Monday, April 30, 2012

The ‘Four Square’ Store

I started acrylic painting several years ago and have been enjoying it whenever I can get to it. Unfortunately I don’t have as much time to spend on it as I would like.

Here’s a painting I did last year from an old photo. 

This was a deeply personal painting for me as the photo was taken by a relative a few years before I was born. These shops are less that a block from the house where I grew up and only about 5 kilometres from where I currently live. All but 2 of the people in the scene are family members including my grandfather who has long since passed away and my parents who were courting at the time. I love the old cars (the model T ford and the 'Morri thou' van) which give the scene a real historic flavour. The Model T ford belonged to one of my uncles who like me also enjoys painting. The van belonged to the shop owner, who is also one of my uncles.

I tend to approach my paintings as a typical 'graphic designer' would, that is, in a very controlled and predictable way. I usually work from a photo or other carefully planned reference even if it’s a sketch or an illustration I’ve already drawn. I usually have a very clear idea of what I’m trying to do before I even start.

What I did to start was to enlarge the original photo on a photocopier to the final size I needed it. Then I rubbed the back of it with a 4B pencil following the edges of all the main elements, producing a stencil. Then I transferred the image by drawing over the top of the stencil with a ball point pen using enough pressure to transfer the pencil rubbing to the canvas, all the while making sure the stencil didn’t move. If you look carefully, you can see the finished pencil outline on the canvas (above).

Then it was time to start painting. I started with all the broad areas of colour first. In this case the road in the foreground and then the sky area. Then working colour by colour, area by area, I gradually covered the canvas with paint.

I’ve had the painting hanging in my front room for a while now, even though I’m not totally satisfied it’s finished. It’s been a great talking point as many visitors to the house have commented on it. Most of them frequent the location where this scene is, which is now a thriving multi-level shopping complex, complete with McDonalds and other big brand mega stores. Most of them have no idea it’s the same place.

What about you? Can you guess where it is? 
It’s somewhere on Auckland’s north shore around 1958. 
If you look carefully you can see Rangitoto island (a dormant volcano) in the background.

This how it looks today, more than 50 years later...