We have so many tools to help us create ambiguity. Photographs can be manipulated in the camera and, in software and, in the printer. After printing an image I occasionally overprint it with another but, dissimilar image. I expect a messy, almost illegible result. I look into that result to see if I might find a new idea. This process is not the same as layering photos in Photoshop. Rather, this is printing over an already existing image. The results are darker and denser. The possibilities for discovery are multiplied. It’s how I found the image in example 1.
A similar process is familiar to painters and printmakers. Printmakers continue to “drop” additional layers onto their image as they quest for a richer experience. Painters can also begin by building layers. Some are translucent and others semi-obscuring. Next I peel away some of the added layers to reveal new patterns inflected with old stains. I encourage the image to get denser. This newly enriched image offers new narrative possibilities.
The following examples endeavor to show you this process. Start with one idea, maybe generated from photos or layered photos. Then, follow the paint. See where chasing themes of light, color and dynamic motion will lead you.
I begin with a photo of roadside daffodils (example 2). I manipulated the photo through layering, cloning and other effects to see if I can make more alluring ambiguities packed with increasing motion and heightening contrasts.
Next, I start with compositional questions like how will I gather and arrange shapes (example 3). Then, I try to create a unified feeling of motion while I build interconnecting complexity among the shapes (example 4). Finally, I pursue further simplification and unity through glazing, rhythmic patterning and unified motion (example 5).
I could pursue dynamic motion in a different way. Example 5 shows you motion with a strong vertical downdraft. These next examples pursue unified motion as a quality of congested commotion, like bees in a hive. For a subject I turned to a flowering magnolia tree past its peak and backlit by soft morning light. The lack of directional light helps consolidate the quality of floral commotion.
Begin by simplifying the design into large basic textured shapes (example 6). In example 7 I find a jigsaw-like arrangement of smaller shapes using brushes, small squeegees and a paper towel-wrapped index finger. My towel-blunted fingernail makes soft luminous deletions in the paint.
In example 8 I add more soft lights and generate more overlapping marks. All are similarly small scaled which prevents the eye from settling in one place. It helps the feeling of buzzing commotion.
I invite you to join me in any of my new online courses. A new series of four classes with new subjects and methods begins this Saturday, May 2nd . Register now at daviddunlop.com .
Later in May on Tuesdays I have two more new online courses. These will cover a variety of new materials and methods. Register at silvermineart.org . I hope you can join me for talks, demonstrations and positive personal critiques.