When I saw this tow truck on eBay, I had to have it.
Classic Japanese tin toy from the 50's in great shape. I
hadn't used a tow truck in any of my paintings and decided I
would use it for my inspiration.
I took this photo of Mack's Cafe about 20 years ago in
Nashville, while on assignment from Houston's Restaurants.
Again, another image that I haven't used, so it's about time it
goes into a painting.
Here is the sketch I've come up with, using the truck and the
photo. I've converted the cafe into a hardware store.
A box of 16 penny nails has been parked illegally and has made a
mess in front of the store. As the tow truck driver does
his best to haul off the culprit, a local handyman, with his
Coke in hand, provides his professional observation.
Mitch Ridder, Laguna Beach lifeguard, freelance photographer and
fine art painter (watercolor), offered to pose in my painting.
We've known each other for many years and Mitch has a knack for
knowing how to dress for the part. I've posed him in the
street in front of my house and built a less than stable
platform for him to balance on to replicate his pose on the tow
The sun peeked out today and allowed me to photograph my friend,
John. He'll be the onlooker in this painting.
Last prop is a vintage Coke bottle from my collection of food
products. With the Coca-Cola sign on the side of the building,
it shows that you can pick up a cold one in the hardware store.
I've decided to put one in John's hand.
I started the painting by blocking in the sky. It's a
large shape and starts the project off with a defining passage
The hammer is one of the oversized objects in the painting.
I suppose someone could have constructed this in reality, but I
really like the way it floats in the sky above the building.
Here's a close-up, showing the various cools and warms of the
different planes in the hammer head.
The Pratt & Lambert sign helps give definition to the building
and interjects a little more information about the store.
The building so far with the HARDWARE lettering in place.
I always liked seeing the Coca-Cola sign painted directly on
buildings. It was one of the skills of the signmakers back
Take a look at the canvas so far.
The hardware store is roughed in with its first layer of paint.
The pink cast of the building was mixed with alizaron crimson,
cadmium red, French ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and Permalba
white. A touch of cadmium yellow was added to the lightest
pink mixture on the sunlit wall of the building.
The left side of the painting is framed in with the Coca-Cola
bottle. I've painted quite a few of these over the years
and always enjoy the nostalgic beauty of this icon.
The nails and nailbox are next. This is a very intense
study of very narrow shapes and values. The nails whose
top surface faces the blue sky get a blue gray hue on the top
The top nail to the right faces the sun, so its lightest value
on the top edge is whiter.
Another look at a couple of stray nails.
This photo shows the entire box and the spilled out nails.
The parking meter is a very iconic shape. Astheticly, its
vertical shape helps break up other horizontal shapes.
The sidewalk and the street have two different hues. I've
chosen a warm burnt sienna mixture for the street.
This overall photo shows only the tow truck, its operator and
the figure to the right needing their first passage of
turpentine thinned oil.
John, with some adjustments to the color of his clothes and hat,
is brushed in very simply. I haven't attempted to put any
detail in his face at this point.
The final area to paint is the truck and driver. I've altered
the truck side panels from white to yellow, giving the painting
a color it needed in this area.
With apologies to Mitch, here is the driver with his first pass
of paint. Although I am not trying to do portraits of my
models in the paintings, I do like to capture some of the
characteristics of the figure so that they don't take on a
generic look. I'll work a little harder on the final pass
to see if I can make it look a little more like Mitch.
"Tow Nails" is to the half-way point in the painting. Now,
I will go back and re-paint every square inch with tube thick
oil, making the necessary hue and value adjustments.
I've begun the final passage of paint, starting with the hammer.
In this second layer, I've introduced more detail in the shape.
There are some white paint spots on the hammer handle as well as
a more defined grain in the wood.
Here's a photo of the whole hammer.
The building is finished. There were many parts to the structure
that needed a lot of work...
...from designing lettering on the windows to the obscure
objects on the other side of the glass.
Here is the side of the building.
The painting so far. I'll move on to the Coke bottle next.
The Coke bottle has some subtle reflections in it that tell the
shape of the bottle. The reflections at the bottom of the
bottle have some red in it to show the truck's influence.
The small grass area and the retaining wall are painted in.
I've moved on to the tow truck. I usually will mix enough
oil to last me for one day's work. Various values of red
were mixed for the crane part of the truck. I used both
cadmium red and alizaron crimson with black for the darker
areas. The reflective areas were where I added both
cadmium yellow and Permalba white. The alizaron crimson dries
fairly quickly, so I won't be able to use any leftover mixed oil
tomorrow on the other areas of the truck.
I've just completed painting the tow truck. This toy is
one of the main elements in the painting and turned out great!
Here are a couple close-ups of the truck. The front end and...
...the tail of the truck.
When John posed for this, we made sure he held the Coca-Cola
bottle so that the light passed through the neck.
Just a small part of the painting, but parking meters always
play a part in a street scene.
The box is rendered. Nails are next.
Here are three close-up photos of the finished nails.
Nails have many facets, reflecting the sky, the pavement and the
These nails off to the right size were used as design elements,
helping to bring the viewers eyes back into the painting.
This detail shows the finished work on Mitch. Sometimes
when I use a friend as a model, his or her good looks don't come
through, especially when their head is only an inch high on the
canvas. That's the case with Mitch. His good looking
mug became generic "tow truck guy".
With a final pass on the sky and street,
"Tow Nails" is