I took photos at four stages of the progress of this painting – “The Little Red Truck”. I took the photo of this truck in Santa Fe, in the midst of a Pinon forest with Juniper and Chamisa about to flower. It was probably in August a few years back, and the truck was abandoned and rusting with several layers of paint showing through. The first stage was to do a drawing on canvas that had been gessoed with venetian red. I did the drawing in Gamblin Fast Matte oils, a combination of Black and Purple. I add a little Gamblin Galkyd and Gamsol to make the paint a little more flexible and liquid so it’s easy to paint a moderately thin line.
The next stage happens the following day after the drawing layer has dried. I add in colors I want to show through on the final layer, so under reds I paint greens, under the pinon trees I use purples, dusty blue and some deep magentas. I use warmer and lighter versions of similar colors under the Chamisa in the font.
I like to make sure to leave a lot of the Venetian red gesso showing through as I build up the layers, it makes a good balance to the greens and adds that rusty feeling to the old trucks. At this point the painting needs to veer back towards what the final version will be.
It’s hard for me to like the painting at this point, sometimes it actually keeps me up at night, because I want to go “save” the painting, but it’s still too wet, and I need to let the first layers dry before working up the final colors.
Once I begin the final layers there is still some fluctuation as I add highlight colors last, and need to make sure it all works on the final layer. If I’ve been building up the colors right, and letting them show through a little at each layer, the final version may not take very long, maybe only an hour. I only do a few strokes every few minutes as I look at it and decide what it needs to move your eye around the painting in a way I like. I use diagonals to move through the space. In this painting the road leads you into the truck and curves back and forth then the sky comes in at an angle and follows through to the top and then back down into the forest and stops on the truck. To make the truck look old, I use a rusty deep red color to glaze over the brighter Cadmium red, after it’s dry. On the last few layers I start adding Gamblin Neo Meglip to my paint to give it body, sheen and a good layering texture. It allows the brush strokes to hold their shape.