Saturday, July 17, 2010

Painting the U.S.S. Hornet

My solo show, "Secret Alameda", at Vines Gallery in Alameda in June was a success on all fronts - I sold almost all of my paintings, and it was exciting to be enthusiastically supported by the gallery, the attendees, collectors, and friends.  Such a thrilling experience to be validated as an artist by so many people in these hard economic times...

One of the paintings displayed in the show was a large sunset view of the Ready Reserve Ships, docked out at the Navy Piers in Alameda. The gallery owner suggested that I contact the USS Hornet (a huge aircraft carrier,  now a museum, berthed next to the ships I had painted) to see if they would be interested in a portrait of the Hornet.  I contacted the museum store manager, and she decided that visitors to the Hornet would be very interested in a dramatic view of the aircraft carrier, similar to the one I had done of the Ready Reserves.  I then visited the ship many times at sunset to study the changing light as the sun went down. On the 4th of July the ship was bedecked with flags, so I added those after I had basically finished the painting to add some interest and color above the flight deck.  I thought at first the flag at the prow was the standard stars and stripes, but then noticed that this flag had only red and white stripes, not 50 stars on blue.  It is apparently a striped "Navy Jack" flag, flown first in 1775, and still flown on Navy ships on special occasions like Independence Day.  I painted it carefully with stripes only!

I have spent a lot of time creating the most powerful composition I could come up with, and finally have a painting that I think catches the looming majesty - and threat - of this enormous warship.

Here are some photos of the painting in progress:

First I cover the entire sheet of heavy rag paper with a tinted wash - in this case cadmium yellow.  I paint the sky, setting sun, and clouds first, then work on the foreground details.  I had already painted the ship when I decided to take these photos, so half of the painting is in effect done.

Here the water and reflections are being added, and the details on the ships on either side.

The final painting, still on the easel, with the rest of the Navy flags added last of all.

Here is the final scan of my gouache painting of the U.S.S. Hornet on the 4th of July.