Thursday, February 12, 2015

Palace Dome, From the Presidio

The Presidio is a large area of parkland on the northwest side San Francisco. It used to be a military base, but now it's occupied by a mixture of residential and commercial buildings. I woke up early today to try painting from a coffee shop there, which turned out to be filled with employees of Intel, ILM, and other Presidio corporate tenants.

The place was packed and hectic, but the tables outside in the cold were empty. I opened up a hand warmer packet, slipped it into my sleeve to keep my wrist warm, and got my watercolors and paper out.

In the distance was the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts dome. From where I was sitting, I could see only the upper half and part of a colonnade. Trees and other buildings obscured the rest. I thought that the combination of the palace in the distance and the nature and buildings in front would make for an interesting composition.


Painting here was very different from painting by the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a lot of stress in the air. I heard one conversation about some very serious "strictly confidential" matters involving bad management decisions. Another table had a guy on a cell phone talking about some social media company with a wacky, arbitrary-sounding name. Yet another table seemed to have an interview going on. I wished I had brought earplugs.

I had trouble getting this painting to come together at first. It improved when I started consciously tuning out my auditory surroundings.

I spent the most time on the architectural detail of the dome. When I paint architectural subjects, I get very absorbed into every little detail of each facade. I don't know how to paint them loosely with just a few brushstrokes and still capture their essence. I think part of it is that it becomes an excuse for me to study the details and figure out how they work as a composition. It's kind of fun to look at an intricate building and break it down into parts in my mind.

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