My next painting is going to document the economic crisis here in the United States. I will be using vintage banks to represent the various areas of the economy. The piggy bank (like the one above) will represent our personal monetary problems.

The plastic home will represent the mortgages.

The car represents the auto industry.

And the globe bank represents our interests abroad.

There will be chess pieces randomly placed across a spance of chessboard hills, illustrating the financial 'game' that seems impossible to play.

The one ray of hope will be one lone figure, representing each of us as we try to hold onto what seems to be slipping away. The photoshop sketch above is a crude image of what I have in mind.

Since this is a 'big problem', I will be painting this image on a large scale. Here I am knocking the plug out of the end of the cardboard tube that protects the canvas.

I special ordered a very large roll of double primed linen canvas.

Making sure that I have a very flat surface to work on, I next rolled out the linen with the primed surface facing the floor.

I custom built stretcher bars, and after squaring up the corners, I stapled heavy chipboard onto each corner so that the framework wouldn't tweek when I moved it around.

I then trimmed the linen, leaving about 3 1/2" around the stretcher bars.

Double primed linen is very ridgid and takes a lot of work to get it streched on the frame. This procedure took over 5 hours.

With the canvas all prepared, I'll spend the next few weeks drawing the objects of the painting onto the surface with pencil.

I'm beginning with the large piggy bank in the foreground, drawing in some of the darker accents.

I'm completing the first pass on this object and will move onto the house bank to the right.

I stopped short of finishing the first layer of paint on the house bank, as I realized that the large expanse of white canvas is making it hard to see if my values (darks and lights) are correct on the objects that I am beginning to paint.

To help me understand how dark to paint each object, I've decided to block in the sky. I can then relate the values to the value of the sky rather than the white of the canvas.

Here's a look at the canvas with the sky in place.

I painted the car next hoping that its red hue would help me decide if I also wanted to paint the roof of the house the same red.

After some thought I decided to paint the roof just like the real object.

I kept the detail in the tin globe bank since it is in the middleground area.

I keep the actual objects close by to help with the rendering. I'll 'soften' the surface of this piggy bank when I apply the final paint.

I've left the sky to get an idea of the value range that I will be using on the foreground objects. I painted the rook and...

...a few of the squares on the fabric chessboard.

Today the sun was out and Budge, a good friend and client posed as my businessman for this painting. I tied a rope onto the end of an extension ladder which I lashed to the house (you can see the shadow of the ladder on the cement just past Budge). This is the last component of the painting, so I'll draw him onto the canvas next.

The human element is positioned and roughed in.

I've painted the rest of the black and red squares in the foreground.

Here's a closeup of the bishop in the left front of the painting.

The car in the middle ground is sketched in with thin oil paint.

The middle ground, has been painted in with the yellow and green quilted squares, along with the cast shadows.

I've painted in a couple of chessmen and added a black pawn on the left.

Another 'house bank' is sketched in oil.

I've begun to paint in the distant hill, using a cool purple hue.

The distant hill now has its two cool shades of color and I'm also positioning the cast shadows from both the chess pieces and the floating objects.

With the distant hill established, I'll now paint in the chess pieces that sit on it.

I'm also beginning to label some of the objects in the sky with the names and logos/logotypes of failing institutions.

AIG is on the forefront of the failing companies and also gets a high profile position in my painting.

And the beat goes on...

Countrywide & GM...


Fannie Mae...

Merrill Lynch...

Freddie Mac...

...and Bank of America.

Here is the entire painting with all the objects given their first layer of paint. Now the task of adjusting the values to create some atmosphere between the foreground and the background. This will be done by painting the foreground (red/black squares, AIG pig, GM car, Countrywide house, the bishop, the rook and the businessman) first, making them as strong as possible with the darkest values and the most colorful hues. All the other objects will be lightened to make the foreground dominant, but not to the point where it is impossible to see the detail in the distant objects.

Here is the first object with its final coat of paint.

The bishop is finished. Notice the reddish glow reflected from the red in the chess squares.

The rook has taken on a nice transparent glow from the sun passing through its plastic body.

The 'Countrywide House' is finished.

The 'GM car' is done. I changed the hue of the car from a cool red to a warm red so that it separated itself from the red on the roof of the 'Countrywide Bank' and the cooler red squares in the foreground 'chess quilt'.

I've just completed the figure and when I paint one more small chess piece that sits on the red and black squares, I'll be able to evaluate the hue and value difference between the foreground and the middleground.

I've tried to establish the value (darkness) of the middle ground chess pieces by painting the knight first. I've lightend the shadow areas and darkened the highlight areas so that they are closer together in value. This softens the contrast and visually makes the object appear to be off in the distance.

I also painted my first object that is floating in the middleground 'zone', adjusting the light and dark values so that they too have less contrast.

I softened the values in the 'Bear Stearns' bank.

As well as the 'Citibank' bank.

If you look at the two photos above, you will see the change that has taken place between the middleground and the background. The objects (Merrill Lynch pig, Freddie Mac house, the three chess pieces etc.) in the background have been lightened and the contrast in their values has been decreased, making them recede into the distance.

I've painted in the middle ground chessboard squares and I've shaded them to give a pillowy quilted look.

Here's a detail of the man again, showing the finished middleground area behind him. Note that the brightness of his shirt (its highlight values) is lighter than the brightest highlights on the knight chess piece. This creates visual distance between the two planes.

Here's a good view that shows the three distances I've put in the painting (foreground, middleground and background). The intensity and darkest values are in the foreground, with the colors muting and then going cool as they get to the distant background.

Another detail, showing the top of the rook in the foreground and how the softening (lighter values and less intense hues) of the background objects helps create the atmospheric separation needed to separate the planes.

Here's the finished painting! I just had it scanned to get this very crisp image! I love it!