I’ve been reading about David Hockney. I am enthralled by his sketches. I was looking at his sketch studies for paintings and comparing them to his final paintings and my preference is still for the life studies. It got me thinking though, about my reflections, and it suddenly occurred to me that I should be doing quick sketch studies of them as well as photographing them. I did a couple sketches of some morning reflections on the entry wall and it was good—the light changed very quickly and, as fast as I am, the reflections had completely changed over the course of a couple of minutes so I photographed them as well.
This all also got me thinking back to my years at University and shaking my head at the young, hot-headed Dayna who tried to exist and paint outside of the art world. I ignored so much of it; so many lost years! I think I am now where I should have been in my first year at University. Now I am open to everything around me and soaking it all up and trying new things and thinking constantly about my art. Oh well, I guess it’s better late than never.
Then in the Drawing Club at work we were discussing David Hockney and his Hockney–Falco thesis which, true to form, I had missed entirely. This theory suggests that Renaissance painters used camera obscura and light boxes to make images which they then traced. Essentially that they used photographic techniques, pre-photograph. This blew my mind. The whole hierarchy of painting would be in question if this is how they worked. The pinnacle of the painting world worked from projected images?? My whole prejudice for life painting over using photographs would also seem rather pointless. I guess I need to remember that I am not trying to be a photo-realist, but rather I am more influenced by the Impressionists and capturing moments and moods. For me it may be less about using photographs as source material, and more about my hang up with the “finished” work of art. I am always trying to loosen up and not focus on the length of time something takes to do as a measure of how complete or incomplete it is.
Then in reading about Hockney for this post I got sidetracked by all his iPad drawings. Phenomenal works. It’s interesting how he did something that so many people are doing, but he took it to the next level and made it into “high art” in the way he did it. He made it into a project—he did a still life every morning and then immediately e-mailed it out to his friends. He talked about the immediacy of working in this way, having everyone see what he was working on almost as he was doing it. He has already bypassed blogging.
All this with David Hockney does make me think though. It makes me think about Galileo theorizing that the sun was actually the centre of the solar system and not the Earth. I’m that kind of blown away.
Here’s a good article about his iPad drawings, if you’re interested:
GAH! Finally done! This is the “reflection painting” that I’ve been working on and struggling with for the past few weeks. An interesting painting to do since it is quite abstracted due to the tight cropping from the original image. I am also trying to loosen up a bit more in my painting—an influence of both my daughter’s paintings and my own watercolour paintings. For this one I took photos of it throughout the painting process and then I ended up referring to the photos of earlier stages of the painting rather than the source image—a whole new way of painting for me! For awhile I thought it would never be done. It is also huge; when I started I had decided that I “felt” it needed to be 2 feet by 4 feet.
The photo that I used for this painting was of reflected light off of our neighbor’s windows, through my china cabinet, and onto a landscape painting that I had propped beside the cabinet when I was trying to pick paintings to submit to a show. And speaking of reflections, I don’t know where I was hiding away all last summer or if I was just depressed and never opened the curtains, but there are reflections EVERYWHERE in the house right now—even the plastic lid of the coffee canister casts cool reflections on the wall! I’ve been taking photos everyday. I am so excited.
Back to studying reflections. I’ve been photographing them in my living room—sun bouncing off of melting snow puddles and shining on my walls. I had been missing them and was wondering if I would ever see reflections on my walls again, or if our new house got too much real sun. Then I saw that the last reflection photos I took were at the end of March last year. I had never really noticed that it was a springtime phenomenon, but I guess it is. I also have photos of reflections when they land on my paintings which I’m finding fascinating to see how it alters the painting, almost abstracting it. So last week I needed to get my mind off some things and I sat down and finally started on a painting based on one of my photos. I’ve had a little colour printout of this image in my studio for 3 years and never done anything with it. It was a very interesting experience to be painting from a photo of my own painting. I like the new version better. It felt like I finally knew how to paint again, like the past 7 months of work for my blog (arguably the past 7 years of work) was all practice stuff. And perhaps it was. And although I really love this one as a painting in itself, I’m not sure how successful it is as a study of relections…but there will be more reflection paintings.
The reflections weren’t enough by themselves but I just didn’t know quite what to do with them. I think the reflections on top of my paintings taps into something more. Just thinking about all the possibilities makes my head spin. First there’s the original paintings, then photos of the paintings with reflections on them, then paintings from the photos… it’s a whirlwind of endless subject matter!
Here’s the photo that I used for this painting. It was direct morning sunlight in the house that we rented. We had just moved in and I was still unpacking and hanging paintings up, and I had them sitting on the table beside the kitchen (this photo was taken just 3 days before I went into labour with my daughter).
Interesting to note this is also the image that I cropped for my Gravatar (the image beside my comments on the blog). I think I knew there was something to my reflection photos before I actually realised it.
Ah…finally…a post! 2011 is off to a slow start but I’m still on top because the only New Years resolutions I made were to keep doing what I’ve been doing and to not wear the same pair of pants everyday. So I win!
I finally got around to working on the woodcut that I had started before. I still haven’t found my lino-cutting tool so I used a chisel. No room to get precious about anything with a chisel! And I think that I’m ready to admit that my husband MAY have been right about print-making. He had been telling me that what I had not liked about print-making was how process heavy it was, which I pshawed and insisted that I loved print-making. I have now been trying to get a nice print of this stupid woodcut for 6 days. Between under-inking and over-inking and using too little pressure and getting crap on my roller, I’m just about ready to edit the thing in Photoshop. Though that may prove to be just as headache inducing for me. I believe this is why I’m a painter.
So this is the best print that I have of it so far. It’s barely discernible but it is the shadows of the living room blinds, lamp and bamboo—it’s the same image that I did the charcoal sketch of (only reversed now as this is a print). If you don’t look at it as a woodcut print of something in particular its kind of a neat abstract image. And it’s even better if you click on the image and see it just a bit larger than my blog will allow. Though I still want to get a better print of it. Maybe next week.
Here is the one that I had intended to do as a painting, but it turned into a charcoal drawing. I do love the quality that charcoal gives the shadows and am very happy with this as an exploration of my shadow images. This is the corner of the living room with the shadows of my bamboo, lamp and living room blinds. The real objects in the drawing are a second lamp and a pile of mending (a ruffled skirt of Poppy’s). I know that the skirt is not recognizable as a skirt and I debated taking it out, but I felt the image needed it. Maybe if I do this view again I will make it an empty coffee table there instead. I am back and forth on how recognizable everything should be since the nature of the subject—reflections and shadows in corners and on ceilings, cropped in close—abstracts it to begin with. I guess it’s fine for the shadows to be abstracted and unrecognizable, but as soon as I put real objects in they become reference points for the viewer and need to be recognizable. Would this image work as well without the lamp and skirt in the foreground? I really liked the extreme foreground elements and the shallow sense of space, very much like old Japanese prints. Interesting though—I will have to do the next one as strictly shadows and see how it compares. I guess the first shadow work I did was all shadows and nothing recognizable, but I don’t feel that one was successful at all aside from the fact that it is the first shadow work in what may prove to be a long-term exploration of a subject.
Actually now that I’m thinking about it, maybe the problem with the first shadow painting was the lack of a reference point. Maybe the images need that to set up the space for the viewer. If I look back at the same prints I referenced in my other post—Sunday Afternoon, Good Friday, and Sackville Attic—they are all about the sense of space set up by glimpses of the ocean.
I am also starting a small woodcut based on this same image. I still have Christopher Pratt’s works in my head and he did a fair number of woodcuts and prints, mostly for yearly Christmas cards that he and his wife sent out. I love the graphic quality of woodcuts and I think the medium will work very well for the shadows. It’s just too bad that I’m a bit too lazy to do up hand-made Christmas cards. At least for this year.
So I’ve been taking these photos for about 10 years now. It started when we moved into our first apartment with its north facing windows. I was desperately trying to grow plants and annuals but we only ever got a sliver of sunshine beside the kitchen window. I started to photograph any light that reflected into the apartment–usually light bounced off of car windshields from the parking lot that our unit looked onto. Fleeting little glimpses that sometimes only lasted seconds. Our next apartment was a lovely chalet-style loft apartment with a 2 story living room that turned out to be north facing as well. I found all new reflections and shadows to photograph, usually from the windows of the condos beside our building, but also a bit of real sunshine from high up the second story loft window. That window must have had a view over the top of the adjacent condos, but we could only ever see the square of sun that shone on the wall . Last summer we moved into our first house with my coveted east/west orientation and I thought my search for light was over. Then the neighbors across the street would come home from work and the light would bounce of their windshield into my living room and I ran for the camera.
It’s not just reflected light that I’m photographing now, but also sunlight and shadows, all as seen in the corners of rooms and ceilings and doors. I think that it’s time to explore this in my art. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do so I’m just starting with doing some studies from the photos. This one is acrylic with a lot of glazing layers and gel medium. It’s very shiny (see photo below).
At first I wondered if there was enough “meat” in reflections as subject matter. I guess it will depend on what I do with it, but I was mending a book at work today on the artist Christopher Pratt and was very inspired by his work, especially: Sunday Afternoon, Good Friday, and Sackville Attic. What beautiful images of seemingly mundane subject matter.