It is, however, not the time or place to be delving into my interest of documenting imagery from our great and ever changing city. However, once on flat roof, I can whip out a cell phone and take photographs or panoramas of some of the best views of Philadelphia. This is a fringe benefit of being the resident roof consultant for The Sheward Partnership. Roof system design may not always be a creative outlet in the field of architecture, but it provides another opportunity for balance: combining the technical tasks of providing an energy efficient and watertight envelope, with appreciating the views of our great city.
As a born-and-raised Philadelphian, I recognize the great traditions brought forward by the artists that have called Philadelphia home, and my own technique stems from years of trial, error, and experimenting. The process for these paintings was done in the studio from photograph. Since my primary responsibilities during these roof visits are work-related, photographs are taken and often several studies are done later to establish the form and color palette. As a painter who had developed an interest in documenting the everyday life in painting and drawing, I use the opportunities these views give me to capture imagery that displays everyday Philadelphia combined with the iconic, in yet another balancing act.
The original scene is lightly sketched in pencil. Then, in a series of layers, working light to dark, is applied. The color palette consists of a warm and cool version of each primary color, along with a neutral shading color for the deepest shadows. Often, the unpredictability and behavior of watercolor, combined with the several key factors that influence creativity: atmosphere, time of day, time allowance, and other factors, turn a painting experience into an improvisation of color on paper. That is to say, sometimes the improvisation doesn’t work.
Using watercolor allows for fast and effective color application, and the inherent transparency of the medium showcases the light that fills the city on a daily basis. Each of the studies shown were done in under one hour. Working in this way provides the final balancing act: the chaos of water media along with the control of shaping form and establishing light in a limited time frame. Once every so often the balance is struck between intention and the happy accidents of water media.
At the end of the day, ground floor terra firma is also a good place to sit and take the opportunity for creativity.
Written by Cory Neale, Project Manager