Bridges and Crossings

posted in: Painting | 3

Arches, Passages, Portals and Bridges demonstrate and celebrate our greatest achievements in engineering and act as architectural protagonists in paintings.  They appear as commemorative monuments in the form of triumphal arches and spanning bridges. Artists used this celebration of bridges in their explorations of expressive perspectives.

For examples I begin in the mid-18th century with Canaletto.  While visiting London to satisfy a demand for commissions of his work he found the bridges over the Thames to be a suitably grandiose subject.  In example 1 you see a demonstration of his perspective skill as he places the viewer beneath the arch of the bridge which acts as a window onto the landscape of London and the Thames.

Example 1.  Canaletto’s bridge, 1746-47.

Countless artists have exploited the metaphorical and geometric possibilities of bridges. In the late 20th century artists like Yvonne Jacquette and Wayne Thiebaud (example 2) played with aerial views of interweaving highway bridges.

Example 2. Wayne Thiebaud, late 1970s.

Wandering along the canals of Milwaukee gave me a chance to build and rearrange a landscape of bridges. My approach starts with lots of photos which I then merged, layered, distorted and exaggerated in an effort to make an almost inscrutable matrix of bridge forms.  All these forms collided and mixed with one another. This process allowed me to generate a chaos of forms which I could easily invent and depart from.  The confusion of the photographic chaos encouraged me to invent other forms in paint in a similar fashion.

Here’s a quick illustration of that process. I begin with a photo which I cropped and squeezed (example 3).  Next, I merged that image with other similar views while simultaneously exaggerating color, contrast and the forms (example 4). Then, I began the painting process feeling liberated from any notion of transcribing or copying the photo. Example 5 is step one of two. Example 6 is the second step with the painting.

Example 3.  Photo after some adjustments.
Example 4. Photo after layering and more adjustments.

Example 5. Step one of Yellow and Blue.

Example 6. Step two, present state of Yellow and Blue Bridges.

In addition to the photo distortions acting as a muse I tried painting over old paintings incorporating some of their colors and forms into my bridge building.
Example 7 is the image I chose to over-paint.  It had too many shortcomings for me to want to continue with it. Example 8 represents an early stage in the process.  You can see how colors and textures of the substrate image are revealed and harvested in the example 9. Example 9 represents the image in its present state.

Example 7.  Image to be over-painted.


Example 8. Early stage in painting.

Example 9. Present state.

Examples 10 and 11 were stimulated by not only the effects of Photoshop distortions but, physical (cut and paste) collage work as well.  Here, examples 9 and 10 present only the later painting portion of the process.

Example 10.  Step one of Stepped Bridges.

Example 11.  Step two of Stepped Bridges, present state.


3 Responses

  1. Patricia Scanlan

    Wow, example 11 is brilliant, exciting and fun. I don’t know how you do it!

  2. Linda Boisvert DeStefanis

    I love #6 of the yellow and blue bridges! How great is it that this is always fun and a great adventure for you! And you create such colorful, amazing new works All the Time! I continue to enjoy painting with my oils on aluminum. I feel that I learned plenty being in just those two special classes! Thank you always for helping me explore and grow more in my own art!

  3. Paula Gibbs

    What an interesting technique of digitally altering and combining images, then to create a painting of the resulting image. I can certainly see how you would definitely feel freed from trying to paint a copy of an original image. Love #10 and 11.

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