Friday, April 27, 2012

Watercolor Musings: Designing Images with Meaning - II

Watercolor Musings: Designing Images with Meaning - II: This is a continuation of the initial blog about designing images with meaning. These creative problems are fun to do and I usuall y "thro...

Designing Images with Meaning - II

This is a continuation of the initial blog about designing images with meaning, in this case those created for the Orange Public Library History Walk. These creative problems are fun to do and I usually "throw" the requirements in the back of my head and let it simmer for awhile. The idea of the images was to tell the story of the city of Orange within images and a brief text by Phil Brigandi. The following are the stories of the railroad, citrus industry and agriculture that was NOT citrus. 

The Railroad
The composition of this particular painting gave me a bit of trouble. The positioning of the buildings represents the existing 1930’s era station in the foreground and the Victorian station in the rear or in the past. I learned that in actuality the Victorian station was to the south or to the right of the current station. If you visit the station you can see the space between the trees and the buildings. I tried several times to make the composition accurate by having the Victorian Station in the foreground. It just wouldn’t work so I finally returned to my first thought.The railroads had a huge impact on the settling of the west so this was an important part of the story to be told. 

While designing this painting a real serendipity occurred. I was speaking wishfully about the image of the train stations and the possibility of having an old train ticket to help as a transition between the old and new stations. Not two days later, Bobby McDearmon came in the gallery and asked me if I’d like to have an old ticket to use as reference…it seems he was talking to Lisa Ackerman, a friend and shop keeper around the corner and she had been here when I was verbalizing my wish. He specializes in historical ephemera and has an extensive collection that is Orange based. The rail ticket he loaned me for this piece was issued August 1, 1892.

The Citrus Industry

Whereas there was a dearth of information and images for some of the paintings, this subject was so rich in material that my job was to make the difficult decision of what to include. Since the Santiago Packing House was at one time the largest Valencia packing plant in the world, their label became the largest image in the painting. Choosing a packinghouse proved not only difficult but rather uninteresting shape-wise. The truck became a representation of all the packinghouses, was interesting and color-wise was a real addition once I found out what color this old truck was. Pictures for this project were almost all in black and white so I called on friends with expertise when needed. The grove, fading off into the distance filled the outer areas of the piece and lugs of oranges with the addition of a picking sack filled the lower left hand corner nicely. This composition has some personal meaning since I grew up on groves in San Diego County and was well acquainted with the equipment. And adding to that connection, my neighbor for many years was President of the Santiago Packing House.

Early Agriculture

Agriculture and animal husbandry that was not citrus is the theme for this image. A tall vine of grapes frames the painting, which includes apricots, walnuts, avocados, grain, chickens, row crops, dairy cows and pumpkins. The pumpkins were a late addition. I had purchased a new book of Orange Place Names by Phil Brigandi just before I began the paintings. At one time West Orange was called “Pumpkinville” by the residents. I needed another warm color and decided to include the fall squashes. 

As I said in the first blog on these images, they are part of placques outside part of the perimeter of the library building. People need to be able to grasp the meaning of the image and have time to read the brief history also on the placque. All the original paintings are framed and on the second floor of the library next to the history room.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Watercolor Musings: Designing Images with Meaning - I

Watercolor Musings: Designing Images with Meaning - I: Several years ago I was asked to do a series of paintings for a History Walk around part of the new Orange Public Library an...

Designing Images with Meaning - I

Several years ago I was asked to do a series of paintings for a History Walk around part of the new Orange Public Library and History Center. It turned out to be much more of a design problem than a painting project. Certain images were requested and I had the history notes from Phil Brigandi which were to accompany the paintings. I made the paintings much more graphic than I normally paint since the images and history notes were to be transferred to a stone-like material and the idea was that library visitors could walk along and quickly grasp the image and pause to read the notes.

Overview and Welcome

With such a general theme, I was having difficulty coming up with an image. Head Librarian Nora Jacob came to my rescue with the idea for the book and background of the earth and space behind. I wanted to put in some of the interesting tidbits of history within this larger idea and the book gave me the inspiration – bookmarks, of course. Each "ribbon" holds some early history - the only difficulty here was choosing what to include. 

Center Street for the Library
If the first painting was a challenge to imagine, the second was just as ephemeral. This was the last painting done in the series. Once the idea that the Chapman Avenue and Center Street as division lines were “seen” as ribbons then the rest followed nicely. The three versions of the library are depicted in the lower right corner of the painting – stacked upon one another so as to show the relative sizes of each building. The rose is the city flower so a bouquet makes up the largest part of the painting and ribbons with historical notes are again used to convey information. The most interesting to me was learning that Center Street was extended to Chapman Avenue in 1908, having originally been closed off. The newest rendition of our library returns the street to its original configuration. The ribbons again provided a space for bits of history.

In all there are 14 paintings. I will add them in subsequent posts.