This is the image that got me interested in doing a State Fair series. I love how the carving sparkles. My favorite time to photograph an outdoor carousel is around sunset. That’s when it comes to life, when it’s just dark enough for the glow of the bulbs to be visible, yet there’s still enough daylight to give it form. This time of day sets me up for a pleasing mix of complementary colors, from the the cool reflected colors of the sky to the warmth of the electric lights.
See how flat and uninteresting the molded carvings look when the light is less than ideal?
Here are some images taken along the way:
After tinting the board with reds, I blocked in the masses with paint instead of drawing lines. Sometimes you just need to dive right in to the paint.
I refined as much of the drawing as I could with the brush before picking up a pen.
The face is the hardest part, so I decided to knock it out first. I would love to know who the artist used as a model. He looks a lot like entertainer/’80s talk show host John Davidson to me.
Acrylics are ideal for paintings like this because they dry quickly, allowing me to draw the intricate carvings directly over the paint minutes after it’s applied. I wouldn’t be able to do that with oils. Because my markers are water soluble, I can wipe off mistakes quickly with a wet paper towel.
The sky looked more like paint than sky, so I redid it. The key to getting a sky you can look through is using a variety of colors. In this case, it was violets, greens, and yellows. Anything but blue.
The bulbs on the carousel have a swirly pattern in the glass, so when I applied the paint I swirled it like the frosting on top of a cupcake. It doesn’t show in the scan, but I like the way it looks in real life.
Adding the final carvings. I’m so glad I chose acrylics for this piece so I could quickly build up these layers. I’m intentionally leaving some areas loose. I usually want my paint to look like paint, suggesting a surface rather than tightly mimicking it.
I thought the carvings at the bottom would be hard, but they were actually kind of fun. It was just a matter of laying in a mid-tone, followed by darks, then highlights.
This one was so much fun, I might need to do it again, larger.