Timelapse of Beneficial Bank Paintings

I worked on two 3'x5' paintings of historic Philadelphia scenes from about August '14- August '15. See documentation of the process in this video.  I have to warn it is anticlimactic as I don’t currently have photos of the installed works.  Below are individual videos, any additional photos, and dates for the 9 'phases' of the project.  It was very informative for me to see a record of this process, hopefully it will be of interest or instructive for others as well!  

The Commission:

Two paintings, each 3 feet by 5 feet, depicting historical scenes related to Beneficial Bank, founded in Philadelphia in 1850 by St. John Neumann. 

  • One painting portraying St. John Neumann on the docks of Philadelphia welcoming immigrants arriving by ship.  Beneficial Bank was founded in Neumann’s vision of creating a bank to serve immigrants and the working class.  Neumann himself was an immigrant from Bohemia and spoke 5 languages.  
  • One painting portraying the Liberty Bell.

Phase 1: July 30 - Oct 26, 2014

I began research, sketching, and looking for reference images.

I found great reference images for the Neumann painting at the archives of the Independence Seaport Museum.

My search for reference images for the Liberty Bell painting was more difficult.  I had decided to portray the Liberty Bell being rung in the Independence Hall bell tower. I couldn’t take photos to work from as vistors are not permitted into the Independence Hall bell tower.  I searched online archives, and then later, the immense filing cabinents of Independence Park photo archives to find a good reference for this view.  I found nothing substanial so I had to learn the complex perspective formulas that would allow me to draw the interior of the bell tower (an ocatagonal space with columns at each point.) from scratch. (Click images to enlarge)

Phase 2: Oct 27 - Dec 17, 2014

I began the Bell painting on panel. (Click images to enlarge) [Video]

Phase 3: Dec 18 - March 11, 2014

I discarded this first Liberty Bell painting due to errors in perspective and my dislike of the blocky columns dominating the composition.  I thought carefully about what I would do differently in the next attempt.  I realized that drafting the paintings digitally would allow me to achieve an improved and expedited result.  I decided to craft the images in complete detail in photoshop, print them, and then use these prints as underpaintings.  The following images took me almost 8 weeks to paint in photoshop (Click images to enlarge).

Phase 4: March 12-21, April 3 - May 16, 2015

I had the digital painting of St. Neumann printed on paper, which I affixed to a panel.  After 3 weeks of painting over this print, air bubbles began forming between the paper and the panel.  I suspect there was a protective coating on the paper that prevented it from thoroughly bonding with the panel.  I had no choice but to discard the painting.  So, I ordered the images printed on canvas instead of paper and waited for them to arrive.  I recieved the Neumann canvas first and began painting.  I did not forsee that I would find myself fighting with the digital image as I tried to achieve the rich surface texture and depth that makes a great oil painting.  (Click images to enlarge)  [Video]

Phase 5: May 16-18, 2015

The canvas print of the Liberty Bell painting finally arrived in the mail after being delayed for weeks by a snowstorm. I began working on both paintings side by side, thinking about how the two paintings would look when hung together. [Video]

Phase 6: May 18-29, 2015 

I then focused on the Liberty Bell painting which was at a less developed point than the St. Neumann painting. [Video]

Phase 7: May 29 - July 1, 2015

I returned to working on both paintings simultaneously. [Video]

Phase 8: July 10-19, 2015

I was out of time and I had lost touch with the major shapes of the paintings. I made simplified sketches of the compositions I wanted to commit to and worked these new ideas into the paintings. [Video]

Phase 9: July 19 - August 28, 2015

Meanwhile, it was time to move out of my apartment in Philadelphia. I removed the paintings from their supports and transported them to Richmond, VA for a couple weeks, and then Easton, MD, and finally, their home in Philadelphia. In these last few chaotic weeks of work I all but abandoned the time lapse project in singular pursuit of finishing the paintings. When installation day arrived, I knew I had done the best I could.

After hanging the paintings in Benefinical Bank headquarters, I turned on my camera to capture two final photos...and the battery was dead. I will visit Philadelphia in the next several months and take photos of the paintings in their final state.   Then I’ll post them here ASAP.   I am sorry for the suspense!

The last few (blurry, phone camera) photos of the St. Neumann painting are below: (Click images to enlarge)