Thinking I’d have trouble setting up in such a well-known location, I spoke to the NYPD in their booth which doubles as an army recruitment centre, but they were very relaxed. I set up and straight away blended into the mass of entertainment.
I am breaking composition rules by having a central vertical band running up the canvas, but I knew it would stand out as an oddity and wanted to draw attention to the thinness of the building which occupies the space between Broadway and Seventh Avenue.
I also wanted to invite a comparison between the two halves of the painting with pedestrians on the left hand side and traffic on the right. I flitted between these two different worlds by alternating which side of the easel I looked around; these two slightly different vantage points helped me to eliminate a drab flowerbed which would otherwise have been in the foreground.
The main thing you want to capture in Times Square is the bright artificial colour: the primaries of the yellow taxis, the red of the parasols in the foreground were constants amongst the sea of changing LED advertising boards.
It’s not a very enjoyable place to spend time. It was quite unnerving painting so close to fast-moving traffic, which must cause a lot of injuries in the square. You feel that you’re being assaulted visually by changing lights and it’s an impossible phenomenon to paint, but at the same time stimulating. I couldn’t have predicted what the end result was going to look like because the scene changed every time I looked up.
A little boy gave me a can of diet coke, the only tip I received, putting me well behind multiple Elmos, Batman and other characters of the square.