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B&O Train Depot, Mount Vernon, Ohio

November 10, 2012
B&O Railroad Depot, 18×30, Gouache

We had a booth at the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival last August in Mount Vernon, Ohio.  During the festival, a gentleman walked into the booth and looked around.  As soon as other customers left the booth, he approached and asked if I would be interested in doing a commission piece.  Once he told me the subject, I dropped my inhibitions about commission work.  I had visited the restored train depot, and had even taken photos with the thought of painting the place someday.  We struck a tentative deal on the spot.

A couple of weeks later, we sorted out the details via email.  Fortunately, he wasn’t in a hurry, because we were going to be getting back on the road soon.

We stopped for a couple of days at Harrison Bay State Park, outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and I started working on the preliminary sketches.  After that, we visited several artists in different cities, and there wasn’t much time for working on the large painting.

Initial concept sketch

.The first step was a simple concept sketch to establish the view I had in mind.  The client agreed.

First full size preliminary drawing

Next came a full size preliminary drawing to assure myself and the client that I understood the architecture and recognized those things that the client felt were important as well.


Initial color layout

Then came the initial layout, establishing colors for the client’s approval.  Normally, I would start by laying in the extreme darks to establish values, but in this case, I wanted to focus on the colors for the client’s benefit.  Besides, I knew where my darkest values were going to be anyway.

The painting was done on illustration board, which is my standard support.  I cut a piece of foamcore board the same size as the painting, and clipped the two pieces together.  This gave me a good stiff backing for the illustration board.  The preliminary full size pencil sketch was transferred onto the illustration board by creating a graphite transfer sheet.   Perspective adjustments and other tweaks continued throughout the entire project.

Once we settled in Houston, Texas, I was able to start working on the commission with a bit more consistency.  A painting this size in a motorhome calls for patience and flexibility.  I was able to work on it indoors a little, but it was certainly easier to set up the easel and work on it outside under the awning.  Of course, rainy and/or windy days meant no painting on this one.

I was religious about sending the client updates.  Any time the painting showed progress, or major changes, I stopped work and sent images.  I think this really helped establish confidence on the part of the client, and by the time he saw the finished painting, he was happy.  It’s always a good feeling when the client says the actual painting looks better than the digital images.

What we learned here was that, with a patient client, it is perfectly feasible to do a large commission painting while living and travelling in the motorhome.  Once we established a pattern, the painting really wasn’t in the way when it wasn’t being worked on.  During the day, we laid it on the bed in the back room.  At night, we moved it to the living area, either standing it on end behind the co-pilot chair, or on the motorhome’s large dash.

We’re looking forward to seeing photos of the framed painting  on the wall in the main lobby of the train depot.  The final image, below, shows the painting after the client received it.  It’s shown resting on a ledge in the depot, waiting for photos to be taken before it’s framed.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2012 9:28 pm

    Excellent work on the painting of the station here Ralph. That has to be pretty cool doing a commission piece on the road and keeping in touch with the buyer. Nice photos of the assignment and end result!

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