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Motel Sign
Sketch  Color Comp  Painting
Watercolor

I love this painting.

Gathering reference for this book, I took a trip up to Nevada---Carson City to be specific---looking for seedy motels in snow country, with old, cheap, neon signs.  As it turned out, I found a great seedy motel (name withheld) which I photographed in freezing temperatures in the middle of the night.  

The only problem I had was all of the motels in Nevada have relatively new signs!  Even the seedy motels!  I don't know if it's because of the gambling income or the weather conditions, but the sign I envisioned, a peeling, dilapidated 1940's-50's looking monster was nowhere to be found.  (The rest of the motel was suitably seedy however and is pictured throughout the book)

As it turned out, a week or two after returning to the Bay Area, I found the signs I had imagined along Highway 101 just south of the San Francisco International Airport.  This sign is actually a composite of both of them, with an additional "vacancy" text from Nevada, and a different overall shape of my own invention.  So if you're near Belmont, CA, on Highway 101 heading north, keep an eye out for them!

As I was typing this, I found some website correspondence I posted for my editor, regarding the sign.  It isn't pretty, but it might be interesting to some people to see the "guts" of the working method, some of the reference photos I shot, etc.  You can see it all here.

Technically, the "neon" effect was quite a challenge, and I love how it turned out.  Definitely one of my favorites images from the book.

 

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