The Magnolia Cooperative Preschool Auction presented some painting challenges, as it was set in Seattle's Fremont Studios, a soundstage production facility that doubles as a venue for events. There are some definite positives in such a venue. One can always ask for gaffer's tape or proximity to an electrical outlet, which I need for the lamp I perch on my easel, in order to paint in the dark. Painting in the dark is always a challenge. And a soundstage has black walls, black floors, and a black ceiling.
The first thing I paint at a wedding or event is the room. For most of my clients— weddings, that is— the venue is an important part of the memory of the occasion. But at any event, I have to establish the plane in which the social activity unfolds. (The academic word for this is perspective, but I twist perspective so much as to defile it.) This means, in the most mundane sense, painting the floor, the walls and the ceiling. And in this room, that means painting with a lot of black.
I don't carry a tube of black paint. I mix ultramarine blue and burnt umber (an ancient pigment, a very dark brown) to get the sootiest, most charcoal like hue— but with more interesting undertones. In a conventional technique, this would be used very sparingly until after other colors and brighter areas are defined. But with the unique demands of these event paintings, the figures are painted last. So the challenge of painting this black room full of luminous, beautiful people was to keep it bright. When I was a less experienced painter, I swore through many elegant evenings, as bright dresses got muddy and faces got sooty on my canvas.
I am most pleased with this painting for managing the light in a room full of dark.
Also unique to a soundstage or large photo studio is a wall known as a psyche. It is generally painted white, and used to photograph objects so that they appear to be floating in space. This is accomplished by a sweeping curve that blends the wall with the floor. At Fremont Studios, the room that doubles as an event venue and concert hall has two psyche walls, south and west. A semi truck with a sixty foot trailer can be photographed in this room. And for this event, the psyche walls were transformed, movie screen like, cast in neon blue with rising bubbles.
One does not paint lines to establish the perspective of such a room. It is all done in fields of color. That color is mostly black. And against that dark frame, the clear, bright faces of the couple who bought this painting really shine.