09 February 2014

The Virtual Paintout

I recently discovered (can't remember how, but through a friend of a friend on Facebook) the "Virtual Paintout." The guy who hosts picks a location each month, and then artists, using Google Street View as a resource for traveling, find an interesting subject to paint within that location.

The designer of this project, Bill Guffey, summarizes the purpose thusly:
  • To gather in one area of the world, virtually, once a month with other artists.
  • To paint or draw a scene and composition of your choosing, within a predetermined area.
  • The artist must use a view found through Google Street View as the reference for the painting or drawing. Artwork created from photographs not acquired through Google Street View will not be accepted. The point is to "walk" around the streets using Google Street View, in the pre-determined area, as if you were actually participating in a real life paintout.
This month's location is Washington, D.C.and I'm sure that as his submissions he will get a number of monuments and fancy buildings (that's what I went to, first), but I was inspired by the painting he himself put up as the first entry--"G Street Houses," below--to actually do what he suggested and click on a random part of the map, then walk around to see what I found.

So I wandered, and came upon this street scene by chance--and I so loved the "story" it told that I decided to paint it, even though it could be anywhere.

Standing side by side are Smokey's Barbershop and Oldies, and a Unisex Hair Salon. Coming out of the front door is a girl, and the attitude in which she's been caught in the photo makes it seem like she's sneaking out the door--like somebody sent her to the barber shop for a haircut, but she's heading out to the Unisex place while no one is looking!

Here is the url to the actual scene on Google Maps: http://tinyurl.com/lttcdkg

As you can see if you go look at it, I simplified quite a bit--that great big lamp post and the bike racks in the foreground were too distracting (I wanted the girl to be the focal point), and I took out a few architectural details too. Maybe too many--I didn't have the patience or the skill to translate the facades of the buildings into their various bricks and patterns.

This was kind of a hybrid: I painted it pretty small (8x10 inches), and I knew I couldn't do that tiny lettering with a brush, so I did the sign and the awning with a pen, but then I drew the rest in pencil and painted it. I probably should have chosen one or the other--an ink illustration or a straight painting.

I also did something wonky with the angle of that garage door over on the left--don't know what happened there. Well, it's always something, right?

This was fun! I think I'll do another one or two before the month is up. (The limit is three submissions per person.)

If you're an artist reading this, why don't you do it too???


  1. You found a great subject and I liked your ideas about what the girl was up to. I did quite a few
    virtual paintouts a few years ago and I enjoyed looking around all the locations searching for something interesting. Only thing was I was spending far too much time doing just that!

  2. Love this. I think you did a fantastic painting and none of the "supposed" faults/problems jump out or are obvious so therefore they don't exist.
    Whenever I walk around the virtual cities I always seem to end up in vacant lots. Never fails.

  3. I love the idea of this, but every time I've decided to try it, I've roamed streets and never settled down to draw! So frustrating. I think though, I might try this again this weekend (it is a three day weekend for me)...with my new acrylic paints. Maybe that would motivate me enough to just pick a spot!

    Love the scene! And I think you did great simplifying the architecture. That one sign that was coming straight out at the camera would have been too confusing anyway. Well done!

  4. Thanks, y'all! It's absolutely true that you spend hours roaming that could be spent painting! It's perhaps better to be restricted to an actual street you are standing on and making a choice from that limited "palette." I don't know how often I'll do this, but it was fun to try it once, and to find one that inspired me.

  5. What an interesting idea. I was in Rome (only once) and couldn't stop drawing. I've been "back" a few times on Google and am dying to get back there for real but doubt that it will ever be possible. This is a fantastic--never thought to capture it from my computer screen! Thanks so much!

  6. I have tried scenes like this. Not easy. You have done a great job with it! As for the wonky garage - I never noticed until you pointed it out! Wonky is character, wonky is style. If it ain't wonky, it's a photograph. So my humble suggestion: don't point it out. They may not notice the garage and be looking at the overall scene like I was, or looking at something else that you didn't even consider.

    When I was in Toastmasters (a public speaking group) I accidently wore two different colored socks that no one could see because I was wearing a suit. But I pointed it out to the audience. My evaluator, an experienced speaker, told me never to point out the defects, they might not notice - great advice, I've never forgotten. ('Course I do just that at 2 'n Fro - but that's different - Hah!)