Monday, August 4, 2008

A new pastel for the New Orleans Show.

'St. John' - pastel - 18x25 - © Marc R. Hanson '08

I'm showing this piece as it is, finished, with one small exception. The title is the tugs name 'St. John', but the photo shows the painting before I added the name to the boat. It's there on the painting now, but the photo was taken before that was done. Otherwise, it's finished.

One of the most interesting areas of New Orleans to me was the waterfront. I spent enough time on the upper reaches of the Mississippi River to feel a real identity with that murky but alive artery of a river. The Upper Mississippi River is a place of solitude, quiet rides in a canoe with the occasional interruption of a fishing boat motor or two. But it's a body of water that you can still get very lost on, especially if traveling the backwater regions of the area where the Chippewa River meets the Mississippi just below Lake Pepin. There is a swamp in that area called 'Black Slough' where even today only a few people could be trusted to take you into the middle of and still be able to get you out of... without GPS that is! That's the Mississippi River that I know.

Even in New Orleans with all of the industrial activity, the Mississippi has a presence and a personality that lets you know that there is something so much larger going on than all of the car horns, air traffic noise, sirens and general metropolitan background noise that surrounds you in a place like this. There's a calm about Old Man River. In New Orleans the working boats seem like a completely natural extension of what the river is. I'll probably paint more of this aspect of NOLA as I approach ideas for the other paintings for this exhibit.


Anonymous said...

mighty mighty big's so wide and almost ancient by the time it gets down there.
those three bodies of water - lake ponchartraine, the mississippi, and the gulf - plus all the bayous and delta swamps.....and the city being below sea level...makes it kind of otherworldly down there. and like a country to, the air being kind of like a wet dishrag most of the time.
fascinating creole.......weird that we, up here, are connected to that, down there.
and weird that rivers can get one lost...apocalypse now.....

i appreciate the murky, unglossed grind of worklife that comes through this paper/canvas, the draftsman rendering that suits the manmade elements of the scene so well, and the vast gravity of sorts of the water, there, that you convey.

Donna T said...

I like this one so much, Marc. You really gave the impression of that boat working hard to get through the fast-moving, muddy water. I am always amazed at how low those tugs seem to sit in the water and you gave that impression too. Was this done from a plein air study?

Marc R. Hanson said...

Nicely put anonymous. Thanks.

Donna... Thank you too. I painted two or three studies of this area. One was of a tug pushing barges up around a bend with a large tanker docked along the background shore on a very hazy overcast day like this. The other one was of this very scene, minus the tug, but on a very sunny day. Along with a couple others I guess. None of them were exactly this scene, but just having painted the general area and scene makes such a difference when it comes to these studio paintings that I can hardly paint in the studio without having had this kind of experience.

Kevin Menck said...

The tug boats down there seem to have a lot more character than the ones we have up here on the Cumberland River in Nashville. Ours look much more "industrial" or something. That is a beautiful painting of a beautiful boat. The "push" of the water is perfect.
To check the "industrialized" look see the July 23 entry at
That is one of the best looking one's we have around here.
Good luck on the show.

Dianne Mize said...

I love where you placed the boat. It creates just enough tension with the left edge to make my eye cruise to the upper right background. Lovely simmering water.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Kevin... I like your tugs though they don't look as 'classic'. You've made it look good anyway. Nice.
Thanks for the comments.

Thanks Dianne... This piece was a little reminiscent of times past designing stamp entries where the focus, the critter that went on the stamp, was to be as big and centered as possible. Of course I wasn't interested or leaning in that direction, but I wanted to focus on the work aspect of the river and show it's size in relation to even some very large vessels that work it. It became an issue of slightly shifting things a little up, little down, to the side and moving back and forward to find the 'spot' in the picture plane that the tug belonged to. I feel pretty comfortable with it.

Frank Gardner said...

I really like your designs Marc. The way that you leave large areas "empty". It really gives the feel of the mighty river by having so much big space up front.

I really enjoy looking at all of the recent paintings that you posted that I have not commented on. Some great light in those.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Frank... Thank you! Your comment about the light in these brings up a notion that is perplexing to me in a way. Not what you said, but what someone else said...
Somewhere recently, online I think, a painter was explaining that he makes a decision about whether to make a painting about the 'value', or the 'color', or the 'light'!
Excuse me, but it's all about the light. :) The color of the light, the resulting values because of the light.
I found that thinking to be a little misguided, or should I say just misunderstood. I don't want to presume, but I think that I know what he's saying but isn't.
He probably decides where to place the emphasis in a painting, what is the concept concerning the light he's seeing. Emphasize value, color, edges, subtlety, pattern, form, lack of form, height, width... this list can go on and on. But no matter what you emphasize, even in a black and white drawing, it's about 'LIGHT'. Otherwise, we can't see anything.
Okay, done with the Saturday morning soap box.

Frank Gardner said...

I couldn't agree more Marc. It is all about the light first. No need to repeat what you already said.

Is there room on the soap box for more?
In defense of the comment that I did not read, I find writing about art very hard sometimes and often will write something and then think of something or several other things that I should write to qualify what I said. There are so many variables and side tracks. Maybe it was just not well thought out. Maybe it was just wrong.

Point two, if I can run on. I think that for the style that you or I paint in, it IS about the light, but, I have seen paintings, even landscapes, that seem to have nothing to do with light or even accurate color or drawing. So in that case I guess light is not the prime concern.

Theresa Rankin said...

Absolutely stunning!! I will be following along!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I love this piece. That tug boat is terrific and a great atmosphere about the whole composition.