Mapping Light, Finding Edges

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Mapping cities was one of the earliest modes for picturing them. From the Tang dynasty of ancient China to European concepts of ideal cities in the early Italian Renaissance we have pictured cities as we conceive and desire them to be. Consider the Lorenzetti’s depictions of good and bad government in  Renaissance Siena.

Example one offers Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s  view of good government. The city is clear, ordered, flawless, and its people are well dressed. The architecture appears bright against a darkened backdrop. There is no single point perspective program here but, we feel a sense of buildings occupying coherent space. It’s light vs. dark with the design of the buildings settling into space.

Example 1, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Good Government, 1338 approx.

By the 16th century we have a new handle on linear perspective. The subject of architecture lets artists demonstrate this new persuasive system while employing imagined structures in space.  This (example 2) 16th century “Tower of Babbel” by Pieter Bruegel is one of two of his Babbel paintings.

Example 2. Pieter Bruegel’s Tower of Babbel, the larger of two Babbel paintings by Bruegel.

The Babbel story had been imaginatively painted before but, Bruegel’s towers will prove an irresistible model for later artists through today.  Artists like Verne Dawson present an imagined Babbel-like tower in his 2001 work (example 3). And I too have been lured by its mythological allure as you can see in my work in example 4, “Rocking the City”. This example presents one of my unfinished works  nonetheless, it suggests a tipping babbel-like tower.

Example 3. Contemporary artist Verne Dawson with his “Cycle of Quarter Days Observances circa 23800  BCE, Solstice Procession in the Magdelenian Era”, 2001.

Example 4. Rocking the City, oil on Dibond, 36×36,

My final two examples rely on grid patterns, linear perspective exaggerations and references to the history of city skylines. The light in example 5, step one, descend into the city. Example 6 presents step two of the same image which now has the light ascending or, emanating from the below along with another light source from the sky illuminating a silhouetted horizon.

Example 5. Step one of Mapping the City’s Lights, 36×36,

Example 6. Step two of Mapping the City’s Lights, 36×36,

The light in examples 7 and 8 descends cascading through perspective exaggerations and a matrix of overlaying linear patterns. Example 7 is an earlier stage of the painting. Example 8 presents the image in its present state. It presents a stronger sense of graphic geometry with rough visual static.

Example 7. Step one, “Matrix of Towers”, oil on Dibond, 48×48.

Example 8. Step two, “Matrix of Towers”, oil on Dibond, present state,

I invite you to join me in November at  Art Of The Carolinas, sponsored by Jerry’s Artarama in Raliegh, N.C. I have three one-day workshops. Friday November 15, It’s “Spectacular Flowers”from 9 to 4, use code FR1907 to register. Saturday, It’s “Water Scapes” from 9 to 4, use code SA1907 to register. And Sunday, It’s “Natural Patterns, Abstracting Nature” from 9 to 4, use code SU1907 to register.  Go to to register.



  1. Alice Hayden

    I fell in love with your teaching & methods & paintings on PDS. Would love to take one of your classes, but have always worked as, solely an amateur whilst hiking or biking trips mostly, in Water Colour. I now participate in a weekly Water Colour Studio at the local Life Enrichment Center. Can a water colour person participate?

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