Oil and Steel mix
From every place we stood with our easels and brushes this past week, we can confidently state that NYC lacked nothing compared to other places considered sacred by oil painters. In this city, where skyscrapers of glass and steel cage the sky, we discovered a treasure trove of painting subjects. Anyone captivated by the intricacies of urban landscapes could revel in the ever-shifting hues and forms carouseling in front of our eyes.
Before our trip, mentioning our intention to paint on-site amidst the lofty buildings raised a few eyebrows. New York City doesn't initially fit the usual idea of a painter's paradise, which typically includes places in Italy and France. However, as soon as the oil touched our boards, it became clear that there was no more fitting stage for our painting antics.
We loved zigzagging through the city's patchwork of green spaces: living tableaus where nature and concrete reached a reluctant détente. Studious picnickers, bellicose performers, rattling wheels, solitary book readers, and a diverse array of discombobulated humans always in a state of change. The experience resembled a revolving gallery of Shakespearean vignettes: a group of dogs prancing with intent in Central Park, a couple publicly breaking up at Pier 57, a firefighter proudly showing a garbed friar some wild artwork on the hood of his red Jeep Wrangler. From the moment we set foot in the city to our final farewell, we felt like we were on a Disney-like conveyor belt of life's tales.
Bliss and Abyss
If LA is our sweetheart, NYC was the wrecked breakup we couldn't let go of. It is the dizzying peak of a roller coaster and the heavy g-force whiplashing every last breath out of your lungs. We stared up in awe at the preposterous plinths of buildings from a bug's eye view and descended into its subterranean blistering veins to be carried around. Perhaps scientists throughout human history may have speculated for fun where the center of the Universe could be. For us, we were unequivocally in the eye of it last week.
The sun's rays seemed choreographically restrained in the city, as if someone drew monumental blinds on a sunny afternoon, casting flickering patterns of light and shadow on the asphalt. Buildings ascend into the sky like giant pieces in a game of chess, acting as both blocks and art, casting their long shadows across the crisscrossing streets, letting light pour profusely through the gaps. So dramatic.
The Angst of Deaccessioning
And the New York City species, how could we not bump into it? You know you stand out when you say "thank you" one time too many. Fast and uninterrupted, unbothered, straightforward, that's how self-proclaimed New Yorkers adjusted to the Damoclean glass and steel handing over their heads. The line of them at Strand to sell their beloved books because they perpetually run out of room: imagine the gripe and resentment a book lover would have after being forced to deaccession their library collection. What book do you put on the chopping block? How do you greet the first person after you guillotined your bookshelves? Imagine the pent-up grudge. All but respect for their perennial state of contempt.
Our time in this amazing city was a vivid chapter in our pursuit of painting subjects, and it has painted our own art stories with shades that only New York City can provide. So, regardless of whether we find ourselves mesmerized by Piemonte's rolling vineyards or Salisbury's medieval spire, we know that there's a painting waiting for us to be created in the heart of Manhattan; one that teems with as much life, drama, and beauty as any plein air paradise you'll find around the globe.
As we stand at the threshold of our painting week in the kaleidoscope of inspiration that is NYC, our painter’s pulse picks up, excited to become one with our surroundings but also a bit fidgety about conveying its lifeblood in our work with our oils.
The Stories in Each Brushstroke
Packing our brushes for the palette exploration, we started reflecting on how our strokes will turn out this time, wondering what we want them to do but what they’ll end up doing on their own, knowing that each gesture has a different possibility of dialoguing with the city, each delicate choice an opportunity to define the stories our paintings will tell. It’s daunting and exhilarating at the same time. How do we want our paintings to reflect the essence of this landscape, squeezing movement, light, and architecture?
Energies in Conversation: A Midsummer Epilogue
We feel our time in the enchanting magic of A Midsummer Night's Dream, painting the play from life in Griffith Park a couple of weeks ago, primed us for the extended painting sessions we’ve planned for this trip, a departure from our familiar rhythm. We stand prepared for the tete-a-tete with buildings, humans, and nature colliding, allowing its electric, dreamy, and mercurial energies creep up our easels. Our experience is more than what the palette and the brush end up defining, though. It's an in-group exploration, a ceremonial ode to in-person, hands-on creativity, and an invitation to absorb the city's multifaceted heart through painting. We’re so excited for it.
A New Painter’s Tale
The city's rhythm and the expectation to visually represent it become increasingly tangible as we move closer to the beginning of our new chapter in oil. We're looking forward to sharing and conversing with the painters joining us to find the inspiration to stand up to the task.