Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A. L. Garcia Fights the Crowds

Contemporary realist Antonio López Garcia (b. 1936) paints everything from direct observation. He works on large canvases, and he is a patient, careful observer.


When he wants to paint an urban scene, he sets up his canvas right on the street and deals with the wind, changing light and other distractions. Here's his painting Gran Via, with the cars and people typically deleted.

(Video link) This video shows him struggling to paint in a public square in Puerta del Sol. Surrounded by clueless tourists, cameras, traffic, and other distractions, he stays focused. It takes sheer determination to do this sort of work.


Note how his painting surface is nearly 90 degrees away from the view of the scene. And note the unusual device he uses for measuring slopes and lengths. He rests one end against his cheek to get a constant unit of size.

One thing that might have helped him with the curious crowds would be to set up stanchions or traffic cones. I try to bring my cones when I'm doing street painting, and they look official enough to keep people back. Uniforms help, too. It also works, if you can get away with it, to set up on a flatbed truck or the back of a pickup to get a little protection from the chaos.
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Previously on GJ: Traffic Cones

21 comments:

Marianne Mathiasen said...

Wow that is a very patient artist! His device made sense, do you think he has some sort of guiding mark/lines on the device?

Johan Derycke said...

He's considered one of the most important realist artists of today, according to some.

In American Painting Video Magazine, back issue Volume 1, Winter edition, Mr Klein talks with Mr Lopez Garcia about his measuring device (among other things). This interview with the renown Spanish painter alone is worth the 12 dollars.

You can buy the film here:
https://www.americanpaintingvideomagazine.com/back-issues/

The movie "El Sol Del Membrillo" was on view at youtube last year but apparently it's gone offline by now. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it if you are interested in seeing how Mr Lopez Garcia works.

Sergio Lopez said...

How about wearing a reflective vest to go with the cones?

Artoonator said...

Or, like myself, don't paint streets at all :)

Darren Kingsley said...

Wow.... I'd last about 5 minutes before screaming at them.....

mdmattin said...

The same video inspired me to attempt the construction of a similar sighting device a few months ago. After some back and forth with various prototypes and feedback from members of Sketching Forum, I ended up with a much simpler and more flexible version, which I have been using in practice since.
http://www.sketching.cc/forum3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1930

Anonymous said...

He's more correctly known as Antonio Lopez than A. l.. Garcia, if you're invested in searching on him.

I ditto the recommendation for El Sol Del Membrillo (Heart of the Quince). It's about the four month journey painti a quince tree in his backyard.

Nick

Suzy said...

I like the uniform idea--so many possibilities! "Stay back, Ma'am, I'm with the Sanitation Department (I'm an EMT, I'm a priest) and I have to sketch this scene!"

nystudios said...

He cleans his brushes with his mouth....um....I hope he is around for a while. Lead poisoning, Cadmium poisoning, cobalt poisoning come to mind.

P.T. Waugh said...

This might just be my practical/negative view, but isn't this sort of silly? Of course there's going to be crowds of people. You can't ask people to stay back and keep it down. Why not just paint from a photograph or 2? If you're going to delete everyone, is it really still direct observation?

Novice Naturalist said...

Why a painting that looks like a photograph? It doesn't work for me, especially with no people or cars. I appreciate the focus and dedication--just don't care for the result.

James Gurney said...

Anonymous, yes, I've seen his name frequently written as Antonio Lopez, but I went with the formulation that the Boston Museum of Fine Arts used for its book and exhibition. It's also written that way on Wikipedia in English.

Novice, For me the lack of cars and people give it a magical quality. If you see close-up details of the painting, it's actually quite painterly--not at all like a photograph.

PT, It does seem a little funny to expect to paint a view that is likely to be blocked by innocent people, but as I understand it he usually gets to his locations early in the morning when they're fairly empty, and maybe we're just seeing him at a freak busy moment. And yes on your last question. Every plein air piece involves lots of deletion, no matter how much fidelity you're trying for.

NYStudios--Licking brushes. Not a good idea.

Suzy, I've found if people are confused enough they won't bother you.

Thanks, MD for that link. Ingenious.

Sergio: Or a sign: "DANGER: Occasional Flying Wet Paint."

Thank you Michael Klein for your great videos! And I've only seen excerpts of El Sol, and I loved the part where he's singing with a buddy.

Lee Jerrett said...

I've seen extremely long-exposure photographs that create the same effect, but I still like the idea that everything in his paintings has been filtered through his mind, and what he is interested in is the permanent structures. Besides I think I would go insane trying to paint the crowd from life like that!

adebanji said...

Pure Genius!!! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting, surreal result, and I like the fact that he has to observe the scene long enough that every patch of sidewalk and building has been exposed from behind the moving people and vehicles. When you think about it this could be very difficult. What if a street person is sleeping and refuses to move?

Rosa said...

I love this reminder that artists are important voices of the community that they arise from, however messy and inconvenient that community may be. Artists are not and are not meant to be ivory tower-type unreachable. Awesome.

d433 said...

ttest

Tim said...

HE is amazing, I saw the tree painitng a few years ago. I live and run my gallery in a small tiown in Sweden, and if it wasnt for curious onlookers asking questions, I would not have about 90% of my business. I for one welcome them! Sure, its very distracting, and the paintings take about 5 times longer to finish, but I love talking to people and networking. Thats how I see it, networking for artist. I hand out buisnesscards and a small flyer where I explain my process and a map to my gallery. (I paint many commissions of peoples houses, and the occasional portraits)
You never know who youll end up talking to, and Ive met some very itneresting and generous people. I actually see it as one of the perks of being a painter. And that includes the hordes of kids that swarm around me, they have parents too who might want their house depicted! When I want to paint by myself I usually go where there are no people.

And "Novice Naturalist", Garcias painting looks NOTHING like a photograph, in fact this is a far away from photorealism that you could possibly get. This is pure Garcia, filtered through nothing but himself.

Raul Arbeloa Santos said...

Love to see this post and the video, thanks James. He is an amazingly hard worker guy and charming person and quite well known in Spain so I'm afraid I don't think cones and best will work for him here, spaniards doesn't really care about such things :D :)

D Palumbo said...

Thanks for posting this, one of my favorites and constant inspiration, great to see him working. And I'd expect he is a very patient painter since many of his paintings span years (some over a decade)

To Novice Naturalist - to each their own, though I have to say you can't properly see these paintings from small on-screen images. In person at full size, I'd say they are *far* from photo real. His mark making sometimes borders on abstract at actual size but they are so spot on and correct to life that, when photographed and shrunk, they do look a bit photographic

jeff said...

I love how keeps shooing people away as if they are cats.
It's to bad that "El Sol Del Membrillo" is no longer online.
But on the bright side a two new books have been published, one on his drawings and another on the paintings.