I’ve always wanted to paint the various auto repair shops on Butler Road in Bethesda, and today I had my first go at it. I should have chosen a different time of day, as I was painting contre jour — into the sun. Also, I realized that I was more interested in the stacked cars on the left; next time I’ll make those the focus. So, not my best effort, but an interesting first study.
About a month ago, I did a plein air study at this spot, at the intersection of Elm Street and Arlington Boulevard in Bethesda, Maryland. I was interested in the stripes of light and shadow on the street, as well as the perpetual negotiation between car and pedestrian. Plus I liked the phtalo-green traffic light!
So now I’m doing a larger studio version. I intend to add crosswalk markings and a yellow centerline for the street. I may also add more pedestrians and cars, but I don’t want to take too much attention from the foreground car, patiently waiting for the jaywalkers.
I was wandering around the Cleveland Park section of Washington, D.C., looking for a good spot to paint, when I came across this colorful tree guarding a block of Newark Street. I immediately set up shop and put down two brushstrokes (transparent red oxide, for you painting gurus out there). Just then one of my relatives happened to pull up to the intersection in her car, and we had a nice chat. After she left I had another dozen passersby visit me while the painting was in its ugly stage. When the picture finally started to look like something, I was all alone! But no matter: it was a glorious, breezy day, and the trees were wonderful company.
The police officer in this scene is actually a bronze statue by J. Seward Johnson. The officer stands guard, day and night, over an intersection in Friendship Heights, near the DC/Maryland border. Reportedly local residents give him a scarf in cold weather. He also apparently deters some aggressive driving, or at least that's what the local police say.
I had hoped to depict more traffic and passersby, but the sun set, and I was still finishing the officer's hat in virtual darkness. I'd like to go back and do a more complete picture. It was still lots of fun.