Monday, November 24, 2008

Cloud Gazing:

Here's what I did Saturday ~ I painted clouds on the ceiling of what will be the Carnegie Community Art Center, which was the old library, and before that, the old (1926) Somerset Post Office.

Eight years ago I went on the Pulaski County Library Board, mainly to help get a new library built. My main responsibility was to be the looks of the new building, or aesthetics in other words, but library board members have more to do than you might think. When we went to the community to raise funds for the new building, a lot of informal promises to preserve and protect the old post office were extracted from us, and even though that is a bit of an extension of our duties as a library, we've taken it seriously. At a certain point in the process of building the new library we realized that something must be done with the old one. I suggested a community center, and as a result, I was put in charge of getting that done too.

The building was overdue for a makeover, so I picked out paint colors that I thought would compliment the wonderful architecture; dark and light gold for the walls and trim, bright white for the federalist style columns, with sky blue ceilings as a bit of whimsy. Once the painting started, our board president asked me if I'd paint clouds on the ceiling of the foyer. At first I thought that would be a bit much, but after my initial reservation I decided he was right.

The problem was finding time to do it. The center is planning to open December 4th & there's a lot to do before it is ready. Saturday my sister Phyllis was here, so she could stay with my mom, and I asked my nephew Dave to drive down and be my assistant for a day. One day was literally the only opening that I could get! I wasn't sure if it was possible, even, to paint all 5 ceiling panels in a single day. It was, but it was quite a job. I couldn't have done it without Dave.

Clouds, unless they are done with a light touch, can be very oppressive hanging overhead. Clouds of spun sugar are fun for awhile, but become cloying. Grand clouds, like Michelangelo's, cannot be equalled, but they are not the right feeling for a wedding reception, for instance. So to do these I called on my years of cloud gazing (it's true, I've studied clouds for years!) and made the lightest kind I could. This photo shows 3 of the 5 panels, awaiting the Empire style crystal chandeliers that will illuminate them.


Mary Beth said...

Now I know what I want to do with the livingroom ceiling! The walls are a slightly paler gold, more toward cornsilk, but I think I could pull something off (just not as well as you have!)

Cathy said...

Beautiful! Did you do them on your back on a lift of some kind?

Dan Dutton said...

I was on a rolling scaffold. Some parts I could do standing on one of the steps, others I was on my back. It's about 20' up ~ a bit higher than I like to be.

Dave taped the panels for me, moved the scaffold, & filled in edges and center spaces with pre-mixed blues so that I could concentrate on the clouds. I took a lot of photographs to study, and I made a sketch - but when it came down to it I knew I had to paint the clouds free-style, letting my hand flow like they do. I used some giant Chinese watercolor mops, about 10" wide, & one big hog bristle oil painting brush.

I think this idea will work with pale gold just as well. Actually, the soft light blue that I had the painters lay down for my foundation (2 shades lighter than what you see here - the pale blue forms the shade step between the whites & gray-lavenders of the clouds & the deeper blue of the sky - looked really pretty before I did this.

I'll post another photo once the chandeliers are installed.

Kim said...

I'm glad you did this project. Those clouds are truly amazing. Thanks for sharing.

Apifera Farm said...

Nice, Dan, I admire artists that can paint in apublic setting. I just can't do it.

megpots said...

Oh Dan, That is so lovely. I remember a conversation we had about painting clouds years ago. These clouds are wonderful. I guess we'll have to make the trip down soon.

Dan Dutton said...

Thanks! I'm so sorry that I missed the McClorey show in Cinci. Sarah said it was great! I would have loved seeing your folks.

SBD said...

First, Dan:
Beautiful, can't wait to see in for real.
Second, Meg: no hurry at all on the photo.