Alcatraz Avenue. Watercolor on paper, 9.5 x 18.0 inches, 2016.
Since beginning graduate school, my painting has suffered. I have had very little time for anything other than my studies, and (as is usually the case when I get busy) my painting projects languished. After my move to Oakland in August 2013, I have started only one painting, and even it remains largely unfinished. Yet the idea of painting my new home appeals to me greatly. Attempting to represent a place forces me to become intimate with it, forces me to think about it in ways less cerebral and more sensual. This painting is part of my attempt to recover that practice.
I often work late on campus. Most nights that I do so, I take the 51B bus down College Avenue, and then walk along Alcatraz Avenue to my apartment down at Telegraph. As anyone who has lived here long knows, much of Berkeley and parts of North Oakland get blanketed by fog after sundown. Sometimes it comes in as great swaths of moisture from the Golden Gate, an arm of marine air and clouds reaching in towards the campanile. Other times it seems to sprout from the ground. Often, on those nights I am late going home, it is the time that the fog appears, as it did in the most subtle of ways last week.
I’ve never painted fog before, so beyond the simple technical challenge, I wanted to experiment with a few other ideas. The most radical of these was to limit my palette to just one color—in this case Prussian Blue, one of my favorite hues. Second, I wanted to try and build up a sense of depth using a combination of multiple washes, and an impasto technique. Lastly, I wanted to be a bit less literal than I would normally be, reducing and simplifying the scene to capture more of its character and less of its minutiae. This is most visible in the repeating form of the streetlights in the dark, the perfect white of their new LED lamps (installed in early 2014), their light cones vertically exaggerated to better show rhythm.