I didn’t expect to be flung back into my teenage self when I went to Portland Saturday Market last year. Yet that’s exactly what happened as I rounded a corner and witnessed a small band of three guys, dressed in depression-era clothing, playing music.

I immediately felt the wheeze of air and the rounded chord buttons beneath my fingers from my old accordion. I heard my brother plunking out a rousting rhythm on the banjo and we were both singing our hearts out. I could smell smoke from the wood fireplace and Mom’s homemade bread in the oven. “Mr. Bo Jangles” was our song of choice when we jammed, played over and over again with what seemed like amazing finesse. As a gangly, freckled 14-year-old girl playing the accordion, I was under no illusion that I could be considered cool. Or interesting. Uhmmm…this was the 80’s, people. No one “cool” even TOUCHED an accordion. But when my then-24-year-old brother played his banjo and I sang along and played the accordion? I actually felt cool. Really.

The three twenty-something guys at Portland Saturday Market WERE cool. They had a Portland retro-urban-folksy thing going on in a big way. When I snapped a photo of them, I wanted to paint my memories, infuse them with the vibe of these guys, and capture the surrounding organized chaos of Saturday Market.

I began by layering in collaged strips, along with randomly placed squares of sheet music, symbolizing their songs permeating through the market. Shiny areas shown below are dried liquid mask, protecting the whites of the gessoed plexiglass. I also used 3-D fabric paint to scribble on the surface, further illustrating the rhythm of the music and chaos of colors, smells, and sounds.

musicians detail 1

Detail of the drawing with strips of sheet music and liquid mask

Now I could fling paint without worrying about saving whites. I used a neutral green color scheme with areas of Daniel Smith’s Quinocridone Burnt Scarlet as my red accents. When I paint a large wash like this, I change colors on my brush often and let them mingle on the palette. Following my value plan, I washed in mid- to light-neutrals in a “T” shape composition, with the most intense green and red on the central figure. I tilted the plexi at a sharp angle to induce drips and splatters into the white foreground.

musicians detail 2

First wash using a “T” composition

After the first wash dried (I usually help it along with a blow dryer), I went into the figures and deepened value, intensified color, and added detail.

musicians detail 3

Second wash, enhancing values, saturation, and detail

I struggled to get the value deep enough, so went with a darker paint, Daniel Smith’s Sodalite Genuine, adding it to all the dark areas.

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Darker values added using Sodalite Genuine

I didn’t like how the Sodalite muddied up most of the colors. It is better used with cool tones. Since this painting is mostly warm, the paints didn’t play nicely with one another. I removed most of the Sodalite with a wet brush and went back into the painting using Ultramarine Blue as my dark receding values.


After wiping out all the Sodalite Genuine, I painted Ultramarine Blue in its place

Below, I replaced the Sodalite with Ultramarine Blue in the background trees. Plastic wrap protects the musicians from getting water drops on them.

musicians detail 7

Using Ultramarine Blue for the background trees.

Much better! Brighter, and not so dreary:

musicians detail 8

Detail of musicians with Ultramarine blue in background

Especially the difference in the guitar case:

Musicians copyright

Final painting, Musicians at the Market, 16×12, watercolor and collage on recycled plexiglass

Musicians at the Market reminds me of both the Saturday Market and the times I had playing music with my brother. The music I heard at the market, though, triggered the memory. What music triggers an immediate response from you? Is there a song that transports you to a different time or place? It’s weird how music does that. Maybe more than any other trigger.  What do you think? Comment and let me know. 🙂


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All images and paintings on this site copyrighted by Sarah B Hansen.