Tag Archives: new york city

New York City during better days

City views, web by frankeber 2012     City views, detail web, by frankeber 2012

My heart goes out to the people of  this amazing city and the hardship they have to go through right now on the East coast. Let’s hope it’ll all be part of the past soon and people can continue with their lives.

Being just an artist, I sometimes feel I am not contributing enough to society like, say, a fire fighter or a police officer. On the other hand, I can paint the beautiful and exciting things that life holds for all of us and make people aware of them, maybe even make them feel better when they look at a painting. Quite a lofty goal, but really the only thing I can try doing, even in light of disaster.

One of my favorite sights in NY is the Chrysler building. I just love the shape of it! It is not the first time I have painted this scene, but I never get sick of painting  it. Every time you go there, it’ll look different, yielding a new version of the same subject matter.

One of the most important things to remember when painting scenes like this, is the fact that we’re really painting a street scene, *not* the Chrysler building as a focal point. The activities on the street are what attracts the eye, the building are just a backdrop. A pretty one, but still, in the end it’s all background noise.
Another important aspect is the fact that in representational painting, at least 60 percent is actually abstract painting! Maybe even more than that! I put the detail view there for that reason. If you look closely, there’s lots of nondescript, nonsensical squiggly lines and such, only making sense once we move back far enough. The secret is to let the eyes do the work,  piecing the scene together, so to speak. Not a big secret, really, but one that’s often overlooked.

Watercolor paintings always look better when painted spontaneous, loose and with no more that three layered washes. If a mistake happens while painting, it is always better to leave it wrong than to correct it. 90 percent of the time, no one will even notice that you made a ‘mistake’. The earlier you let go of that notion, the earlier you’ll paint freely and unencumbered, not caring about the outcome and ironically produce much better work!

New York City streetscene

silver city, by frankeber 2011

I call this piece ‘silver city’ because of the strange light quality that you sometimes get in NY. It is that late fall or early winter ‘feel’ that only occurs when it is cold out.

I am very attracted to scenes like this, because they tell such a great story; a story of life in a big city. You ponder it’s ups and downs, how tentative everything is…

You look at the people and you know you’ll never see this person again in your life. But you don’t get hung up on it, you just move on…

Is it good, is it bad? I can’t say…it is what it is!

In my work, I am always shooting for an impression. I try to make it look ‘as if’. The buildings, the cars, and the people… are they really there? They are because we think they are. They are because we know they are. A little bit like in real life walking down the sidewalk..do we really see the people? Or is it just a blur of things…

silver city detail, by frankeber 2011
Tonal value makes this painting. Good questions to ask yourself are: where is the lightest light? Where is the darkest dark? Observe carefully and keep an eye on your entire painting while you work. Thanks for looking!

The Illusion of a street scene

Washington street scene, by frankeber 2011

This was a work done in a class setting, a demo piece.

It is a great value exercise, but also fairly difficult for the incredible amount of shapes in it. When painting a street
scene it is important to reduce all the information to a minimum. Simplify. There is no way we can paint everything
we see on a photograph or worse, in real life while working plein air. We have to reduce it to a minimum and it will,
ironically, look more like the real thing than if we desperately try to paint everything ‘as is’.

Most students try to paint too close to reality and get lost in the details, it happens easily. To avoid that, it is essential that we always step back and check our work from a distance. A sure way to avoid overworking a section.
street scene, detail by frankeber, 2011
If you look closely at the details on the left side in this scene, you’ll notice that the people walking on the road are just an illusion. That means we make them up with our eyes. To give this illusion, I painted something that ‘looks as if’ there are people there.
I’d like to quote my teacher the way he always said, ‘if you can do it in one brush stroke or less, you should’. Quite funny, because you have to do at least one, but it serves as a reminder to bring as back to the important goal in painting: Simplify.

One other quote before I go, this one by one of the old masters, Leonardo da Vïnci. Also shows that the concepts we’re teaching today are certainly not new:
‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’

“A New York minute”

I like to paint the verve of life and movement. In New York, there is a steam system in operation and you can see steam being released through pipes into the air. For the longest time I had asked myself what this was all about. Here’s the answer, courtesy of wikipedia.org:

The New York City steam system is a district heating system which takes steam produced by steam generating stations and carries it under the streets of Manhattan to heat, cool, or supply power to high rise buildings and businesses. Some New York businesses and facilities also use the steam for cleaning, climate control and disinfection.

Pretty cool, I’d say…

'A New York minute' by frankeber, 2011

New York Minute (2011)
Watercolor on paper

First I thought I was going to do a painting of one of the pipes with steam rising and maybe cars going by. Then I thought it might be a bit boring as a subject matter, so I settled on a busy street scene with steam visible but part of the overall design, not as the focal point. I think it worked out, because the real focal point is all the activity in the forground and as you look your eyes actually start seeing  more and more. Nothing is really worked out though, except the taxi in the foreground and even with that, I was careful not to put too much detail. My favorite part is actually the white car on the very right corner, not sure why…

New York minute detail, by frankeber, 2011

If you look closely you will notice that there are pretty stark shapes of the building in the background. I had to work with tone, edge and color in the foreground to accomplish a balanced painting. It was more difficult than I had anticipated! I also broke every rule in the book, because my focal point is placed right at the lower edge of the painting. I quite like that, rules are there to be broken.

As for the painting process, a light stain of the sky and road came first, followed by the background buildings and finally all the cars, people and foreground activity. Cars and done wet on wet and people are mostly dry brushed. The shadow under them grounds them to the scene and is very important. Thanks for looking!!

one-way madness

I am not done with taxis just yet. For some reason they are a very fascinating subject matter to me. My blog friend and New York native Carol King told me that whenever there’s a bad traffic jam and an accident, there are usually taxis involved. Most of the time they crash into each other! How bizarre is that. I would think there’s a lot of road rage involved, it can’t be a lot of fun to drive in NYC let alone drive a taxi for hours and hours every day. Does anyone have a New York City taxi story to share?

one-way madness, by frankeber 2011

When you paint, you usually try to tell a story. I got a nice compliment from an art collector the other day. She said my NYC paintings look dreamy and I make ordinary streets look special. I was very happy to hear that, as you can imagine. It is true, I like to make it look real but surreal at the same time. In real life, cars don’t melt into the road and people don’t melt into the buildings. (Insert chemical-induced reference here.) But in a painting you can do these things and get away with them. It actually improves the work!
one-way madness_detail1, by frankeber 2011

It’s good to look at art and be uplifted, to see something that’s not there, definitely not in reality. I think it’s part of our responsibility as artists: a form of entertainment, offer something people like to look at or something that makes them think.

one-way madness_detail2, by frankeber 2011