The past two weeks I have been working on the centrepiece to an upcoming exhibition of mine. In fact I'm still working on the painting, however I'm now sufficiently far enough into the painting process to show you how I arrived at the initial idea for 'A Quarter Past One On Platform Ten'.
First off - I knew I wanted to do a BIG painting but what should be the subject? It had to contain lots of characters (some which I've taken from previous paintings) and it must have depth both in terms of physical space and of narrative. My aim with the BIG painting was to develop the world in which my characters inhabited and also to spawn knew ideas for forthcoming paintings.
Gradually the idea to tackle a railway station scene, with lots of action on the platform and a great big steam engine in the background, came to me. A major influence on my choice was 'The Railway Station' by William Powell Frith
which featured on the front cover of a British History book I had seen at school (I think). Frith's characters are lined up as if waiting for a school assembly photograph to be taken and the steam engine is in the far distance so when I started to thumbnail ideas I deliberately started with the engine first to bring it forward and then introduce random sqiuggles for characters afterwards in the hope the train and it's travellers would have equal importance.
|Somewhere in these childlike scrawls is a reasoned composition waiting to be realised|
You can see I circled the thumbnail I thought was balancing characters vs steam engine best. Some of the failed attempts either cut the steam engine in half or took over most of the scene leaving very little space for a platform that was to be teeming with life.
|First rough (take two)|
Because I knew the perspective of the roof and train was going to be very challenging I decided to create a rough which left the platform empty. This enabled me to erase mistakes easily without removing a meticulously drawn fox paw (insert your own obscure animal anatomy here). It also made sure the train's perspective lines joined up correctly when the characters appeared in the foreground blocking parts of the engine behind. The image above is the second attempt at the rough drawing, the first version was too side on and lacked any depth.
You might recognise the station as St Pancras in London. I visited a friend in the big smoke as part of my 'reference gathering trip'. I've got some good shots of old pubs too, ahem. I also visited Didcot Railway Centre
which was a gold mine of not just trains but old luggage, station furniture, signs and trolleys.
|I don't know how Bugs Bunny appeared in this sketch (far right - don't judge me).|
Once I was happy with the train and station, the roof had to be re-drawn more times than I would like to admit, I then pulled out some tracing paper, laid it on top of the rough and started to develop some characters.
This post is long enough already so I'll go through some important characters in my next post and for now I will leave you with the image of the animals on tracing paper and the station brought together (like ebony and ivory
) in Photoshop.
|Together in perfect harmony.|