Stranger on the Train

This image is my third in “Trucks and Trains, The Series” which started on Monday, January 26th and could also fit into the  “Before the Storm”  series that started way back in early December when the first snow storm was predicted.  The sun always tips its blurry hat to the storm gods just before all hell breaks loose.  As I write this, the snow is falling.

For anyone interested, here are the links to the series mentioned:

Trucks & Trains, the Series:

Day One

Day Two

Before the Storm, The Series

First Storm

Second Storm

This image is also for the SAPCC challenge this week, “Stranger”.

I made this image as one would paint a canvas.  The initial photograph was like a sketch.  Some photographs from long ago were dipped into for bits of color or texture as if a different brushstroke was needed to properly convey the emotion behind what “stranger” as well as trains evoke in me. I think my Edward Hopper gene was clicking in as well.

In my head or heart or wherever creativity resides, I simple began working, almost whistling whilst moving from image to keystroke back to image, trying so many things,  seemingly surefooted.  A color at a time.  A piece of the canvas at a time. Blending this, blending that.  Erasing. Squinting like Bonnie told me she does when working on a painting.  I was aware of an energy insisting and confident: a freedom of gesture that seemed to know that my image wanted to be of the wider complicated world surrounding the stranger–solitary, on the move, whether coming or going it’s not clear, but, definitely–oh, most definitely–NOT waving.  I know this world very well.    They’d be no one waving in a Edward Hopper painting, either.

As I finished working on it, I turned on the news and watched President Obama being interviewed for a broadcast for the Muslim world.   It’s been just a week since the inaugural–and, then, I smiled.

I think if President Obama was my train conductor– or the even the photographer– he would have waved.

The world is changing for all us melancholics whether we are ready or not.  I’m gonna get on this friggin’ train despite all my Celtic DNA baggage weighing me down.  I gotta run, though, like those old movies of people hopping freight trains…throwing their satchel onto the moving train first and then catching a railing or an outstretched hand to scramble up into the open door.

Hey, Mr. Conductor!  Help me, would you?  Don’t just stand there saying, “ALL ABOARD!!”  Here!  Take my camera and be careful for heaven’s sake!  Don’t drop it!

I’ll need it for the journey.

Pat Coakley 2009


(This actually could be the final image of the “Driving to the Inaugural” Series but there’s no way I’m linking to the fifteen entries that went into that!)

Click Here to see who has contributed to SAPCC this week.

17 comments on “Stranger on the Train”

  1. Wow, that is a lot to take in. Very interesting though, I keep coming back to see it again.

    The only change I would have made: get rid of the cars at left. The train offers a certain timeless quality that I’m losing when I remember those cars over there.

  2. That belongs in a child’s story book about a trip on train to visit a greatly loved aunt or grandparent and the adventures a child had on that trip! Yummy!

  3. ok thats an AMAZING PICTURE!!! Did you use a filter to get that kind of color? Thats a bloody masterpiece!! Im in total awe. Amazing work Pat!

  4. I agree with Brooks, it has this hobo olde timey feel, esp how conductors seem not to change with fashion. He’s definitely a stranger.

  5. Brooks, I know what you mean but because of intent, the cars need to stay. I could have made this a vertical shot with just the train and the conductor very easily. But, They–the cars, the sky, the setting sun are part of my wider, complicated world. Yes, it may distract but in a way I smile at that comment: for that’s exactly what the wider world does to me, maybe to all of us. When we get on the train, it’s not just the train of our dreams. We have to deal with middle-aged blonde women who are filled with jabberowocky all throughout the trip. Do you remember that post you had of a plane trip? Or, men who eat with their mouth open while seated next to you, turning to smile at you mid-knaw. Yeah, nice to meet you, too. Anyway, maybe I could have executed my intent better but this is why they’ll remain.

    You know, arysmom, I like that idea!! Sort of reminds me of some of the Chris Van Allsburg (name?) illustrations I’ve seen. Thanks.

    Amber, in this case the original photo had a polarizer but many different changes went into the final product through use of photo software and blending of pieces of other photographs. So, there’s no one explanation for the colors. I’m off to your site to see if you have any new photos up!

    Smack. You are right! A conductor’s fashion style is sort of timeless, isn’t it?

    Conni, Oh, thank you! Of course, one can be speechless for lots of reasons but I’m going with the Sally Field, “O, you like me, you really like me” interpretation!

  6. absolutely brilliant.

  7. You’ve out done yourself today. I think the image is perfect. So well executed!

  8. Spooky and beautiful at the same time. The conductor is the star, but the supporting cast and set all contribute to the story and mood. I love the colors. And I agree that the cars, horizontal powerlines and other distractions add just the touch of reality needed to prevent it from tipping over into a dreamscape. It’s a tension that gives life to art. More!!

  9. I’m coming in late on this train conversation but Von Coakleys’ Express could be one of my favorites.
    If there were ever to be a forum between film purists and digital users, the arguments could be quelled by the very process you’ve described here.
    What is art?
    What is photography?
    You’ve answered both questions by the thoughtful process of showing how you ” see “, after you’ve caught your image.
    There’s much to consider in this piece- by the viewer and by you, the artist. And that winter cold…………

    The images of trains are so imbedded in our collective psyche, long before the airplane. This one evokes every trip, every tearful separation, every approach to a new destination. Satisfies my nostalgic DNA.

  10. Toss together Hopper and the Hudson River School, and add a bit of Pat originality, and this photograph is born.

  11. The energy from the creative process is addictive yes? I love the fact that this is a piece that took time, that you zoned never mind the piece itself, the softeness of the colours and the blurs, merge … the whole shebang, its incredible *bows*

  12. Polar Express zipping through Massachusetts….. look at Tom Hanks go !!!

  13. Greetings from a two day pause to help out with my grand nieces and nephews, sorry for the delay in getting to these comments!
    Russ, One day I’ll use a flash in a photo, I promise. Oh, that’s right…I don’t have a flash! Thank you.
    Razz: I wish I had photos of all your train rides! Those tutorials you linked me to helped vault me in to better curves and levels! So, in a way, this image and new found freedom of keystrokes is due to that. I’m grateful yo you– once again!

    Don; Now, I loved how you described this—particularly the possibility it could fall into dreamscape without the context visible. I had wondered what my purpose was! That was it. Do others reveal to you why you do things in your art? What a process, really. Amazing.

    Bonnie: I was hoping you’d have time to visit because I thought of you while doing this! And, your last sentence about the evocative nature of trains? Ah. Just perfect.

    Chris, I went to look at some Hudson River School on the net! I’d seen them before, of course, but it is always so interesting to see why anything we do evokes some other artists, isn’t it? Thanks.

    Sanity! You liveth. You cometh to visit! Yea! Have missed your energy, truly! Now, we could wax on for hours about the creative process, couldn’t we??

    HJ: Exactly!! I wonder if some of those images were behind this??

  14. the cars on the left are what help make this painting. without them it is more of an illustration, fantasy or movie. But the cars instantly ground you, shock a memory or nostalgia. But that rickety fence and the half melted dirty snowbank and the cement wall peeking through, that really puts it over the top. I think those are the stars, and the rest is just an excuse to get you to look at them.

  15. […] of a winter railroad crossing, Sky Train, and of this same commuter train and station in January, “Stranger on the Train“.  If you want to see more (and who wouldn’t, really!!) try clicking on […]

  16. This piece is exactly what I’ve been looking for to use as inspiration for my GCSE art exam. If you wouldn’t mind could you tell me your name? It’s just good to say which artists you used for examination purposes.

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