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Monday, December 27, 2010

Creating a Painting

Subject: Johnson Memorial Methodist Church, Huntington, WV


I recently completed a watercolor of the Johnson Memorial Methodist Church. This is another in a series of architectural subjects from Huntington. I have been photographing subjects around town for three years and am slowly working through them in paint. Huntington has a number of beautiful churches but I have found it difficult to find just the right angle or point of view to put on paper. To be honest, I have put the photos of this church aside a number of times - seemingly because it appeared to be so dark and stark. However the truth is I never really studied them. When I did, I found the the stained glass to be extensive and delicate. By moving around the facade I found a pleasing, balanced composition that gave the feeling of the massiveness of the structure without being stiff. I decided this would be the first of a church series.

As you can imagine I spent a long time with this work - about three weeks, off and on. The pencil layout was painstaking and required several days. Due to the shadows in the original photos I had to visit again at a similar time (7 AM) to re-photograph certain specific sections. It is during this part of the process that I begin to gain an appreciation for the structure in front of me. It is essentially a reconstruction - stone for stone and pane for pane. I begin to appreciate the design as a whole. Who laid it all out? How were horizontal and vertical sections chosen to advance or retreat in the facade? How was the stone chosen and where was it quarried? What stories do the windows tell?

There is also a larger context. Who was constructing these churches along 5th Ave? Were they local stonemasons? Were they all being built at the same time? Well, as you can see you have a lot of time to ponder while you paint.

Johnson Memorial Methodist Church
Ron Haeberle

After completing the drawing the next step was to work out the palette of colors. For this work the palette was limited and for that reason important. I had recently completed a pre-sunrise scene of tide pools at the beach and the reddish violet of the early morning light in that work was almost spot on. To be sure the work was consistent, I had to mix most of the paint for the entire painting in the beginning. The rest of the painting was relatively straightforward but tedious: constructing the windows, texturing the stonework and placing the shadows. A few final details and the job was done. This was a relatively large painting (for me), matting to 22"X28". This was necessary to develop the detail of the windows and stonework.

Having completed the painting I am now looking forward to tracking down some of the history of the building to answer some of the questions that arose during the painting / pondering process.

The painting itself has been matted and framed and submitted as an entry to the next West Viriginia Division of Culture And History  juried show which focus on historical structures in the state.

I am now off on another "project". It won't have quite so many little windows!

By Ron Haeberle
Renaissance Artist

1 comment:

  1. This is one of Ron's most detailed and beautiful paintings.