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Sweet Street: Behind the Scenes

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

How you ever wanted to know what the heck was happening in Samantha's head as she created a piece? Well, you've come to the right place! Here is everything you've ever wanted to know about my painting, "Sweet Street."

Art Statement

Last year I decided I needed to paint something cheerful, colorful, and whimsical. “But Samantha, don’t you do that all the time?” Ah, well… I haven’t done candy in awhile! I theretofore set out to do a whole miniseries of candy-themed paintings, the last of which was this: Sweet Street. Firstly I designed a series of shops that would make up Sweet Street using candy jars as inspiration. Next, drawing on the Edwardian Era, I created the characters that would own each shop. I chose a fresh, pastel-colored palette to make the most happy, light-hearted street one ever did see.

You can see my blog post on the first of the three candy paintings, "Portrait of a Candy Man" here.


Genesis of the Idea

The third in my mini series of candy paintings, this candy shops street scene was destined to be pretty epic. I began by looking at candy jars to get inspiration for the shapes of my shops (and to procrastinate having to do some actual work 😁).

Idea Sketches

Once I had a page and a half of candy jar shapes, I was running out of excuses to get started, so on to designing the shops I went. I quickly decided on the need for a Gumball Shoppe, a Nut Shack, and a LolliShop. I also played around with a Popcorn Hut, a Milkshake Bar, and an Ice Cream Parlor.

Once I had some shops in place, I needed some people to stroll down the street, so I dusted off my character designing skills to create some owners for my various shops. Rotund Mr. G Ball owns the Bubble Shop, obviously. Mr. C Salt and his ginger poodle run the Nut Shop. Mr. Tolley likes his lollies over at the LolliShop. Stealing from a certain magical book series, no one but Mr. Fortesquieu could serve up cones at the Ice Cream Parlor. Miss Minnie Cherry is our only female entrepreneur, winning prizes for her sundaes at her Shoppe at the end of the street.

Why did I name them all when no one but me would ever be made an introduction? Well, they sort of named themselves, you know.

Reference Time!

Tricky is the word I would use to describe a multi-figural street scene when one has little experience with either people or streets. Okay, I do jest a bit, but it's no walk in the park to make sure everyone will behave when put in the same composition. I needed all the reference help I could get! I'm not kidding, I used around 300 images to put this baby together. Below is a small sample of this colossus of a collection. I felt like the curator of the tiniest museum of candy street oddments this side of Norway!

Though I'm not a sculptor by any means, I also went to the trouble of molding my little buildings out of clay. This helped me get a consistent lighting reference for the stars of the whole ensemble: the shops. Looks simple, I hear you say? Well, you try fashioning these unusual shapes while keeping the scale between each consistent and not run out of the clay on, say, the last two, so they're not an annoyingly different color from the rest. Let's see you manage photographing them while all the toothpicks behave like 3-year olds on Picture Day after having waited 20 minutes for their classmates to get situated. Then after having pulled off this feat, deal with the inner dialogue of wondering to yourself,

"whether the lighting is indeed right or if it needs to be harsher--like daylight-- because, after all, this is supposed to be a high-summer-or-spring-kind of painting and maybe I should take them outside tomorrow because the sun's already set today, which is why I opted for artificial light. But then again, it's actually winter outside, and won't the angle of the sun be wrong for a summer scene anyway? Would anyone actually notice? But I would know, so isn't that enough?"

Yep, simple. What's the big hangup, Samantha?

"Sweet Street" Shop Maquettes Lighting Photo Reference by Samantha Long
"Sweet Street" Shop Maquettes Lighting Reference

Comp Sketch

Because of the complex nature of the scene, I actually did the comp in bits and pieces. I originally intended to do it all in one, but after sketching out the buildings on my 13" x 5" sheet I paper, I realized my characters would be far too minuscule to draw properly. I therefore drew them all out separately and added them in digitally later. Why it didn't occur that 13" x 5" would be terrifically inadequate a size to put working people in I haven't the faintest idea.

It did end up being a good thing, though, because I went to some crazy perspectival lengths to make sure each person could fit in their prospective shop's door. Their size also had to make sense with where they were placed on my sidewalk. In case you were wondering, yes, I scaled the buildings as well as the walk. Each slab is 10 feet square, a bit excessive for a normal boardwalk, perhaps, but I decided no width was too grand for my mythical street. If you look closely at the page with Miss Cherry and Mr. Ball below, you can see my dimensions for all the elements. My bench is conspicuously absent from the list, but don't worry; I figured out it was way too small while in the middle of the painting process after I had already finished it. The best laid plans... You can see my after-the-transfer adjustment on the last image below:

Color & Value Studies

Very few times in my color study efforts has the palette come as the dews from heaven. This one's... was not one of those. I did some dastardly awful colors before I arrived at one that was working. I mean, come on, flesh-colored Bubble Shop, burnt pumpkin pie Nut Shop, and Cornflower Blue Sundae Shoppe against that electric blue sky? Really? Why would I even try that? The pistachio-colored nut shop with pink roof was amusing, but I'm glad I went with the one I ultimately did.

(You may notice that at this point my bench is still only suitable for a family of badgers. Maybe I should have just painted some on it instead of agonizing later over the formula for a properly-sized bench ...)

Painting Process

Let's be real. This painting took me ages to finish. I started in April of 2020, and, minus a bit of time to work on 7 other paintings, didn't finish until April of the next year. That's a whole year of this thing staring at me, bidding me to finish it! Here's a snippet of me painting the squirrel on the roof of the Nut Shop:


Besides painting, I also design the frames for each painting. That way I can handcraft a frame that fits the painting perfectly, and it's also cheaper--and markedly better quality--than buying them.

Recently I've become enamored with this brightly colored wood called, Purpleheart. It's made an appearance with these candy paintings, for sure! It looks just like it sounds.

The less-than-ideal bit was that it's nigh impossible to buy strips of this wood in lengths such as this piece required. I consequently had to settle with doing the purple stripes in two bits. The seams weren't too terrible, though. There are two visible seams in the photo below. You might not have noticed, had I not pointed them out. Ah, come on, Samantha! You're terrible at keeping secrets!

Detail of "Sweet Street" in Handcrafted Frame by Samantha Long Art
Detail of "Sweet Street" in Handcrafted Frame

"Sweet Street" in Handcrafted Float Frame by Samantha Long Art
Finished Painting Installed in Handcrafted Frame

And there you have it, everything you've ever wanted to know about my painting, "Sweet Street."

My painting is currently available at David Ericson Fine Art gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah. Please direct all purchase inquiries to Dave. You can contact Dave here.

I also have prints available of this painting. You can take a look at those in my shop here. Thanks for reading!

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