaryness.
  • It would be good to get some architecture around some of the bridges and some broad expanses of open river and sky in some others. I hope the Newburgh bridge is on the list.
  • I would frame them all in the same moulding using a larger version for the larger paintings. Black is hip right now, it is New York and the subject, industrial.


Mary Byrom said...

Great suggestions Stapleton. Makes me start thinking about some of those bridges (great views from surrounding hills for some of them) Makes me want to paint the bridges on the Hudson River! Especially during winter thaw. I went out on one of them near Albany, NY to watch the ice break up. It was pretty amazing.

Paul Bachem said...

Xanthippe Cleavage-Heaver?

dglenncasey said...

Sounds like a stripper from the '20s.

Lucy said...

Back to the green question (there is plenty of green surrounding the Hudson)
What do you think of throwing some black into the green? I think Chase did. Viridian and black get kind of inky.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary Byrom;
Tonight I continue with what it will take to put this show together, probably a wake up call for those who think it will be easy.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Paul Bachem ;
I believe Cleavage was her maiden name.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Dave Casey;
Oh no! This woman is married to a thoracic surgeon!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Do you mean add black to the viridian on your palette so it ends up in every mixture? I know I don't like that idea.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I will write a blog post on this question too.

gail said...

Great ideas to wrap one's mind around a comprehensive project like this one. Thanks for the post. This might have been about Bridges of the Hudson, but it is equally transferable to any venue with a expansive theme. Your thoughts to paper (or blogworld) is much appreciated.