Friday, March 9, 2012

Painting the Historic Rialto Theatre

The Rialto Theatre is a beloved landmark in South Pasadena. I began my painting of it with a loose pen and ink sketch done on Fabriano cold press paper. I wanted there to be an attitude of casual inexactness to this work, so I drew with pen from the start, not doing a pencil block-out of the big shapes like I occasionally do. I used a light touch as the ink bleeds when used heavily.

I painted the sky first, using Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Deep, Mineral Violet and Raw Sienna, mixed and blended on the paper. I then established the shadow shapes on the building with Cobalt Blue and Mineral Violet; blocked in the sign with Burnt Sienna and Cadmium Red Light; and painted the sunlit wall with Raw Sienna. I used Gamboge Nova and Greenish Yellow for the trees, letting some white of the paper show through to help create a glow.

Using Marine Blue and Burnt Sienna, I deepened the shadows in the trees, and used bold, primary colors for the patrons as I wanted them to stand out from the purple shadow at the entry. I made the far awning a bright red to create a complementary vibration with the green trees.

The next step was to deepen and enhance the shadows and clarify the architecture with fine brush work and a mixture of Ultramarine Deep, Mineral Violet and Burnt Umber. I painted the marquis movie title with a rigger brush and smeared it with water, and added more color to the sky.

The final touches included painting the window mullions and frames with Titanium White, finishing up the people, and adding a few more architectural accents with dark paint, and of course signing it.


  1. Beautiful painting. I like the movement and the juicy colors.

    Do you ever teach classes anywhere near Sherman Oaks? I would love to take a class from you.


  2. Is your painting A3, Joseph? And did you do a sketch onsite? I've spent many happy hours in the Rialto. When we visited Pasadena last year I got your book from Vromans and had a lovely time following your footsteps and doing some sketching. I haven't achieved the strong colours that you have, though, I need to work on that. Maybe because I'm using a little field palette. Here's my blog:

    1. Hi Marianna. Thank you for your nice comments. I am presently taking a break from teaching to devote more time to painting. I will post any upcoming teaching events on my web site however. I use freshly squeezed paint and keep them moist during the painting process. It is hard to get bright, vibrant color is the paint is dried up. I also try to let the white of the paper show through as much as possible. That will create a nice luminosity. Don't worry if you have a small palette, I use a Winsor & Newton field sketch box for much of my work. And I mix paint on the paper whenever possible. That way, you don't necessarily need a big palette/mixing area. Good luck!

      Nice blog by the way.

      Warm Regards,