New York Blues – Giant Times Square Painting Session

As an artist, you never lose the drive to learn, so I often find myself with the urge to experiment with something new and out of my comfort zone. Last week, I had one of those experimental days!

I set up a large 2m x 3m canvas in my studio, covering the surrounding area with plastic sheets to allow me to paint without inhibition, and get really messy. Working on a large scale encourages an energetic approach, and so the process can be completely exhilarating at times. Whilst creating this statement piece, I had a few exciting breakthroughs, which I will be taking forward into my future work.

The blank canvas just before being attacked with buckets of paint!

Taking New York’s Times Square as my muse, I wanted to convey the movement and chaos of this iconic area. To help capture Times Square’s unique energy, I painted the piece whilst listening to street sounds I recorded last time I was in Times Square. Hearing the overwhelming noise of excited crowds and NYPD sirens transported me to the streets of New York again, and brought back fond memories of painting on location in 2018 (you can read more about my 2018 trip in my ‘London/New York‘ journal post). 

Nothing is more daunting than a blank canvas, so I began the painting by spontaneously throwing buckets of paint onto the canvas to quickly break up the white space, and get into the rhythm of the painting. If you try to be too detailed at an early stage it will never work – you have to approach the canvas with looseness from the word go.

I built up layer upon layer of acrylics and oils, manipulating the paint to bring detail and structure as I went along. Using straight edges; palette knives; brushes; and the opposite end of a brush, I made a variety of marks to give a highly textured surface.

For the first time, I tried to incorporate a fluorescent orange paint into my work, and the colour blew me away; popping surprisingly well against the other colours to create a focal point. Acrylic bronzes and coppers also worked great at emulating the warmth of the many beaming lights in Times Square, which are reflected so stunningly on a rainy day.

This painting was so much fun to create. I love how organically it emerged, with each new brushmark intuitively responding to those layed down before. The resultant painting is full of life; movement; texture; light and vibrant colour – all qualities that remind me of Times Square. I hope to paint more large pieces like this going forward, using the new paints I discovered and the same energetic approach.

Throughout the day, I live streamed on my Instagram, giving my followers the chance to watch the painting come to life. Below, you can watch a short film about New York Blues, and also the full painting video and timelapse. Both of these can be watched on my YouTube channel PaulKentonArt, alongside many of my other live painting videos.

Thank you to Mat Stillo from goto11 for his help with filming and setting up this painting session.

If you are interested in purchasing this piece, please fill out the contact form, making sure to reference ‘New York Blues’ within your message, and we will get back to you shortly. Please visit my New York Collection to see more original paintings and prints inspired by the New York cityscape.

Paul Kenton:

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