Monday, May 20, 2019

The Wedding Season Has Begun!

My 2019 wedding season kicked off yesterday.  I was the live event artist at the wedding of a lovely couple who got married at the Dennis Vineyards near Albemarle, North Caroline, which is a bit east of Charlotte.  It was a lot of fun to get back into the swing of the wedding painting thing again.

When the bride and I were planning what to put on canvas, she was torn.  She wanted it to show the first dance, but she also wanted to see the beautiful vineyards.  Well, this is a painting, and I can put anything I want anywhere I want.  So our idea was to show the first dance outside, on the lawn, with the vineyards in the background.  Good plan.

All went normally for me for a while.  I arrived early, talked with the event planner and venue manager, got set up, met the bride and groom, and started taking reference photos of everything.  I continued taking photos all during the ceremony.  Since the ceremony was outside, this gave me an indication of the direction and color of the light, how any breezes affected hair and dresses, and some idea of how the people looked in the landscape.  After the ceremony, I tagged along with the photographer and videographer as they worked with the newly-married couple and got some really good references.  Then we moved inside and I shot a ton more photos during the first dance.  Then it was time to get to work on the painting.

My approach was to do a very rough block-in of the landscape, then put the various figures into it.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  Well, I took it too far.  When I started putting figures into the landscape, the landscape had a lot to say about where the figures went, which wasn't necessarily where I wanted them to be.  Not only that, but I had to wipe out the landscape underpainting (which was still very wet) to paint the figures in.  And the brushstrokes for my figures picked up the remnants of the green paint and tinted everything.  To top it all off, I thought my figure drawing was for crap.  Sheesh.

Fortunately, the couple and guests were quite impressed by what I managed to get done in a fairly short amount of time.  I had a great time talking with many people, from the 4-year-old flower girl to an 80-something gent.

Back in the studio today, I plopped the painting on my easel and studied it.  I decided that the basic idea and composition were fine, but execution was sub-par.  So a lot of thinner and some scrubbing with a stiff brush removed most of the still-wet paint.  Next was to block in the dancing couple, and that went much better than the first effort.  Then I did a good bit of thinking and planning on how to put in the rest of the key figures, and how to get the landscape to support the composition.

Result?  A much improved structure in which to paint the people, while showing relationships, emotions, and activity.  Lesson learned: don't paint the background first!  Indicate the setting, but only roughly.  Then block in the key people.  THEN develop the painting all over.

So NO, you can't see it right now.  I'll show a work-in-progress when it's a bit further along. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A New Toy

I've liked sports cars almost all my life.  I've had a few, too: '70 Opel GT, '69 Alfa Romeo Spider, '80 Triumph TR7, '68 Triumph GT6+, '76 MG Midget, and an '85 Porsche 944.  And I had a '91 Taurus SHO, which was the factory hotrod version with a screaming Yamaha engine and a 5-speed manual transmission.  The last of the sports cars was the 944, which we sold in about 2001.  I've had small trucks and a Volvo ever since.

But the sports car bug never left.  I have subscriptions to a couple of car magazines that kept the fire going, and periodically I'd look at eBay, Craigslist, or Bring A Trailer, just to see what was there.  The fire really got stoked last year when one of my magazines started a series on a '71 Alfa Romeo Spider that they bought and began fixing up.  I've always had a soft spot for the Spiders.  I think they're one of the most beautiful production cars ever made, with sleek and elegant lines.  So most of my eBay, Craigslist, and Bring A Trailer perusals focused on Alfas.  Just to, y'know, see what's out there.  That's all.

Last year, a Spider popped up on Bring A Trailer and it was right here in the Asheville area.  It sounded pretty good, so, y'know, just to see what's out there, I connected with the guy to check it out.  Well, his definition of "pretty good" and mine weren't the same.  The Alfa was completely worn out.  The paint was faded, top was shot, steering vague, oil pressure near zero, it smoked, interior needed to be replaced, wires hanging down from the dash, you get the picture.  I didn't bid.  It wound up selling for about $9,500, and needed that much more work in order to be a $10,000 car.

A couple of weeks ago, I just happened to be on eBay (not looking for anything, I swear) and there was a really nice '87 Alfa Spider.  From the photos, it looked like it had been well cared for: the paint was in good shape, advertised with no rust (a BIG issue with Alfas), had the original top with a clear rear window, and supposedly ran well.  The seller's writeup said all the right things that an Alfa owner would recognize and it looked to me like he was (a) honest and (b) really knew what he was talking about.  I thought, dang, that's nice, it's gonna go for big bucks.  The opening bid was really low at $5250, and I expected it would sell for at least double that.

As the week went on, nobody bid.  Nobody.  Finally it was an hour before the auction was due to end and there were still no bids.  My stress level went off the scale - should I bid on it?  Yes? No? Yes?  Finally Janis said, look, you know you want it, just buy the damn thing.  So I waited until the last minute, in case there were other goobers like me watching, and threw in my bid for the opening amount.

I won the auction.

So now I own a 1987 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce (pronounced "vel-OH-chee").  As it turned out, the seller was a fantastic guy who gave me what he knew of the history of the car.  He had only put maybe 300 miles on it during 8 years of ownership, and kept it in his garage, where it was usually blocked in by his family's other cars.  There was a good bit of recent work that fixed some common Alfa problems.  He and I hit it off really well - we both saw ourselves as caretakers of the Alfa.  Nobody's a "caretaker" of a Toyota.

I arranged to have the car shipped from Annapolis, Maryland, here to Mars Hill, North Carolina.  The car arrived late Friday afternoon.  I spent the weekend fiddling with the car and going through all the spares, accessories, parts, manuals, and other items that the previous owner included.  On Monday, I got the car licensed and put the tags on.  On Tuesday, it got a new set of tires, since the old ones were around 12 years old.  Then I went ripping up and down some of the winding back country roads around my home.  Just to test it out, you know.

Impressions?  This is a really nice survivor.  It's certainly not perfect, but it has been driven, maintained, and lived with by owners who took good care of it.  It's a very physical car to drive.  By that, I mean that it does not have power steering, so it takes a lot of effort to crank the wheel.  It has a manual transmission that, in typical Alfa fashion, has synchronizers that quit working in probably the first year.  It's loud, it vibrates, it's immediately responsive to every steering/throttle/brake input, and it demands that you PAY ATTENTION to what you're doing.  But if you do that, damn, it is such a sweet car!

That drive exposed a few things that need to be addressed.  But then, I expected no less.  None of the issues are serious and I can take care of all of them but one - I gotta have a shop replace the rear wheel bearings.  Other than that, the car is eager to go play on these back roads.

I needed a car like this like a hole in the head.  But boy, I really LOVE this car!