I started this painting on a walk through Golden Gate Park when I came across a pond that I had never noticed before. I’ve taken frequent walks through the park over the last 2 years and had walked around the left and to the right without seeing that just over the crest of a small hill there was a quiet and murky pond. Being able to spend time in the park is so valuable to me. It’s the place where I flesh out many of my thoughts about life while walking or stopping to watch and meditate. And this small painting is a memory of that time watching and thinking below the pine and cypress trees.
For a while now, I’ve been visualizing how I could capture some of the feeling I get walking around San Francisco at night. The air feels cooler and the lights have a glow that reveals just a feeling of what’s there. It reminds me of the light washes of water and color that, when they’re cooperating, give just a suggestion of what an artist might have seen and felt.
I’m always drawn to my watercolor trays like a moth to a flame but I mentioned last week that I’ve been oil painting, so below is one of the paintings I was referring to. The buildings are downtown on California Street along one of the cable car routes that runs through Chinatown. I tried building up the surface, in spots, a bit more than I usually do and it occurred to me that an oil painting can sort of go on forever. I just mean, you can keep adding paint and the surface keeps growing until you reach that point where you’ve decided everything needed has been said and the painting is finished. In contrast, I feel like I almost have to sneak up on a watercolor painting, building slowly or quickly and stopping as soon as something comes to life. Of course, there are no rules for how to make a painting, just so many different ways to try.
The watercolor, San Francisco Night, is available HERE on Etsy. I don’t have any of my oil paintings listed on Etsy yet, but if anyone is interested in any of the work on my blog or having a custom work created, please feel free to contact me through this blog or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, thank you for being a part of this blog and supporting creativity!
Brian Bailey, Haight Ashbury, Watercolor, 7″ x 5″, © 2015
Just a quick update to share a watercolor painting that I did last week of the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco and to tell everyone that my work has been featured on the excellent blog, Doodlewash. Here is a link to the article:
Doodlewash is written by Charlie O’Shields and he does a great job of sharing his own watercolors as well as the paintings and ideas of a variety of other watercolor artists. You can see more of Doodlewash at the following links:
There is something that just feels right about drawing or simply making marks. If you ask most people about drawing they almost immediately say something like, “I can’t even draw a stick figure.” It can be very hard to suspend judgement of the drawings that we make, but it can feel amazingly good to let go and let the images come out freely. So this week, I’ve taken time to explore with just a pencil and paper. This is a drawing of my wife from an afternoon that we spent near Napa, CA.
I’ve spent much of the last week thinking about composition. Over the last year, I’ve mostly painted scenes from around San Francisco with a focus on buildings, streets, and city life. The compositions are dominated by sharp vertical and horizontal lines. Shadows and trees are often the only soft and organic elements. I went back to Baker Beach and did this painting of the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day. There are still vertical and horizontal constructed elements but it feels more relaxed than my paintings of the city. The curve of the shoreline, the groups of trees, and the color shifts in the sand all create a pathway through the painting that I feel really good about.
I’ve been trying to see things in terms of major color groups along with light and shadow as I walk around the city. In the past, I’ve spent lots of time on paintings without thinking about the structure that underlies the work and those paintings end up in a pile with others that “just don’t feel right.” I’ve never been drawn to instructional materials that resemble a recipe or formula for creating art but reading about composition and looking at the way successful paintings are put together feels empowering and fascinating. It seems that lines and the weight of visual elements can make your eyes move in and out of a picture and create balance or unbalance in an unlimited number of ways.
Lately, one of the most interesting aspects of painting has been trying to find a middle ground between unfinished and overworked. I feel like I’m edging closer to being comfortable with my process. It’s about finding the right state of mind and being able to stay in that space for longer and longer periods of time. It’s also about identifying when the moment has passed and I need to take a break to refocus.
I’ve been including people in all my recent paintings and it feels like discovering a new language. I was so struck by the beauty and variety of buildings in San Francisco that, for a while, I was ignoring its residents. Now I find myself paying more attention to the relationship that people have to the places they live. It’s interesting to notice how one influences the other…
My paintings have taken me back downtown this week. I’ve been focused on public transportation vehicles. Buses and trains feel symbolic of city life to me and, along with many sketches, I came up with this painting of a muni bus rounding a corner on Market Street.
Yesterday, I dropped off 10 paintings for an exhibit at the Collector Art Shop in Berkeley, CA. The group show goes up this weekend and is up until June 28. There is a reception on June 12 from 6 to 8 pm with live music by the Gerald Bryant Trio. The show includes work by Bay Area artists: Carol Aaron, Brian Bailey (me), Claude Convers, Becky Jaffe, Kay Marshall, Karen Mason, David Miller, and Mimi Williams. All are welcome to attend!
It feels really good to be a part of such an awesome Bay Area gallery and to see positive things coming together. Thank you to everyone for your help and support!