The Making of ‘Bel Air’

Those who read my blog regularly may have picked up on a theme that shimmers, like a spider’s web, sometimes barely visible, in the background of many of my pieces – searching.  It exists most noticeably in my series “The Continuing Discoveries of a 21st Century Naturalist“.  Those blog posts are about sharing information on the subjects in photographs I’ve taken of nature.  But my artwork is often the result of exploring also – sometimes the “story” of objects as in “Granny’s Gifts“, “Mother’s Night Out – 1955“, or “Family Memories“, color like that of “River Kisses“, “Serpentine“, “Blue Reflections” or “First Green Is Gold“, or where exploring has led me – internally – “In Bloom“, “Weathering The Storm“, “Letting Go” or externally “Mabry Mill – Winter“, “Somewhere Over The Blue Ridge“, or “Around The Bend“.

The piece I’m writing about today is of the external exploration variety.

I used to wander the back roads of Yadkin and Surry Counties in North Carolina often doing genealogical research.  Those trips took me to many places and I often snapped photographs along the way.  The photograph I used as reference for “Bel Air” had been in my stack of “source for paintings” pictures for over 20 years.  When I began focusing on color pencil pieces last year I decided to try to use this one in a way to challenge my technical drawing skills.

I had crossed the low-water bridge which is the featured image of this post to visit the Rockford General Store.  The store is filled with jars of various old-style candies as well as other kinds of merchandise.  After carefully choosing my sweet delights for consumption and a soda I walked out intending to sit on the porch bench, rest, and relax in the shade.  What confronted me as I left the cheerful charm of the store was a scene that gave me the feeling of being whisked back in time.

Parked in front of an old shed across the road was a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air in pristine condition. It was as if someone had driven it down to show off her new car.  But the faded and dented RC Cola sign punctuated the present.  I didn’t know how long the car would be parked there so I, thankfully, dropped my sweets in my car, grabbed my camera, and captured a bit of history.  The car pulled away after I left. Sometime in the intervening years the shed has disappeared as well.

The car was the greatest challenge for me since the texture of the shed’s siding and brick wall as well as the trees behind it were all things I naturally drawn to in drawing.  In preparing this piece I went back to something I learned while taking my courses from The Art Instruction School as a teenager – grid layout for enlargement onto art board.  In this technique, used for commercial art before digital graphic design, the subject photo is measured and a grid drawn, usually in one-inch increments, on it.  The measurements of the original grid are then transferred in a ratio that will allow it to be enlarged to fit the finished artwork’s surface.

This is essentially how “Bel Air’ came into being.

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