Abstracting The City

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We have varieties of tools to begin abstracting a forest, a city street, a stream, a still-life, a nude.  Tools like brayers or squeegees can pry us away from dogmatic representation.  Photo software can provide freedom to improvise with images without the cost of paint and expensive substrates.  I like to use all of these methods.  When strolling through New York, Paris, London or Berlin I carry a camera and ipad.  I stumble across unexpected visual events and find myself interrogating them.  Initially I look for a novel point of view. I can later build other novel points of view using photo software with cloning, layering and other strategies.

Example 1 provides a sample of how I combine and layer multiple points of view taken with my camera. I was walking down Lexington Avenue in midtown NYC. I let my eye wander and noticed how I enjoyed looking down both the length of the avenue as well as the intersecting side streets. I snapped many versions of each from stationary and other points of view.

Example 1. The combination photo.

Example 2. Oil, 36×36 on dibond aluminum in reaction to the photo.

The abstraction process has historically begun with a sketch or within a painting. The artist determines to simplify, reduce, or reorganize an existing painting’s design structure.  When I began example 3 I was intrigued with the space extending beneath a series of bridges. As I worked on the piece I considered how one looks at a horizontal image. We change vanishing points as our eyeball pivots and refocuses. Our eyes do this at least 4x per second. I decided to let the image reveal this process of horizontal scanning with refocusing. The result is example 4, an abstraction from example 3.

Example 3. Bridges, oil on dibond aluminum, 24×48.

Example  4. Bridges, modified.

Another example of working out reorganizing ideas within a painting can be seen in example 5.  By example 5 the image had already undergone a variety of reorganizations.  Here I superimposed an inverted version the standard map of two point linear perspective onto the front of the building wedge. It made little sense to me. I proceeded to simplify the design and arrived at example 6.

Example 5.  An earlier step in testing designs.

Example 6. The painting as it exists today, 36×36.

Example 7 follows the same process as example 6 and example 1. I began with an abstracted photo montage trying to incorporate disparate points of view from a single geographic position.

Example 7. The original layered photo before compression into a square.

Example 8. Step two, an intermediate stage.

Example 9. Step three, present state of the painting, 36×36.

Abstraction encourages the artist to accept and use the plasticity of his subject or motif. I felt the urge to round the corners of the architecture because it invested the image with more motion, more fluidity.  Example 10 presents the design ideas expressed above but, now with greater elasticity in the architectural forms.

Example 10. Present state of “Rounding Corners”, 36×36.

Let me invite you to a couple of upcoming events.  I will be speaking at the Westport Arts Center on, “The Science of Expression: Art and Design” on Saturday, April 29 from 2:30 to 4 PM. This is a fundraising event for the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County. Tickets are $20 for members and $25 for non-members and, available at http://dunlopbenefit.eventbrite.com

On May 19th there will be an opening reception, 5-8 PM, for an exhibition of my paintings at Susan Powell Fine Arts in Madison, Ct at 679 Boston Post Road, 203 318 0616.  The next evening, Saturday May 20th, at 4 PM I will be giving a free painting demonstration in the gallery’s garden.

Saturday and Sunday June 17 and 18 from 9 am to 4 pm, I am giving a two-day in studio workshop, “Natural Elements: Learn to Paint Nature from Historic and Contemporary Techniques”  At the West Hartford Art League.  Call them (Elisabeth McBrien) at 860 231 8019 to register or visit their website at westhartfordart.org  go to “school” then to “workshops”  then to “spring 2017 workshops” for a fuller description.

Later in June, the 26th through 28th I will be conducting a three day workshop at Nicole Kennedy’s Gallery and Studio in Raleigh Durham, N.C. “ Painting with The Masters, Old and New Techniques”, call 919 838 850 to register  and visit nicolesartgallery.com for the workshop’s description.


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