Photos to Paintings: Building Bridges

posted in: Blog, Classes, Composition, Painting | 8

Let’s go for a walk.  We’ll start in Brooklyn Heights where we find and climb  a set of steep steps up to the walkway across the Brooklyn Bridge. I once lived in Brooklyn Heights near the base of that Bridge. I was a shared fifth-floor walk-up. It was modest and close to the bridge that would serve as one of my sustaining muses.

The bridge has spent its life inspiring and challenging artists and photographers.  On Instagram check out #Brooklynbridge or #Brooklynbridgeart and you can see its influence. When I visit I vary the times of day and the seasons to gather different impressions. From its foundations in Brooklyn and Manhattan I can collect differing points of view. I have walked alongside it on the parallel Manhattan Bridge. I have boated below it.  I have bicycled, walked, commuted and courted across it. We have a relationship.

What follows are samples of my approach to presenting the psychological effect of the energy, motion, and various points of view to be found in my paintings. I frequently begin my process with photography.

The first two examples are just a couple of quick snapshots. Imagine lots of these snapshots. Next  I start layering, compiling, and cloning them into a single image. Examples 1 through 5 should give you an idea of my program.

Example 1. Step 1, a single snapshot facing Brooklyn,

Example 2. Step 2, another single snap facing Brooklyn,

Example 3.  Step 3, which is really more like step 27; we just skipped over the in between steps to get to this photo. It is an amalgam of many snapshots after much recomposing in Photoshop. These three images were each vertically compressed to increase the sensation of height, like a squeezed accordion.

Example  4.  Step 4, Here the image has been horizontally extended. Next I manipulate the image with my Epson Printer (an 800 series which can print on a variety of materials). The image in this example was printed on Epson’s metallic paper.  I also try overprint images as well as other printer-based techniques.

Eventually I ask if some of these images, collectively or individually, are inspirational enough to start improvising with them in paint. I am in the midst of that process.  The next three images (examples 5 through 8) demonstrate the connection between photos and my improvisational painting program.

Example 5. Step one, after many trials the photo developed into this layered image,

Example 6. Step two, after more trials with the same root images a new photo emerged,

Example 7. Step three, the painting process begins. Here is earlier stage in the painting which derived from the first two photo examples.

Example 8. Step four, Here is the painting at later stage. It’s still in process.

I may begin a painting and decide it is not promising. This happened with example 9 which began as a sunlit painting of the neighboring Manhattan Bridge. I inverted this beginning painting to see if its colors could be harvested with an over-painting of a different subject, the Brooklyn Bridge. That is the painting you see commenced in example 10.

Example 9. Step one, a failed start which will serve as a substrate for example 10.

Example 10, Step two, reusing elements the failed start to get to the final painting you see here.

The cross influencing relationship between photography and painting has continued since photography’s inception in the 1830’s. Before photography artists used its equivalent in the form of the camera obscura and before the camera obscura the concave lens was found to be able to project images on the artist’s canvas or panel.

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8 Responses

  1. Michael C. McBride

    The soul of David Dunlop, where genius meets artist! Love your works on PBS, your knowledge, enthusiasm, interpretation of what is set before you blows my mind. Thank you David, thank you.

  2. Janine Robertson

    The Brooklyn Bridge series is exciting! I especially love the feeling of motion on the bridge and the glistening water. Susan Powell has a large bridge painting featured in her window and it’s a stunner!

    • dd_admin

      Janine, Thank you for your thoughts. Yes, the painting in the window is sold and it’s not as large as they go show in June will feature a couple of 48x48s. I appreciate your reading the blog.

  3. Priscilla Moskos

    I’ve had an ongoing love affair with bridges from a little kid. And especially the Newport Bridge that connects Newport to Jamestown, R.I. It features the Islamic arches/ at nite all lit-up looks like “bride”

    • dd_admin

      Priscilla, I know that bridge and agree with you. Best, David

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