As a Copley Artist member I have an opportunity to submit artwork to planned exhibitions. Most recently a call for entries arrived called “GRIT-the urban landscape”. I almost dismissed the idea of entering as my work usually is nature-based with simple structures–certainly not gritty and city-based. The more I thought about it the more I was intrigued by the idea of taking this theme and interpreting it my own way.
My first attempt to sort out my approach is shown here a the left. Bold structure-like forms with window shapes and reflections interconnecting and overlapping in a similar way to how my brain feels when I go into any city especially for the first time. I may a well have jumped into the middle of a weaving loom full of threads and been asked to organize the colors and lines to find my way. Complete overload. Here was one way of visualizing that sensation. I stared at it for a while, overnight too. But it wasn’t speaking loudly enough to me.
In effort 2, I began the process of somehow enriching the experience in a way that made it more complex. Adding lines and areas of color that created a sense of evening, introduces a curved-dome suggesting a church, introduced an intense color area at the bottom suggesting the street level where most of the color happens. And of course added a suggeston of the Zachem bridge in the background.
Another day and night goes by as I evaluate it’s chances of seeing the light of a gallery wall. It could have been a keeper, but I was not satisfied yet. Out came the scrub brush. (I have heard many friends say you wiped that out? I love that one! How could you? Ughh. It is after all my sense of what is right…right?) After hours of work it is always a tough decision to either keep it, rework it, or completely smudge and smear til it gets to a point where I feel I have a base to move ahead again.
And so away it went. Scrubbed into a neutral blue gray gritty-looking background of texture and color. Now that was a surface I could work with. What did I want to say about the city? I am always impressed by the color as it contrasts with the stone grays of building materials found all over any city. Granite, limestone, pavement, cement, dust, dirt, smoke, hazy skies, misty air. Then there are the signs–retail, traffic, business, sandwich boards, all vying for attention while creating a cacophony of noise and distraction and confusion. That’s what I’ll paint about. And while I’m at it I’ll rotate the painting canvas to a bold horizontal where the expanse sideways will be as powerful as the vertical thrusts of the building/street lines. Now we’re talking. Me and my canvas.
I selected complementary colors of oranges and reds to contrast with the blues of the background hoping to heighten the busyness effect of the concept. A night and day notion–where there doesn’t seem to be much difference when living in the city–is represented by the dominant white building/street/subway-like line through the middle linking foreground and background imagery. Curves of a sky area reflects into a waterway representing moonlight blue evening sky. Traffic signal light at lower left adds a playful bit of color suggesting stopping, slowing and going are all part of the city life.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into my process no matter where you thought I should have stopped. Now I must go…
Edit October 2014: After looking at this piece, I decided it needed more work. The top image of this post reflects the new final piece.