Many painters past and present said/say that they are merely chasing light when they look for the subject of their next painting. Maybe the Impressionists come to mind first. Manet summed up his motivation: “Look for bright light and deep shadow, the rest will come naturally,” (Neret, The Impressionists, p. 7. 1985). Fifty or so years later, Edward Hopper said that all he wanted to do “was to paint sunlight on the side of a house” (Goodrich. Edward Hopper, p. 31. 1993). You can’t beat nature’s lighting effects, and as cheesy as it sounds to be a light chaser, I find it to be pretty true. In fact, two days ago, I found myself literally chasing it, in my car, and I had a good laugh at myself.
I had just dropped off my son at school, and at 7:50 a.m. in February Chicago gets that bright, yellow, clear winter-morning light that makes every building glow. I was entranced, and I didn’t have any errands, so I drove, not sure of my destination but hoping I could find a parking spot wherever I landed. I had wanted to find a vantage point high enough to offer a closer view of rooftops and a birds-eye view of the morning’s long shadows. But in this flat, dense city what I need is a friend with a penthouse.
Instead, I followed the path of least resistance during rush hour, driving north on Lake Shore Drive. I took an exit toward the lake to Marovitz golf course and the handsome Lincoln Park Fieldhouse (empty parking lot!). Although The Light was hitting that big old Gothic building, I didn’t have the point of view I wanted. I took a bunch of pictures (the best being of the low-slung, A-framed women’s restroom that juts out to one side, pictured) and may piece together a composition. The trees in the park offered the height and shadows I was searching for, but, like Hopper, I was hoping for the broad side of a building.
I left when I couldn’t feel my toes anymore, and I went to the grocery store for a breakfast burrito. I have been up on top of its parking garage many times, but this day I caught a view in between levels onto a bright, red-brick building and pulled over. I walked closer and took more photographs of the stunning colors and shadows. Found it!
Later is what?
After settling into various desk jobs, I always said I'd get back to painting later in life, and later is now. Again means that I tried once before. I decided to write about my painting endeavor, too, as a learning tool, an accountability tool, and to stay sharp in case I have to go back to a desk job. Again.
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