increasing area of my work is the commissioned
painting. In the past, I have created images for
corporations, telling a story of their mission or
using the locale of their business to generate a
historical (sometimes hysterical) theme. I've
also sat down with people and discussed their
hobbies, loves, or lives and designed a painting
that describes their personal feelings.
I met with John Graham, Professor Emeritus at the
Paul Merage School of Business, University of
California, Irvine, and his wife, Mary Gilly,
Professor at the Paul Merage School of Business,
University of California, Irvine, I was presented
with a very fun challenge. They wanted me to come
up with an image that speaks to their love of
reading, and our conversation started out with a
handful of their favorite books. After a few
emails, I received a more extensive list of books
and at one point, John and Mary suggested a
painting title, "Book A Trip." About 3
a.m. the following morning, I thought:
"Since books take us on adventures in our
mind, I could set up a travel agency, with
various modes of transportation parked out front.
A book of The Grapes of Wrath could be
in the back end of the Jode's truck, while a copy
of Lonesome Dove could be in the back of
a horse-drawn buggy. I relayed my idea to John
and Mary and asked for a science fiction novel to
compliment a third mode of transportation. They
suggested Stranger in a Strange Land, which
I could see being jetisoned out to space on a toy
went on eBay and began my search for some period
toys that would fill the bill. Here's what I
great buckboard and horse (he has wheels on the
bottom of his hooves).
perfect tin rocket to shuttle its 'novel' cargo.
is to have a woman who has purchased a ticket to
travel on the Lonesome Dove buckboard.
She will be carrying a small suitcase (above)
with her on her trip.
gathered together a number of travel
decal/stickers, where the locations refer to
places instrumental in the stories of a few of
the books in the painting.
can see, I put the stickers on the travel case.
I built a
'travel agency' from an HO scale train building
some additional books in the painting. The
cardboard box represents the travel agency. Since
it would be costly to locate the original books
(mostly 1st Edition printings), I researched the
sizes of ten novels, went to the library and
checked out seven books that were the exact same
size. Then, I made dust jackets for each from
images off the internet.
I had my
wife, Carol, hold the Stranger in a Strange
Land book, in an angle, looking like it is
taking off. I will have to scale up the rocket to
be in a better proportion to the book.
balancing the book, Lonesome Dove, in
the back of the buckboard with a couple of my oil
painting brushes. I will have to scale the book
'up' so it doesn't get lost in the back of the
I'll scale down The Grapes of Wrath on
the canvas, this photo will give me the proper
angle for the book to ride in the back of the
component to the story will be the woman traveler
(Mary) and the buckboard driver (John). The
driver is inspecting the ticket before he helps
her aboard. I asked John and Mary to be my models
in the painting. As you can see, look great!
this sketch to show the overall placement of each
start the painting by rendering in all the
objects that either need to be a particular
color, or generically are a certain color. This
will leave areas like the back wall, the ground,
the building and the clothing on the man and
woman which can be any color. I'll used those
areas to compliment the other colors and to
highlight the man and woman.
decided to change the color of the blue travel
case so that it looks a little more dated. I've
made it a tan and brown tweed model. In the photo
above, you can see the reference photo of the
sticker laden suitcase hanging off the side of
travel sticker is painted separately, and some,
like California, have lots of detail.
stickers are rendered and the travel case's first
coat of oil is complete.
step will be to paint the book, "Stranger in
a Strange Land" and the rocket that is
carrying it out the window. You can see the photo
clamped to the left edge of the canvas, and also
a copy of the dust jacket attached just above the
top left edge of the canvas. With all this
information, it will be just a matter of time
before I get this rendered onto the double primed
step is to paint the book...
then the rocket. Very high tech space shuttle.
behind the travel case, Doctor Zhivago, The
Great Gatsby, and Gone with the Wind, are
painted into place.
look at the entire canvas, which measures
second stack of books rests on top of the travel
agency building. Pillars of the Earth, Shogun
and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's
Stone are positioned to show off some of the
light that is cast their way.
up truck has some great detail on it and I've
made sure I captured most of it in this initial
strapped the book onto the truck and...
canvas has some major parts done!
started on the Lonesome Dove book.
There's quite a lot of intricate lettering to be
the darkened area around the front base of the
book. This will help convince the viewer that the
book is sitting down in the back of the buckboard
where not much reflected light hits.
overall look at the entire canvas.
on the buckboard and horse next. The red of the
wheels will have all the light and shadows put in
towards the end of the painting. Right now
they're just knocked in with one value.
painted the horse darker than the actual toy so
that it separates itself visually from the travel
initial shadows cast by the horse, the two people
and the wagon are put into place.
ground color is put in fairly dark at this point.
I will paint it lighter with the final passage of
green/brown color has been brushed on the back
wall, outlining the window opening and bringing
life to the sunlit books.
of the brick-topped building, with its four
windows, brings a nice complimentary color to the
story illustrates a couple more states in the
left window (Georgia for Gone with the Wind).
The right window begs the public to come inside
and at the same time it advertises the title of
is almost complete. I will paint the globe
outside the window next.
is looking good. Now onto the man and woman.
introduced a teal color, similar to the green on
the space rocket, for the woman's dress. It will
help bring the viewer's eyes to the focal point.
I also rendered all the travel stickers on the
travel case that she is holding. A pair of
suspenders, taller boots and a belt buckle on the
buckboard driver complete the scene.
inch of the canvas has been addressed with the
first passage of thinned oil paint. After I
evaluate what needs to get changed/adjusted, I'll
begin the final application of 'out of the tube'
thickness oil paint. This final phase will take
me a month or so, and will be a more precise
rendering of the objects and spaces.
step in the final phase is to adjust the larger
areas of the painting. I've just applied a
lighter value color to the ground, making it a
sunnier day. This lighter value will help
separate lighter values in the travel case from
the ground and make all the cast shadows look
darker. You can compare this photo with the one
wall, which influences how bright the light
appears on many objects, has been darkened. There
are subtle light reflections cast back onto the
wall, like the red cast just to the left of the
introducing this very rich dark on the wall, it
will allow me to darken other objects in their
shadowed areas, spreading a more three
dimensional feeling across the painting.
object needs to be looked at by itself to see how
'real' it looks, and then determine what it is
that is keeping if from its reality. The travel
case is a very involved thing to paint. The case
itself needs darkening, (I just did that in the
above photo), and now that the main surface is
done, you can see how the travel decals/stickers
seem to pop out. They are way too light in value
and will all have to be adjusted down so they
appear to be in either sun or shade. That will
take a few days...
travel stickers on the front of the case are
finished. Compare them with the photo above and
see how they move into the shadows like they
should. The Montana and California stickers now
look like they have light on them and now, the
Colorado and other stickers don't compete with
the light striking the main focal point (the two
people). I still need to do the handle, lock,
trim and stickers on the top of the travel case,
so I will continue on.
travel case is completed. This was a very labor
intensive object and well worth the week and a
half that it took to apply the final layer of
on the upper left side of the painting,
concentrating first on the rocket. All but a few
details are done on the rocket, with the twine
and the book next on the list.
rocket and Heinlein book complete and heading
back to Earth, I'll work on the window with its
sky and globe next.
and the sky are complete, finishing the upper
left corner of the painting.
books on top of the travel agency are detailed in
the photo directly above. I've included the photo
(two above) of the three books so that you can
compare the differences between the first and
last coat of oil paint. One of the small
corrections was in the word 'SHOGUN' on the
middle book. When I painted the first layer of
paint, I didn't curve the lettering enough to
conform with the curvature at the edge of the
spine. It's a slight correction, but you can see
how the 'UN' bend in the second photo.
travel agency building is finished. The major
change from the first round of paint was to
darken most of it, especially the lower story. By
increasing the value of the street level windows
and entry door, it makes the two books on the the
wagon and truck optically 'pop'. This not only
highlights the books but creates more depth in
books that are up against the side of the travel
agency were painted as a group. My original paint
passage had me showing reflected light at the
lower ends of the spines, but I decided that it
didn't provide the contrast I wanted to help
separate the background from the foreground. Now
they 'sink' into the back wall a little better
and along with the darker lower area of the
travel agency, they create a more dramatic
presence for the foreground books.
shot of the entire canvas. With the background
complete, I'll move forward to the horse and
is the completed buckboard and book. I will wait
until I get to the last area of the painting (the
two people) before I paint the shadows. When the
truck is finished (it and its book are next) I'll
evaluate the values of all the shadows and apply
them when I paint the people.
Grapes of Wrath book is complete. I'll
tackle the truck next.
truck finished, I'll move onto the two people and
all the cast shadows.
paint the travel case again, and in miniature was
quite a chore. It turned out great! I always look
forward to painting people and this traveler
looks just as I visualized she should look when I
first designed the image.
buckboard driver is complete. This closeup shows
the unfinished cast shadows which are the final
step in completing the painting.
look at the finished shadows on the left of the
the right side of the painting under the truck.
A Trip" is finished. This image
took a little longer than normal because of the
extensive lettering process for each book and
each travel decal. The extra time paid off with a
great painting! In a week, I'll put a coat of
retouch varnish on the surface to bring out all
the rich darks that have dulled in the drying
process. This dullness is mostly seen in the back
wall. This is a normal step in finishing the
that week went by quickly and I've had the
painting digitally captured. I've put the image
above from the digital capture which was
performed by my giclée printing company. I have
consulted with the owners so that we can frame "Book
A Trip" to compliment the painting
and to fit its new home.