Project: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco aka “Market and Drumm Streets” - 1991
Dimensions: 36" x 100"
Medium: Oils on Canvas
Location: 7th floor offices of the Federal Reserve Bank building, San Francisco
After displaying my "American Noah" canvas at Oakland's Head Royce School in around 1990, I was approached by representatives from the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, who were looking for a canvas for one of their board meeting rooms, which had a large horizontal wall, in their skyscraper suite of offices.
The commission came with many challenges, since the building is always on high security alert. One of those challenges was that I wasn't going to be painting the canvas on-site, and the concept for the final stand-alone canvas was that it would simulate the view from a tall horizontal window, and one was seeing a panorama from that window down to Market and Drumm Streets below, and North towards Marin County and the Bay.
I was given permission to go out on the slim balcony on the 7th floor and take as many photographs as I liked. As with American Noah, I captured many images, and then photo-collaged them together for the final painting. Approximately 500 views were taken, and about 30 were used for the main visual reference material. The camera I used was inspected and specially tagged, in order that it would be identifiable by security while in the building. I was also instructed not to photograph any views other than the one wall involved, and the specific vistas from the balcony that would be referenced in the painting.
Over the next 8 months, I painted the canvas on a specially ordered, independently key-able stretcher bar set, that allowed for the expansion and contraction of the canvas that occurred with varying temperatures and the changing of the seasons. I also purchased a custom made John Annesley easel, and both were constructed at my studio in North Oakland. I had to construct an additional painting tool to augment John Annesley's "mall stick", to draw and paint the razor sharp flat lines found in all the skyscrapers. I built a small "bridge" out of a common foot long metal ruler with small legs, that allowed the ruler to hover above the surface, and prevent hand oils and dirt from coming in contact with the canvas.The ruler needs a very slight arch to accommodate the weight of the hand, as one hand holds it and the other slides with a brush along the clean ruler edge.
This simple, improvised device continues to work as well as it did back then, and allows for long, perfect lines. I trained myself to use this bridge, and developed a calm, regular breathing technique to reduce the hydrostatic pressure of my own heartbeat as blood flows through my arms and hands, much as an archer or marksman uses to calm the trajectory of an aim at a target.
Three large watercolors augmented this commission, which are also on display at the bank.