"The California Desert" will be an oil painting designed around this tin Marx "Roadside Rest Service Station". I will try to tell a story of a family that is traveling on vacation along a long stretch of highway in the California desert. They pull into the gas station/cafe to get a map and a cool drink.

This old linen postcard will fill the background. This is a photo postcard of the southeast corner of California where the northeast corner of the Sonoran Desert shows off some of it's Saguaro cacti.

I'll use lettering from a fruit crate label and another postcard to title the front of linen postcard.

A vintage map and bottle of Coke will be the items held by my model when he poses for this painting.

Here's the station wagon and trailer that will be pulling up to the gas pump. I will be filling in the windows of the wagon and painting the faces of the family as they look outside while dad studies the map.

Here's a close-up of the 'cafe' part of the gas station. Those two characters serving up lunch look a little like Laurel and Hardy.

Here's everthing in approximate position for the painting. I will have to scale the car and trailer up to meet the proportions of the gas pumps.

As a preliminary step, I had Carol photograph me so I could get an idea of where and how the man in my painting would be positioned. At this point, I don't plan on myself as being the model for this painting.

Having printed out the image of myself and then cutting it out, I taped it to the canvas to see how it will work with the rest of the objects. Notice the two tin men in the background laughing at me. The perspective is a little off, as I should have had Carol photograph me from a little higher advantage. Unfortunately, that was as high as Carol would go up the ladder, but it will give me a starting point when I photograph the 'real' model.

Here's the entire canvas (40"x40") and the size relationship of the man reading his map. With this out of the way and the search for a model 'father figure' in the works, I'll begin painting the background postcard...

This is a close-up of the left side of the canvas and...

...here's a detail of the right side.

I've blocked in the sky and distant mountains of the postcard.

The rest of the postcard is blocked with a thin passage of oil paint.

Here you can see me drawing in some detail in the unpainted areas. Notice the easel to the right of my painting, where I put some of the props and photos for reference.

I brushed in the snack bar and the two gas pumps.

The Coke bottle is 'roughed in'. Notice the fine texture of the linen canvas in the unpainted area around the bottle. I use a double primed portrait linen that allows me to get some detail in the smaller areas like a person's face and hands.

I love the lines of this tin car. I think the maker of this toy intended it to be a Ford as indicated by the shiny metal insignia on the trunk.

Here's the tin travel trailer. I've put one of the family members in the window.

The California/Nevada "Happy Motoring Guide" is now through its first stage of paint, along with the shadow cast on it by the station wagon.

Here's the entire painting up to this point. I need to either find a model for the 'dad' in the painting or give in and be the model for this painting. I can't paint any further until I have that man drawn into position. If only I can get Carol one more wrung up the ladder to take the picture...Tomorrow's another day!

I've painted in the station wagon, modifying the window area (see real car above) by filling in the open windows with 'tin' and painting the rest of the family inside. Notice that I've lightly sketched the man (myself) in front of the car (Carol got brave today!).

I decided to make the color under the props a sand color, only separating itself from the back wall postcard by a small dark line at the bottom of the postcard.

Looking at this side of the painting, I just realized that I didn't cast the shadow from the car on the lift onto the postcard. I'll fix that next time.

Everything is blocked in except the man, and I'm waiting for some sunshine to pose myself again. That way I will be able to see exactly how the light falls on me.

Made a couple adjustments in some shadows, most noticeble the long cast shadows of some cactus in the foreground. Well, sun's out strong today, so as soon as it gets around to the front of my house, I'll get some photos for the man reading the map.

Nice photo Carol! I'll be using this to get the lighting correct.

There! My 'map reader' is enjoying his Coke!

I've given the background of the postcard its final passage of paint, darkening it up a bit to provide more contrast to the props that sit in front of it.

Here's a look at the entire canvas. I still have some work to do on the postcard lettering and the box for the postage stamp.

I've completed the lettering on the postcard.

As well as the postage box.

The background is now completed and I can move onto the foreground.

The car is detailed (final coat of paint).

I decided to change the final color of the service station from the original yellow to more of an off white hue because it was too close in color to the background.

The service station is finished. Notice how the two characters 'sit back' into the shade now.

Here's a shot of my easel to the right of my painting easel. Notice the glow on the lower right photo of the station wagon...that's a reflection from my space heater. Pretty cold for California right now.

Here's a look at the left pump all finished, and...

Here's the right pump completed.

The entire service station is done.

Coke bottle just about complete. Need to paint the lettering "Coca-Cola" but have to wait for the dark paint around it to dry. Notice that I didn't render the "return for deposit" wording, but chose to make it more abstract.

The road map is completed.

I've begun to detail the station wagon, starting with the bear, boy, dog, suitcase and 'mom' in the front windshield.

Here's mom and ...

here's the boy and...

the dog and...

the station wagon is done!

The man/father is done. Now just the cast shadows on the ground and the ground surface itself and I will be done!

Shadows and the ground beneath the props are painted. "The California Desert" is finished!