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Mornings, Aerin, 2020.

36"x36", acrylic on canvas.


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This one is based on memories of the various highways that go through Fairbanks. I've included this photo because its the kind of road I was thinking of while making this composition, but I did not work off this photo as reference. I was thinking especially of the Johansen Expressway which goes through the end of town that I live in. There are parts of the Johansen that are higher up off the ground than surrounding buildings and I love looking down at all the lights as I drive through.

A photograph of a multi lane highway at night. Everything is cloaked in darkness besides the road which is illuminated by white light from streetlights.
A shaded pencil sketch in a sketchbook. It depicts a road stretching out towards the horizon. The sky is dark. The road is flanked by streetlights.

This painting is the largest in the collection, and the second largest painting I've ever made. I quite enjoy working on large paintings, they're more forgiving of small details and so very impressive when they're finished. However, they're also more expensive and way harder to transport, which can be a problem for me because I don't have a big van or anything. I think that it's worth it in the end, but I do have to plan more carefully when I want to do a big painting. 

I made two different thumbnails of this composition. The first one was pretty close to what I wanted, but I made a second one so I could add some plumes and curved lights. At first I just wanted to show the lights below the road, but after more observation I decided I also wanted to show the light pollution. In Fairbanks there are several different buildings that let out plumes of water vapor, or maybe it's smoke. Either way, at night they'll often light up a peachy orange color and I wanted to show that. 

A digital, colored sketch. The sketch shows a road flanked by streetlights shining blue down onto the road. Far in the distance are orange plumes of water vapor reaching up into the pink sky. There are orange and blue city lights on top of a silhouette of a city skyline stretching out to the horizon.
A photo of a pen sketch. The sketch shows a road flanked by streetlights. Far in the distance are plumes of water vapor. There are city lights stretching out towards the horizon.
A photograph of an unfinished painting. The bottom half of the canvas is blank. The top half has an onbre of pink to dark blue. On top of the ombre there are six transparent orange plumes leading to the top of the canvas.

When I made my digital color study I used some of the digital blending tools to make the plumes, but I had to figure out something else for the actual painting. Acrylics won't blend in that super soft way, especially with wet on dry like I use. I tried to use watered down acrylics but they weren't giving me the texture I wanted. I experimented a little bit, and eventually I settled on using some matte medium as well as water to make the paint transparent and free flowing, while still maintaining enough body to manipulate it the way I wanted to.

I used multiple layers to build up the clouds and plumes and I really like the way it turned out. After this painting I used matte medium a lot more. I like that watered down paint tends to not show brush marks, but its also very runny so it must be done in very thin layers. Matte medium allows me to use thicker paint which is really nice for things like the sky or snow on tree branches. 

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