Painted last week and mailed this week, here is is a small, 10"x7" watercolor I made as part of a thank you card for Roger Ebert. I knew that he had strong ties with Champaign's Art Theater (it was where he first saw Citizen Kane), and he's even in a mural of movie stars inside the lobby. I painted for two and a half days--time very well spent. Piece of trivia for future biographers: as I worked on this, my throbbing, spider-bitten left foot was elevated on several pillows and soothed by countless plastic bags loaded with ice. But it's all right now.
In fact it's a gas! Roger tweeted about the painting this evening. He even provided a photo of it, although I'm not sure if he's seen it himself or if an assistant took a photo and sent it to where he's vacationing in Michigan. Whatever, he liked it!
In case you're interested in my process, here's how it all came together.
As time was of the essence and my foot was too swollen to put on shoes, much less drive into Champaign to take photos of the place, I got the Art Theater's permission to use a photo from their Facebook fan page. I played with it a bit, bumping up the colors and changing the marquee from its original Goodbye Solo (a great movie Jeff and I had seen there last summer) to Cinema Paradiso.
The top part was not too difficult to deal with, and neon is always a lot of fun (gotta love that name, too). I saved the dreaded cars-on-wet-pavement part for last. Cars are my Achilles' heel.
Painting nighttime scenes in watercolor means layers, layers, layers for me. I can never get dark areas to seem dark enough the first time I lay paint on the paper, so after it dries I glaze another on top. And sometimes I'll do it again. So really in some places I painted this thing three times.
On day two I put in the lights on the marquee and everything below it. I was knocked out by how tiny everything was, and every color change was a decision I had to make and a color I had to mix. I thought I could finish this in two days, but I ultimately decided to save the cars for the third day when I had some fresh eyes and a neck/shoulder that didn't ache quite so much.
I indeed finished it the next morning and wrote the following inside the card.
In case you're unfamiliar with the movie, Cinema Paradiso is a charming foreign film (one of the first I'd ever seen in a theater) about the magic of movies. It's easily in my top five, and since the Art was the place where I fell in love with Jeff, that theater is certainly my Cinema Paradiso. Although Roger Ebert only gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, saying that some parts were predictable, I couldn't think of a better or more appropriate movie to put on the marquee. And here is the montage that reduces me to a sobbing puddle of goo to this day:
Anyway, I'm thrilled that he liked the painting. It's a small token of appreciation for a great writer who has inspired me and so many others. The fact that he has been promoting what I'm doing is nothing short of miraculous to me.
PS: Not wanting to seem too stalker-y but unable to resist, I decided to substitute Roger and his wife Chaz for the anonymous Art Theater couple from the original photo. Chaz has also been an inspiration to me as a wife and as a person in general. What an amazing woman, and what a great love story those two share.