Day 21 - Tuesday Mar. 4, 2020
Today "Inbound/Outbound Detroit" was set free to the world.
The masking tape came off, the floor runners were rolled up, and the fences removed.
"Inbound / Outbound Detroit" was completed on March 4, 2020, ten days before the Covid pandemic shutdown began. Huntington Place, long known as Cobo Hall and at the time of the painting called TCF Center, was converted to an army field hospital to treat the victims of the pandemic. The following is reverse chronology of the mural's creation.
Day 21 - Tuesday Mar. 4, 2020
"Inbound/Outbound Detroit" 'unfolded'
Laying the two finished wall side by side returns the mural to its panoramic conception but with its own mood and personality.
Day 20 - Monday Mar. 3, 2020
End of Day. Done! Today was filled with final touch-ups and image tightening. The only significant change was to the large inbound car on the left. It was darkened to give it weight to balance the cars on the right. After that the painting was varnished and signed. Tomorrow the masking tape comes off and the carpet-protective runners come up.
Day 20: Time to sign it, date it, and, in this Internet age, link it.
Day 20: Inbound - View upon entry from parking.
Day 20: Outbound - View upon exiting elevators.
Day 19 - Monday Mar. 2, 2020
End of Day. The longest day yet, not leaving until 11:15 PM. The roadway was extensively darkened while the entire sky was softened and lightened. If you roll back and forth between this image and the one below you can see the subtle but important effect. I want to finish tomorrow so I had to reach these goals today.
Day 18 - Thursday Feb. 27, 2020
End of Day. Today the skyline windows were painted in and lights were dotted into the green middle ground. At this point, the painting is essentially completed. Only tweaking, touch up, and detailing of the overall image remain. That should be done in two more days with the final varnishing wrapping things up. Work is halted for Friday though Sunday as the big Autorama Show is in for the weekend.
Day 18: The prospect of doing all those skyline windows intimidated me for days. How was I to do all that dipping and dabbing with a tiny brush--especially in "hell's corner"? It will have to take two days! However, while laying in bed this morning, I hit on a solution that turned out to be rapid, efficient and accurate--pack paint in a small syringe [sans needle] and go at it. No dipping, just squeeze and dab. I got it all dotted in just three hours.
Day 18: "Hell's corner" completed. The skyline is "sorta" Detroit with some key landmarks, enough to create the illusion. The skyline was based off a photo I took from the derelict Packard Plant about four miles away. The Renaissance Center, on the left, is a bookend icon of the skyline. For future fun, I included the tower being constructed on the former Hudson's department store site [second from the left of the corner] due for completion in 2023 and likely the second tallest building in the city.
Day 18: The other bookend icon of the Detroit skyline is the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Canada to the south [yes Canada is south of Detroit--an trivia oddity of our great international metropolis].
Day 17 - Wednesday Feb. 26, 2020
End of Day. Today the landscape greenery was finished and skyline outlined. That should take two more days and then the final varnishing will wrap things up. Splash clouds are added to the big left end car.
Day 16 - Tuesday Feb. 25, 2020
End of Day. Today the landscape continued. Much of the day was on my side and back, down in "hell's corner", the bottom corner, painting an underpass with tiny cars.
Day 15 - Monday Feb. 24, 2020
End of Day. Today the landscape continues with its middle ground spanning the background. Days like this seem insignificant in terms of addition to the overall image, like piccolos in an orchestra, but without their richness the totality would be incomplete.
Day 14 - Thursday Feb. 20, 2020
End of Day. Today I began the Detroit landscape in the center corner. Work will halted from Friday through Sunday while the big Nation of Islam convention is taking place.
Day 13 - Wednesday Feb. 19, 2020
End of Day. The remaining cars are painted.
Day 12 - Tuesday Feb. 18, 2020
End of Day. Road shadows are painted and details refined.
Day 11 - Monday Feb. 17, 2020
End of Day. They sky underpainting is completed and vehicles on the bridges detailed.
Day 10 - Saturday Feb. 15, 2020
End of Day. The sky underpainting has begun and the parallel lines of the roadways are established. The center background cross bridge appears. There is much foot traffic from a big girls volleyball tournament at the convention hall. I get many kind comments but due to the distraction I will take tomorrow off.
Day 9 - Thursday Feb. 13, 2020
End of Day. The sky shaping has been completed and the front bridge vehicles added. Tomorrow will be a day of rest.
Day 9: Every day, around two PM, a shift of workers renovating the nearby Marquette Building pass by en route to their cars on the roof top parking lot. Many are appreciative and I get a lot of attaboys and compliments that always brighten my day.
Day 9: With "Detroit Howard" who would stop by every day, take a picture and sometimes chat. By chance I had met him a couple of years back while photographing the Packard plant. He provided a humorous aside... Since I began working on the mural someone began parking a white Bentley sedan near the outside entrance. Howard said that some of the workers became convinced it was mine. [So much for the starving artist illusion!] Some days later one of them couldn't resist and and asked me if it was mine. I replied, "No, my Bentley is red."
Day 9: Midday I pause for a video interview with Shannon, TCF Center's digital media editor.
Day 9: Today I began painting the sky defining the furrows between the clouds.
Day 9: Arriving at work. I'm taken back in mind to my manual labor days on the assembly lines and delivery trucks. My introduction to Detroit, like so many hundreds of thousands over the decades, was coming here to work summers on its auto assembly lines during my university years. For me that was in the Ford Rouge Engine Plant. When I "quit school forever" to be an artist in 1972 eight years as an on and off Sears delivery driver followed. Its union wages and travels that took to every city and suburb of Metro Detroit gave me a great education into the heart and soul of Detroit and to finance and find my way in art. In this image, I am towing my lunch and hauling water for the painting toward the elevator entrance where the mural is located.
Day 8 - Wednesday Feb. 12, 2020
End of Day.
Day 8: A special treat. Maureen Devine, TCF Art Director who has been my liaison, has been so kind, accommodating and helpful. Other staff members and security guards have likewise to been so pleasant. Today Maureen came by with Jennifer of catering and laid these delights next to my palette! Thank you.
Day 8: Laying the two walls side by side shows the united image emerging.
Day 8: The west wall.
Day 8: The north wall. Today saw the base-color painting was completed on the big cars that form the 'book ends' of the mural. Likewise all the bridges are now base-painted and the remaining cars nearly so. I feel like I have turned the corner on the painting. Tomorrow the the sky pattern will be painted and the road shadows begun to bring the floating cars to earth and make the bridges soar.
Day 7 - Tuesday Feb. 11, 2020
End of Day.
Day 7: End of Day--View of the nascent mural from rooftop parking lot set against the skyline of Detroit.
Day 7: End of Day--Zoom in view from rooftop parking lot.
Day 7: Today the base color painting of the bridges is completed and drawing of the back bridge vehicles finished.
Day 7: The day starts by drawing, using a French curve to refine an expressway bridge bend.
Day 6 - Monday Feb. 10, 2020
End of Day.
Day 6: Mixing Expressway bridge gray--Titanium White + Paynes Gray + Mars Black.
Day 6: Lining out the sky with a mix of Dioxazine Purple + Titanium White.
Day 5 - Sunday Feb. 9, 2020
End of Day. About a third of the base painting has been completed.
Day 5: The grind continues, working off the palette to tighten some details. The yellow base color of the roadways has been laid down. This will be overlaid by dark strokes and reflective colors but the yellow will peek through the gaps and give the road its sparkle and energy.
Day 5: Another day of base color filling begins. Today it starts with putting the wheels on the big outer cars
Day 4 - Saturday Feb. 8, 2020
End of Day.
Day 4: If I had my 'druthers I might have proposed starting the image two feet above the floor. Now you can see why. But the floor to ceiling impact will hopefully be worth the effort.
Day 4: I will be working from foreground to background. Since the darkest and brightest values will be in the foreground, that will help determine the values moving toward the background as well as the intensity of the glowing sky.
Day 4: The next three or four days will be consumed by the grind of bulk painting. Consider this the 'paint by number' phase. So today began by mixing tubs paint necessary. In this case dioxazine purple, cadmium yellow, raw umber and [not shown] vat orange.
Day 3 - Thursday Feb. 6, 2020
End of Day. The image begins to emerge. Tomorrow will be a day of rest.
Day 3: Outlining and base dark areas are stroked out in raw umber.
Day 2 - Wednesday Feb. 5, 2020
End of Day view of the projection tracing north wall. You'll have to squint to see the outlines.
Day 2: Projection Detail of West Wall. Water soluble felt pens, used in sewing, creates light blue lines that will disappear in the final painting.
Day 2: The vector image is projected and traced onto the walls. Due to the space limitations, the tracing required section by section projection.
Day 2: The practice painting has been converted to a vector image for projection purposes using Adobe Fresco on an iPad.
Day 1 - Feb. 4, 2020
End of day. The base color is completed.
Day 1 - Feb. 4, 2020: Cutting in the corners for base color painting.
Day 1: Mixing white gesso to a peach orange color. It will be the base color of the painting.
Day 1: Protective runners have been laid down and the baseboard taped off.
Day 1: Arrival. Set up begins.
Below: With Maureen Devine DRCFA Art Foundation Art Curator whose invaluable assistance made this possible. Maureen assisted me, from the first email in October inviting my proposal through to today, and coordinated activities so efficiently as to make this effort run smoothly and be a pleasure. Thank you Maureen!
Below: With the love of my life, my wife Susan, who held together life's details, packed lunches and coffee, photographed and supported me in countless ways through out. Thank you Susan!
Tuesday Mar. 4, 2020: One more time down in what I came to call "hell's corner" where I slaved away cramping on my side to paint the most difficult turf of the painting. I will not miss this corner.
The final painting will look and feel different, but the essence of its drawing will be the same except that much more detail being added.
To get a feel for the scale of the mural, the practice painting is Photoshopped into the space. The final image will be something different but the drawing will be nearly identical.
Preparation: Practice painting detail with the Detroit skyline [sort of] in the distance. The tall building in the center? It is the under-construction Hudson's site building, still a giant hole in the ground, that is slated for 2013 completion. It was supposed to be the new tallest building in the city, topping the Renaissance Center tower on the left, but was recently scaled back to second place. But, being the nearer of the two from this perspective, would make still make it appear taller.
Preparation: Full View
Preparation: The proposal image was a loose overall design. To prepare for the mural creation, and since this will be a brushed painting unlike my usual and more familiar MicroPointillist technique, a 38 x 16 inch [94 x 40 cm] "practice" painting of the right 70% of the image was created to work out the color palette, 'modernize' the oars, and refine the details.
Conception & Proposal
In October 2019, I was invited to create a proposal for a mural at Detroit's convention hall --The TCF Center--in the spirit of my automotive-themed urban landscapes. The proposal image [below] was digitally created, collaging pieces of previous paintings woven together with new independent elements, and presented with the following description.
“Inbound-Outbound Detroit” would be a unified two panel
mural covering the large west and north walls of the Congress
Elevator entry space. It would greet visitors entering from the TCF
roof parking space and exiting from the elevators.
Vehicles roar in and out on rain-glistened roadways from and
toward a Detroit skyline, seen in the distant center, reflecting the
purpose of the space—ingress and egress from elevators to
visitors’ cars—and the TCF Center’s most famous function—site of
the Detroit [North American] auto show. The painting is in a
signature style of the artist.
'Let there be light.' And there was light.
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