The Painter's Workshop: New Works and Works in Progress

Currently on Easel I

Plaza Guemes: A Work in Progress

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Plaza Guemes, Buenos Aires, oil on canvas, 76 x 96 inches, work in progress, copyright ©2014
"Plaza Guemes, Buenos Aires" is a large painting based on a much smaller study that I did when visiting Argentina in 2008. Plaza Guemes is a public square in the Palermo Viejo district, not far from where I was staying in Buenos Aires. It is surrounded by fine restaurants, open air cafés, galleries, luxury high-rises, a few examples of old Spanish architecture, Internet cafés and on the west end the beautiful old church Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. I spent a few weeks painting in the plaza, taking morning coffee at Café Pinot. While I painted I was surrounded by crowds of people, many of them students from the parochial school on the other side of the church.

As I worked on the study, some people from the nearby condominiums would sit on the benches in front of me, in hopes that they would be included in my painting. One of these willing models was a Policia Federal, who did not make it into the study, but will be included in the large version. In the foreground is a pile of teenagers, lying on the pavement and enjoying the sun. On the benches are an old man that had posed for the study, a woman weeping, an art student from the nearby school, a woman resting with her dog, a street urchin tying his shoe, and others. On the far right is a young man, probably a student, that earns his living by walking dogs in the neighborhood. There are children playing in the playground in the background, and many other citizens engaging in leisurely social display. All of this is enveloped by the stately jacaranda and plane trees.

The large painting began with the study and an elaborate photomontage. I drew the cartoon rapidly, squared up from the montage, without spending a lot of time on detail. The lay-in was begun at the top, simply because of the logistics of working a painting this size; the canvas sits on the floor so that I can reach that portion. Once I have the lay-in far enough along on the upper half, I'll set the canvas on the easel and work the lower half.

More images of this work will be posted as it progresses.
Here is an image taken alongside my skeleton "Bonaparte," to give a sense of scale:
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Bonaparte with work in progress.
The study, painted in Buenos Aires, 2008.
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Plaza Guemes Study, oil on canvas, 23 x 31 inches, © 2008
My palette for the lay-in phase.
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My standard palette: french ultramarine, cerulean blue, viridian, alizarin, burnt umber, burnt sienna, venetian red, cadmium red medium, cadmium orange, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium lemon, titanium white.
My Apple display, where I can zoom in and out on the montage and other photo references for Plaza Guemes, Buenos Aires.
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Work Product 
Additional montages and other work product.
These images represent alternate groupings and poses. There is a somewhat random quality to the interaction of people in a public square, as well as a deeper dance with fate. After all, this is where love is found!
Google Earth 
Here is a Plaza Guemes screen-capture from Google Earth. I've included Google Earth coordinates in a kmz file.
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Download Google Earth kmz file

Currently on Easel II

Bothell Landing 2 

Bothell Landing 2

Bothell Landing 2, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, work in progress copyright ©2017

This painting was reworked after more than a year of sitting in the studio. The initial work was done midsummer, and in the greater Seattle area the predominant colors are green and blue. I wanted to explore a more dynamic range of tertiary colors, and see see if I could discover some more atmospheric depth.

Despite the bucolic appearance, Bothell Landing is a bustling park, full of young mothers walking their children, bicyclists and martial artists practicing muy thai kicks. During the last session there was a small group of teenage girls practicing dance moves not far from where we were painting. The park was quite crowded for a Monday, perhaps because of the unusual weather, 85° and very hot.
Little Spokane River 

Near The Mouth Of The Little Spokane River (Work In Progress)

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Near The Mouth Of The Little Spokane River, oil on canvas, 18 x 36 inches, work in progress copyright ©2017
This is a start for my upcoming Spokane exhibition at Dodson's Jewelers. The Little Spokane River is a major tributary of the Spokane River, and is a popular site for sports fishing, hiking and wildlife observation.

The painting is being done on a gessoboard panel. I have not yet cradled it, but will do so when it is dry. To me, the strong diagonals of the receding riverbanks make for a dynamic composition, and the rich tertiary colors seem to quietly moderate that tension.
Lazy Curve 

Lazy Curve

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Lazy Curve, oil on panel, 18 x 24 inches, work in progress copyright ©2017
Lazy Curve is a small oil on panel, being done over several days in July. The water changes constantly, with every little gust of wind or breeze. Sometimes it is dead calm, at other times agitated. Where nature goes, we must humbly follow!

A View of Mount Rainier

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A View Of Mount Rainier, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches, work in progress, copyright ©2016
“A View Of Mount Rainier“ is a piece that is being painted en plein air from one of the viewpoints or overlooks that can be found in the Madrona neighborhood of Seattle. The light and landscape shift rapidly as the sun washes across the hills leading southward, and as the cloud cover lifts in the afternoon. I have moved Mount Rainier 3 times since the beginning of the painting.

There was a period of a month when the painting was not actively being worked on, between the third and fourth state. During that time I was preparing a show. Since getting back to it the color of the foliage is pretty consistent, but will probably change rapidly as Fall presses on.

After a couple of brief sessions in the Spring, I have returned to a Fall look. In the meantime the large, dominant tree in the foreground has been cut down, exposing some buildings and a yard. This composition seems more coherent to me. I am also returned to Fall’s darker palette and deeper shadows. Some paintings have to wander all over the place before they settle into a groove.

Currently on Easel III

Recent Snohomish Valley

Snohomish Valley, End Of Summer 

Snohomish Valley, Early Morning Late May (Work In Progress)

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Snohomish Valley, Early Morning Late May, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, work in progress copyright ©2016
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Snohomish Valley Study – Greens, oil on canvas, 11 x 16 inches, copyright ©2014
This is a subject that I’ve returned to many times. This current iteration was begun in late June, and is painted over another work that I was dissatisfied with. I rarely do that, preferring to work on a fresh canvas, but I did not have one at the ready, and also wanted to obliterate the painting that had earned my disdain.

This represents three or four sessions, starting with a lay-in that captures the big light effect, I’ve developed the image further over the coming days, with an eye toward building up sufficient impasto to obviate any future pentimenti from the older painting.

The painting has undergone changes as the days have changed over the course of the summer, with the grasses getting dryer and the trees growing thinner and beginning to shade into fall colors. The final state, still in progress, resulted from an early morning visit in late May.

The smaller painting that accompanies this post is an earlier, slightly different study of the same hills, trees and fields.
No Trespassing 

No Trespassing (Work In Progress)

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No Trespassing, oil on canvas, 33.5 x 39.25 inches, work in progress copyright ©2016
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No Trespassing plein air setup.
This is a painting that I’m currently working on site, at the Snohomish Valley viewpoint. We are looking west on an unused Department of Transportation right of way, with gate chained shut and marked no trespassing. There is a red road sign that has no icon or instruction, and the entire fence, sign and the right of way itself seem in danger of being completely overtaken by nature. It reminds me of Sartre’s description of foliage waiting to envelope the abandoned town in his novel ‘Nausea.’

No Trespassing: I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that even if there is a sign and a fence barring entry, one’s eyeballs can penetrate the prohibited space, and go dancing and gamboling about like birds on a wing. One can inhale the colors and textures through the organs of sight, like forbidden fruits stolen from a farmer’s field.

This photo was taken after the second session. The painting is being brought up gradually, with the slow articulation of leaf forms and shadows where the brambles of blackberries entangle the left side of the painting. I may emphasize even more the static banding of gray-blue and gray-purple of the sky.

One can often see wildlife at this location; hawks, deer, eagles, garter snakes, wrens, red-winged blackbirds, crows and finches. On the day that this photo was taken I saw a small lizard, which I almost mistook for a twig. It was a fence-sitting lizard, so-called because they are often seen sunning on fence posts. It is the only indigenous lizard in the area, hence easy to identify.



The paintings on this page represent works-in-progress and new works. They are presented with various state photographs, sometimes with accompanying work product and sketches.


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William E. Elston is a professional artist and teacher living in the Pacific Northwest. He has exhibited for over 40 years, and has works in numerous public and private collections, both in the region and internationally. He is best known for urban and rural landscape images. He is also a founding member of the Northwest Figurative Artists' Alliance.

William Elston teaches ongoing plein air classes during the Spring, Summer and Fall months. Classes are held at various locations throughout the greater Seattle area.