Sunday, April 10, 2011

In Construction

Ink and watercolor in small moleskine

I was attracted to the industriousness of the workers, the grays and yellows, and the geometry of it all.


I sat across the street from the construction site in South Miami, sketched in ink in my moleskine, and then colored as much as I could in watercolor. Then I went back a few days later and finished painting. I was constructing as they were.

Mine is, of course, an illusion.


One hundred and fifty years ago, none of the buildings I see around me existed. If I could return to that time, I would recognize nothing. One hundred-fifty years from now, with few if any exceptions, the same will be true. It will be a different place. I think about that sometimes.

The idea that their building is representative of the world around me is as much an illusion as my picture.

Ink & watercolor on 3" x 2-1/2"140 lb Fabriano Artistica hot press paper
I found a card I had cut from watercolor paper, smaller than an artist's trading card, only 3" x 2-1/2", and drew and painted another building just blocks away from the construction site. I had to draw quickly before - poof - it would disappear. Or before I would. Just kidding.

As an artist I am constantly thinking about construction: composition, value, shape, color, line. This blog has featured mostly ink and watercolors in my small moleskine. I am capable of detailed ink drawings, such as the one in my February 13th post. But I enjoy attempting to manipulate the watercolor for nuances of value, and so have refrained from doing other than outlines. I am getting restless though. Line filled with color - people see my moleskine drawings and say they are like a comics drawing. "They are not!" I say emphatically, even though I am interested in doing those too.

a quick idle sketch
a loose sketch from life

I sketch from life in much of my spare time, and sometimes from other sources. Some of the sketches I am finding most engaging these days are those done loosely and quickly. I will continue what I am doing as well, but I suspect there may be some experiments in style in the coming months.

And after a year of talking about it, I have finally bought a drafting table. It is in a large box. Now if I can manage to clear the space for my studio and create a good working area with the new table, my easel, and proper lighting before all the buildings around me disappear, then I have grand ambitions for a series of paintings on a large scale. How will it work? I don't know. I will need to reinvent what I do. I will need to learn more about how to do it. It's exciting..

on a receipt

In legal parlance, the word "construction" means "interpretation". And that is what I do. That is what we all do, whether artists or not. We take what we see and interpret to match our image of the world which is every bit as flawed and personal as we are.  Of course, that is what makes our creations so special and so unique. 

For this week's Shadow Shot, for Shadow Shot Sunday, I lay down the cones because there is work to be done. There are boxes to build and to break from. Bur most of all there are wings and floors to add. Why? So I can fly and still stay grounded, of course.


  1. We are constantly evolving, I think it's normal to want to try out new ways of putting your marks down on paper. Your construction sketch is excellent, I like the muted colours inside the building against the orange of the signs and cones. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes off your new drafting table!

  2. What an insightful post about impermanence seen from the perspective of construction! Endless details, and perspectives! Nice work!

    I think it's always a great idea to try new styles and formats. I find that it's much about just diving in, these days! Good luck with your reinventions!

  3. I love the construction sketch! My husband worked in construction for many years. I never thought of it the way you put it... he worked in composition, value, shape, color, and line. :) He was defnitely an artist with his work.

  4. I can appreciate what you mean about change in our communities. I've lived in Vegas for 8 years. In that time the skyline has changed dramatically each year. Some of the iconic hotel/casinos have been imploded and replaced with even bigger, more extravagant places.

    You captured the geometry of your construction and workers quite nicely. I had a blast looking in and around the site.

    I'll bet you're really excited to get that drafting table put together. Have fun with it. I look forward to seeing these larger paintings that will start to flow out of your renovated studio. Please don't make me wait too long. ;-)


  5. I love the little sketch on the receipt. it reminded me so vividly of the tiny sketches my mother used to do on scraps of paper while she was on the phone, they were amazingly detailed of fictitious characters and fantastical creatures. None remain. I never thought to ask her about it or where the ideas came from. I like the meaning behind your shadow shot! Sue@JumpingAground

  6. I found this post interesting, your thoughts and feeling about construction and time, but I especially loved seeing your art. Interesting shadow shot too.

  7. A beautifully written and well constructed post. Your words, your art, your ideas all seem to be converging toward some cohesive point, which is most certainly ever evolving.
    Love the construction sketch. It is certainly the geometry that makes it so interesting. Your colors play on that nicely.
    I am stunned at how much detail you put into your very small sketch. It's wonderful.
    I look forward to seeing more. It is exciting to see you develop your artistic path.
    Your shadow shot sums it up perfectly.
    Well done all around!

  8. What a wonderful post. I think about our impermanence a lot too but in terms of even 50 years. In 50 years I will probably not be here nor will the house I currently live in. Society will be so different but then you've just said all this.

    Your sketches are cartoon like? NOT! I can't believe anyone would think so. Hand them your pen and a blank sheet of paper and tell them you want to see how to do it the right way. That will shut them up I'm 99% sure!

  9. I have a drafting table all set up, and I used to use it a lot... funny that lately I've just been painting at my computer desk, so that I am near my husband and can talk to him while I paint.... it's nice to have the larger table I should use it more I know. I can't wait to see your new place.. do take pictures.

  10. Interesting post. Since my house is 120 years old I think its permanence will far exceed mine. I have seen changes in town over the past 10 years and they're not necessarily for the better (I always like the old). Your painting, Construction, is wonderful. Resist drawing on the drafting table box--get it out of the box, and get to work. We expect great LARGE things.

  11. I often wonder about how life will be when I am no longer here. One of the extraordinary things about being an oil painter is thinking about the fact that (ostensibly) an oil painting can exist somewhere "In perpetuity" long after I am gone. If I paint any that are worth displaying.... conceivably they will "outlive" me. I love looking at a painting and thinking, I am standing where the painter stood to paint this.
    I like how you take your work seriously...the people who would consider your work a cartoon are uninformed. There is nothing better than sketching and painting from life and your work reflects the humanity of your subjects and the human hand that caught the moment. It's important work.
    I'm looking forward to seeing what comes off of the new drafting table. I have a huge one from my graphics days. It is the BEST thing in my studio.

  12. Great construction painting and post is something we see alot of over here and old buildings are few and far between

  13. I love your contruction sketch too: the lines, the muted colours the people working there.. Really well done !
    As for "permanence" we are lucky in France-and even in the small town of Pontoise where I live - to have buildings (or parts of them!) that help us see what life and work was like centuries ago !
    Now is time for you to "unfold" your drafting table and spread your artistic wings !!!

  14. I love your work and the different things you like to do. I think we are recording something for future eyes to contemplate---I hope...:-)

  15. I like paintings of construction sites and big machines! Yours has movement and life. I like the combination of ink and watercolor. Hooray on the drafting table. What a nice gift to yourself.

  16. Love them all...I always appreciate the work of bluecollar workers. Without people who do the hard labor of this world where would we be? Your construction drawing is wonderful. As a person who has walked way more construction sites than I care to admit, it rings true. The color contrasts are great...wish you could have seen me trying to figure it out on my cell phone though. ha! The tiny drawing of the tree and building is amazing! And your life drawings keep coming! I love the guy on the receipt. He looks like he's coming out of a wall. I'm jealous of your drafting table. I have an antique one somewhere. I wonder where...I hope yours is exactly what you need and I look forward to what you produce there. Plus they look so cool! Great work Dan!

  17. It is exciting to see your work and ideas evolving and I enjoy following your progress! Great post!

  18. I'm glad to be visiting your blog again, Dan. Your paintings always put a bounce in my step and leave me feeling refreshed. Thank you!


    Welcome the shadows surrounding your life,
    Treat them as lover or husband or wife;
    Welcome them in as you would one who’s dear;
    Hug them, embrace them without any fear;
    Honor, respect them, and give them their due,
    For shadow and light are both parts of you.

    © 2011 by Magical Mystical Teacher

    Deep Shadows Beckon

  19. As a lover of books, it really isn't belittling for me to say that I see your watercolours as potentially wonderful illustrations, or is it? My mom and I would always exclaim over particularly BEAUTIFUL books. Then too, your pictures often seem to tell some sort of a story. There's action, personality. It'd be wonderful to see a book illustrated with your sketches... and you CAN write...

  20. Looks like you've been keeping yourself pretty busy Dan =) I wish I could say the same thing for myself in the art world... but I am not :( Work in the plant has been wearing me out and when I do get as little as a couple of days off...all I could think about is to get more rest and to prepare myself for work again. Ah well, maybe one of these days I'd be able to just sit back and draw again....
    I really like the shadow picture!

  21. I enjoyed immensely all the wonderfully constructed sketches and the thoughtful ruminations!!! My little city, slow to change for the first few years of my time here, has begun to explode. And the growing is not without pain. I worry that the town will lose its identity . . . its charm. Right now, there are still a couple of hitching posts in front of ramshackle Victorian houses. I love that.

  22. Construction sites are great subjects for art, and you got the whole thing bang on (the colours, all the different parts, tools and even a construction guy who sits while working, lol)... No plumbers butts, thank heavens. Thanks for stopping by my blog : ) and yes it feels great to be back. For teh page sizes (illustrating), you dont do it on the main page that has the text and all, but on a blank paper (and what ever madium you use you have what you need for that, w/c, canvas, paper etc) and I have done all my illustration of different sizes (all same for each job). I like working with 8x10 and up. Not sure if that helps?

    Great work Dan!!

  23. Your mobile art creations were like a travel brochure for my imagination. I just had to go there, after picking up lunch and parking in a spot, I pulled out pen (yes ball point I went simple) and dime store sketch book (because let's face it this was only a test) Let me say, I loved it. On one hand I felt like I was a part of it all and yet completely seperate as only an observer in the moment could be. Thank you for blogging your experience and stoking my curiousity.

  24. Have a safe flight and happy landings. Thoughtful and thought-provoking post Dan. Look forward to seeing where you stop off next.

  25. Wonderful blog, beautiful sketches and writings. I see your sketches as illustrations not comics. I've seen your comments at PAMO's, but am finally checking you out from Maundering Mutterer. Enjoy your posts very much.

  26. I like the green in your trees....very nice contrasting shades...

  27. I'm a little late in responding, but I am no less grateful. Thank you all so much - I'm glad you liked the sketch, and the ideas that roll around my brain. I've given up - alas - in trying to respond to each person individually (a failed experiment, that), but I will (if I haven't already) be visiting each of your blogs, of course. Do like the older posts, I have a few of you to address:

    Don, Cathy, Hallie, Martine - The drafting table is still in the box! I have too much to clear away! Ayyy, the pain of it.

    Freebird - Thank you for saying they are not like cartoons!

    Celeste - I love your perspective. The painter was standing right there. I will never look at a painting the same way again. And I am shocked and flushed that you say what I do is "important work".

    winna - I do wonder..I hope so. :)

    Ellen - I am glad to know it rings true from someone who actually has experiences the construction sites.

    MMT - Thank you! Love your poetry - this is the first I've ever seen that is not Haiku!

    Maundering Mutterer - Not at all belittling - I love to be thought of as an illustrator, and I would love to illustrate a BEAUTIFUL book. And I have the same idea as you..just need to set up that darn drafting table.

    Alex - I know what you mean. I work full-time too. I let decades pass until I realized that if I don't make time, the time won't come. Now I do both. hint, hint..

    betty - I always feel that with every new thing there is a glorious old thing that is lost.

    Mari - Thanks for the info!

    Mary - I am so excited! Wow!! Warning - it is addictive!

    Wings - Thanks so much for visiting!

    Ben - Thanks for noticing, I worked hard at those!

    Thank you everyone, again.

  28. Love the construction sketch! The bits of yellow and orange against the cool gray is very appealing.

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