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This is a painting I have spent the better part of my evenings painting for the last three weeks. It is from a picture that Carol’s husband, Matt, sent me.  Carol’s blog is here.

I have been fascinated with “all things” New York. I have never been there so am inquisitive about how things are done amidst all that concrete and tall buildings.  I have asked numerous questions and both Matt and Carol have been kind and patient enough to answer them. Like shoveling snow? Carol sent me pictures of front end loaders loading the white stuff onto trucks and toting it off!

Matt’s team, above, is an NYPD  Apprehension Team.  I have learned that these men are trained in many different skills. All the gear they wear weighs beyond what I’d be able to carry for any length of time. Having learned a little about what they do and  their training, has given me a new insight on the special kind of person it takes to fill their shoes. Thanks Matt for letting me try to paint you guys and post it on my blog! 🙂

Initially I was going to paint them as an abstract but got carried away when I did the drawing below:

Told you I got carried away! 🙂

I began by liquid frisketing all little white areas that I wanted to save on some of their patches and the metal door. I painted the shadow shapes on the faces, the light areas of the surrounding truck, the helmets and then the blues. I wanted to set the blues down because the grays of the vests looked like a challenge and I knew they were a lighter value.

Next came the vests. This was the most tedious part of the painting.I didn’twant them to appear flat, so I mixed the grays on the paper instead of the palette.  I used varying shades of red, yellow and blue for the majority of the gray that you see and would occasionally drop in a light wash of green or violet.

By the time I reached this stage I put the finishing touches on by detailing the faces, painting the tools and removing the frisket to end up with the painting at the top of the post.

This is the most challenging painting I have ever attempted. I chose it because it was different and I didn’t have a lot of familiarity with the subject material. I have painted one or two people before but not a grouping. It was largely composed of grays and I also wanted to challenge myself with creating grays.


  1. This is a very complex painting Leslie ! Bravo ! I love the arrays of blues and grays. They do harmonize well and give cohesion to this very busy scene. Well done !

    • Thank-you, Isabelle. It is about gray and blue, isn’t it? At one point in the painting, I felt like I was creating a group of transformers. Too funny! 🙂

  2. Let me be the first to tell you that you are my hero!!! This painting is so amazing, Leslie! I am curious about the size. You have so much detail in there and the grays are amazing!! It makes me want to get out a full sheet of watercolor paper and do a complicated painting. For me to even have that inspiration is a biggie!!! I am in awe of what you have accomplished here. I bet Carol and Matt are blown away! BRAVO!!!

    • Thank-you, Beth. It is 12.5″ x 18″ on Arches coldpress. About the largest I choose to work is on a half sheet of watercolor paper. Once a half sheet is framed, the piece becomes humongous. Carol and Matt have been very supportive throughout my attempts to paint this. Carol and I pretty much chuckled about it. 🙂

  3. Very nice picture Leslie, it’s cool that you communicate so much with other bloggers, you certainly learn alot that way and it’s nice of them to share so much with you. Wow, ten people! I couldn’t do one!

  4. You did an amazing job… I don’t think I’ll ever go to New York but if I were to choose one place to visit it’d be New York

    • Thank-you Souldose. Me too. There and Big Sur which is on the west coast, here. I find both so very different than what I experience here. Then again, wouldn’t mind venturing to your area of the world. I just figure that is way out of possibility for me.

  5. Wow what an amazing painting Leslie! I love the varying greys which lend the painting a uniformity: this in turn is enlivened by the reds and green splashes capturing the vitality and comradeship of these men. I bet you had fun doing it?Fab work!

    • Thank-you, Lynda! You nailed it right on the head. I was striving for a way to pull all of these men together as one, as they are working as a team. The gray was hopefully going to do that for me. I tried to gradually build the detail as I moved from background to foreground. It began to be fun as I started creating the vests.Until that time, I was intimidated by the whole challenge I set for myself.

  6. I love that you showed us a progression of your work. It’s great insight for those of us who do little with/are intimidated by watercolors. Neat tribute to a worthy subject.

    • Thanks, Bree. I will try to do that from time to time. You do fine with your watercolor. Everybody has to struggle with it. I still do. The largest step for me was learning how to get the water to be my partner and allow it do do some of its’ tricks for me……and I’m still learning how to pair with the water but find it fascinating.

  7. This is awesome, Leslie! Love the composition and especially the story your painting is telling. Your art is evolving with every new painting, it is a privilege to see that.

    • Thank-you, Alex. I can’t take credit for the layout composition of the painting as this was how the photo was. I believe, very strongly that it is you and my other followers who are helping me to improve. Don’t you feel that when you post something. I like everyone’s different views on pieces and it helps me think about more than I ever did before when I sit down with an idea. I feel the same way about watching you grow in art. I keep clicking on your site anxious to see what you are up to! 🙂

      • Ok, so it is a composition from a reference, still it required an astute eye to recognize it and implement it. There are so many references out there with dreadful compositions :(.

        I am working on two paintings (portraits) at the moment. My teacher thinks I have an aptitude for the “gazilion washes” technique, so she has me do just that. I have about 50 million washes down and 50 million to go. So it may be a while :D.

      • Oh my gosh. You are painting gazillion washes? I’ll bet it is beautiful. I’m definitely not going gazillion, but Ill watch you! 🙂

  8. What an amazing painting! I would have been stuck just thinking about where to start. Matt and his fellow Emergency Service cops are going to be amazed and awed by your talent. I know I am!

    • Thanks Carol! …but don’t you think they are just going to laugh? Matt was happy I painted him looking 10 years younger, lol. Now I hope I did that for all of them. I’m still chuckling that I even tried this.

  9. It’s very beautiful the new painting, Leslie.
    I like that you show us all the steps until it was finish.

    Awards for you here,mon amie:

    Enjoy your day!!! 🙂

    • Thank-you Alina! …and thank-you for the award, also. 🙂

      • My pleasure,mon amie!!! 🙂

  10. Definitely one of your better pieces.
    theres so much going on here.
    But it doesn’t look too busy.
    Not an easy thing to capture i find

    • Thanks Kokot. It was different and I think that caught my attention.

        • Matthew King
        • Posted March 12, 2010 at 3:27 pm
        • Permalink

        Leslie my dear friend,
        You’ve painted my Apprehension Team proud. You did a great job with this. I absolutely love it!
        You’ve earned a “pass” on the team visiting you early one morning. Matt
        Bravo from NYPD ESU.

      • Thanks, Matt! Your praise for this means a lot. 🙂 A “PASS”? Oh no, not unless it is for me to take you all to breakfast or something. I know what you guys can do to a front door. lol

  11. VERY complex! I would have found thiss extremely daunting. but you have made a ‘symphony’ of greys – beautiful ones.

    • Thank-you, Sarah. Grays aren’t all that easy. I like that “symphony”. You just made my day, today. Do you struggle when you have to create a gray? I don’t like gray paint from the tube, so I always try to make them from my other colors.

  12. What an impressive painting. You did an incredible job on the vests. Actually on the entire painting. Well conceived and thoughtful approach. Thank you for sharing your process.

  13. Leslie,
    You managed to make grays look vibrant, very cool. Kudos to you for even trying this group pose, and then succeeding! The most I’ve done is two figures at a time,and that is challenging enough. Your comment about size made me laugh, I always paint large-almost life size for my figures and portraits- and often use a full sheet of paper. If I were to attempt a group like this it would be enormous!

    • Your watercolors are beautiful, K. Large is not a bad thing. It is just that I have found I end up with my half sheet watercolors, but the ones that are this size and smaller seem to sell. I know that most watercolors at shows are half sheets, some full sheets and some smaller ones, but not many. Plus, my space to paint just can not handle working on a full sheet. Thank-you for the comment. 🙂 I love your work.

  14. so much care for detail. looks really good!

    • Thanks, Otto. I got kind of carried away on the drawing. lol I had originally wanted to do something more abstract but that got nixed by the drawing.

  15. Wow, these guys should love this, I know I would. I think you have honored them in a terrific way.

    • Thanks, Ryan. I hope they are kind of chuckling about the crazy lady in Indiana who assigned herself this challenge.

  16. Awesome. Thanks for explaining the process too. Have a great weekend, Leslie 🙂

  17. wow… nyc 1

  18. i think i forgot to mention that i read this earlier this week, and i found it so resembled a jigsaw puzzle, both in your assembling of it, and in my mind’s disassembling of it. thank you so much!

    • Wow.You nailed it “Y”. I was not accustomed to looking at gear like this nor painting a group like this. I think that is how my brain functions when I challenge myself with pieces and parts of things to create a whole image. I grow when I do something like this.I find things I don’tlike and things that I do and I begin selecting what I want to keepand what I want to discard. More than anything, this piece got me thinking about grays and unity. Thanks! 🙂

  19. So much work in this. So much detail. I love their expressions. Just a touch here and there of warmer colors balances the blues and greys nicely. Very nice. Hope the group gets a look at it.

    • Thank-you for mentioning the touches of warm colors. I also tried to warm up the grays as there is permanent rose in their vests. I know Matt has seen this.I don’t know if the other guys have. Thanks for the comment, Yousei!

  20. Hey cool painting Leslie – you put so much into your work. What a great subject – I would imagine it would be a good idea to stay on the right side of these guys – S

    • Thanks, Stephen. Your thought is my thought. When I first saw the picture, I told Matt I wouldn’t want to open my door and see them standing there. He said they’d be doing the door opening if they were sent to my home. I decided I’d paint them then and there. 🙂

  21. Wow! This must’ve taken a lot of work and a lot of patience! Love the colours in those greys, and the detail.

    (Hi – I’ve been blog-surfing and just happened upon yours.)

    • I’m glad you stopped in on your surfing rounds, absurdoldbird! Thank-you for the comment. Your photoshop paintings are filled with color and spirit!

  22. Great subject! I like being able to see your process and the thought behind it. I like that your drawing is so detailed but in painting it your colors allow more detail, like the texture of the helmets or vests.

    • Hi K! Thanks! I somehow knew you would like this subject material. 🙂 I think it is having visited your site all year combined with these guys just waiting to be painted that really inspired me to try it. I secretly hoped it would pass your approval rating . Thanks again.

  23. Gosh, what you give to the art world and your students is only surpassed by what you give to the blogging community! You are a very special gem to all of us. This is such a wonderful “gift” to Carol and her husband!

    • Thank-you, Kate. This was my big project I assigned myself after having worked on your clouds. I think it was kind of you to allow me permission to try and Matt and Carol were very kind, also, to o’kay my attempting this. I have to say that it is a very different feel to render through an image from someone else’s eye in the camera. I will do it again. There are lessons to be learned here, I think. Besides…’s fun! 🙂

  24. It’s great to see the step by step and the excellent final ressult! you’ve got a lot of patience, both for painting and for posting the whole sequence!!! 🙂

  25. This is amazing! I’ve never even dreamed of attempting such a painting. I have a bad habit of starting a project and then getting interested in a different one before it’s finished (I have two bracelets half made right now).

    • I am chuckling. I, too, prefer small shorter projects. Every once in awhile I just have to challenge myself to grow a little.There were a couple times I had to let this rest and work on some other smaller painting. I worked on the cat and the one called Lucy at the same time as I was slowly figuring out grays and such in this one. Can hardly wait to see your bracelets.

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