J&M At Dusk

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J & M At Dusk, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, copyright ©2011
(State 3 represents the finished painting.)

This painting began as a snapshot taken on my DroidX cellphone at dusk. I've painted the J & M many times before, including at night. The tavern sits right at the center of Seattle's cabaret district, and has seen its share of drunken revelry and barroom brawls. The painting is now finished, but by toggling between states you can get an idea of its progress from the initial lay-in to its completed state.

The initial snapshot from the DroidX was supplemented by a series of photographs that were taken a few days later. I corrected the parallax and perspective problems in Adobe Photoshop, determined the desired composition, and added photo material to create the montage that was my primary work product.

Painting at dusk or later presents a number of problems for the painter. If working on site, it is difficult to illuminate the canvas and palette. The photoreceptor cells of the eye that come into play in low light situations do not distinguish color well, and artificial source light causes spectrum issues when the painting is viewed in daylight or under expensive gallery illumination.

When taking photographs at dusk or later one must compensate for the extended shutter times, stabilizing the camera as best one can. Spontaneous and incidental photography doesn't permit sufficient time to set up a tripod. Even low level neon signage causes significant overexposure that obscures detail and color. Also, the camera does not shift from rod to cone photoreceptors in low light as the human eye does, so one has to compensate by pushing the overall palette in tertiary directions.

Additionally, the eye tends to fill deep, dark passages with some peripheral ghosting that gives one's experience of evening a pillow-like softness. This is an advantage for the artist, as it adds an air of mystery.

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