The Great Van Project – 1

The Great Van Project Begins

I suppose it’s technically incorrect to say that this project is only now beginning. The Great Van Project, as I’ve taken to calling it, has been underway for years. What’s happening now is that it’s moving from its imaginative form into actual planning, preparation, and — soon — painting.

First, what is The Great Van Project?

If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you might remember the old Falcon van — vintage 60’s era — that my husband dragged from a farmer’s field. He managed to get it running, and he’s in the process of restoring it. He works on it now and then, and slowly but surely he’s making progress on it. It still doesn’t look like much. In fact, I don’t think the exterior has changed to any noticeable degree since the day I did this watercolor:

Falcon Van

I painted this colorful look at the van back in March, 2016. It’s always been one of my husband’s favorites.

I don’t recall exactly when my husband brought this old van home, but it was probably about the time I first began drawing and painting. I had my new hobby; he had his.

At some point those hobbies converged, and my husband came up with the idea of having me paint the headliner of the van as a brilliantly blue sky with lots of fluffy white clouds. I nearly panicked at the thought! I wasn’t an artist! I couldn’t do that!

But I was learning to draw and paint skies, using mostly pastels and watercolors. Maybe I could practice enough and develop the techniques I needed. I doubted it somewhat, but I also knew it would be a long time before my services as an artist were required. To be blunt about it, from the state of the van at that time, I wasn’t sure it would ever be put together and in need of any interior decor.

Now, although the exterior is still rusty and unpainted, the interior is coming together. That means that now my husband’s discussions of the painted headliner are becoming more serious. This is no longer a someday sort of thing. This is a project that I’m now actively working on. My thoughts? Well, it’s going to be interesting. Yes, you can quote me on that.

Although I’m still a bit nervous about doing the project, I’m pleased that my knowledge and practice of art has enabled me to approach this in a professional manner. Early on Sunday morning, my husband and I had our first artist and client meeting.

We sat down at the table, and just as if we were meeting in the conference room of a design studio, he outlined his thoughts about the project, explaining what he wanted. Then, it was my turn to take the idea he had presented and look at it from an artist’s perspective. We had to consider materials — both for paint and ground. I needed to know the size of the project.

It was here that my artist’s brain — yes, I really do have one now! — kicked into gear. I explained how I would take the measurements and create a grid, and how I could then apply that grid to the larger-scale project. I talked about making preliminary sketches, and I assured my client-husband that I would get his approval on those sketches before actually starting work. I even suggested printing out reference photos for him to look at. Oh, I sounded so professional! I actually knew and understood what I was talking about.

As our discussion continued — and after an in situ meeting in the van — we considered other factors involved in making this work. We had decided that using 12 x 16 stretched canvases would be the best approach. The project will require 30 such canvases which will then be individually installed.

My artist brain continued to work, and I was able to make suggestions and discuss various factors that needed to be taken into consideration. Concepts such as atmospheric perspective came into play — and I pointed out how this should be applied to the project. Ultimately, after reviewing the measurements, the installation process, and the actual art involved, we agreed that the project would involve a center point representing the apex of the sky. In a somewhat mirror-like fashion, the installation will then move toward an imaginary horizon on each side.

I’m not sure how well I’m explaining this, but here is the graphic I put together for my husband to look at.

Great Van Project - Preliminary Photo Reference 1
This represents the center line running from front to back with the horizons at the left and right sides of the van.

After putting this graphic together, I got a “thumbs up” from my husband. I won’t follow this reference exactly — I’ve already suggested having fewer clouds near the horizons on each side — but this will be a starting reference for the skies and clouds I paint.

NOTE: After more thought, I’m not sure I like the “mirror image” concept. I’m wondering, too, if we’ve got it all wrong as far as the orientation. Maybe we should be seeing the sky and clouds from this perspective:

Great Van Project - Preliminary Photo Reference 1
Imagine you are a passenger in the rear seat of the van and that you’re looking up at the ceiling/headliner.

I think my husband and I will need a few more discussions on the project. I’m also wondering if I could use a roll of paper to work with in deciding the proper orientation for the clouds.

What started out sounding like a fairly simple project is becoming a bit more complex, but I’m looking forward to the challenge my husband has given me. All comments and suggestions will be appreciated!

The next step? Creating a grid on paper based on the measurements and installation requirements and making preliminary sketches.

Be watching for future posts as The Great Van Project moves ahead!

CONTINUE TO PART 2 HERE

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