Adam Houston

American Impressionist Oil Painter

Lookout Mountain II

This is a variation of 210. I liked how that one turned out but wondered if it was a little too tight. So, the goal with this was to keep a similar composition but make the brushwork a little more loose.

Lookout Mountain

No 210 is a view of Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, TN. It was done in the parking lot of the old Southern Saddlery building off Broad Street early one morning. It’s so strange how the mountain changes color all throughout the day and in the early morning light it’s such a nice blue-green color.

Market Street Bridge (Take Two)

This post is a little longer than normal but here goes.

In March I had the pleasure of going to New York for a long weekend with my Dad. I had never been (I know) but really wanted to make the trip because there was a good Hopper exhibit at The Whitney. I’ve read about The Whitney for years and the fact that they had so many Hoppers there was too much of a draw. Thankfully for me Dad funded the trip and we were off.

I had been looking closely at Hopper’s paintings and could not understand why it looked like the canvas was almost bare in spots. It looked kind of scrapped on and in a book it was hard to tell what it really looked like. When we got to the museum the crowds were pretty light and I was able to take my time and really look at each canvas for a long time. After looking carefully at each one it seemed like he painted it on really thin with a color that was darker than the local color. He then went on top of that with the actual color but all this funk was left showing through.

People think his paintings are super tight and from a distance they look that way but when you get up on them they’re crazy. There are almost no straight lines and parts of them are almost abstract expressionist.

This was sort of mind bending for me. My technique up to this point had been to add paint, layer by layer, to shape the final product. This worked alright on the fruit paintings but I could never, ever get happy with my landscapes and especially the urban landscapes.

Also, once I got back I looked through all my books again and really noticed his painting New York Pavements. I could see that he painted every bit of the black on first and then just scrapped the gray of the building on later. No building of layers, no indecision, no struggling with it. He just blocked it out and then barely filled it in. I finally understood how pre-meditated it all was.

Which brings us to No. 114. I had recently sold No. 106 and was happy with it overall but something still felt off. I had a 10″ x 8″ board sitting there and thought – what the heck, I’ll just try it again. I blocked in the darkest darks and then painted the rest of it with a dark version of whatever the local color was. It looked absolutely awful but I knew what I was doing and let it dry. It was pre-meditated and ugly.

So then I carefully went back in and laid the “real” color over that underpainting. Again, I knew exactly what I wanted to put where and just did it. With all my other paintings I was doing a lot of “thinking” on the canvas and this is a whole other way of working.

I was happy with the result and feel better about this one vs. 106. I like them both but this is how I wanted to express myself and it felt so good to finally be able to speak what I was hearing (visually).

Phew. Needless to say this has altered my whole approach so the next batch starts to build off this revelation and hopefully take it to another level.

Market Street Bridge

No. 106 is a painting of one of the main bridges in Chattanooga. I did this originally as a watercolor back in 2003. When I first opened the Etsy store I added a number of watercolors from back then. The painting of the bridge sold a few weeks ago but when I went to ship it out I could not find it and discovered that I had misplaced a whole set of watercolors. It kills me because I know they are here somewhere but I’ve torn the house apart and can not find them.

I had to write the person who bought it, explain the situation and offered to do an oil of the same picture. So, that is where this painting came from. They were very understanding and everything worked out in the end.

Under The Bridge

No. 61 is another one from Chattanooga. This time we are under the Walnut Street Bridge. There is a huge expanse of grass that leads right out to the Tennessee River and people are always hanging out and having picnics there.

This painting was extremely difficult starting out. The bridge itself is a lattice work of metal and rivets. There is no way to “paint it” so I had to let it loose a little it and just see what happened. This one too was the first where I went back and worked on it some more since Number 36. If I was not going to be able to get a realistic view of it I thought I would at least have some fun and push it in more of an impressionistic direction. Parts of it are working but it’s almost too loose for me. This is the last of the landscapes for a little bit.

Coolidge Park Fountain

No. 60 (whee) comes to us from Coolidge Park in Chattanooga. At the base of the Walnut Street Bridge there is this fantastic park with fountains, a merry-go-round and all kinds of fun stuff. Les and I were there last year during the summer and it was a perfect day for kids to splash in the fountains. Each of the sculptures surrounding the center are animals (the one in the center of the painting is an elephant) and Evi has had a lot of fun climbing on them.

This one was really, really fun to paint. There is so much going on that I had to just let it happen and not try to lock-in and make it too tight. It’s also the first one that has any kind of people in it. There is a boy on the left side and then all kinds of people in the back. It’s super loose and impressionistic but it was a blast to have that element added into the painting.

With a sunny afternoon and some time you could probably find over 100 paintings right in that little corner of the world.