Under Construction

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Artists painting architecture can be found on the walls of Pompeii. The Roman architect Vitruvius wrote the canonical treatise on architecture celebrated to the present.  His fans included Palladio and Thomas Jefferson. Reconstructing classical architecture and geometry has been a passion for painters through today.

If you painted architectural subjects like Canaletto or other Venetian Vedusti you were familiar with the legacy of Vitruvius as celebrated in the architecture of their city by Palladio and Scamozzi.  My first painting example (example 1) is a capriccio by Canaletto, which is work that is part imagination and part observation.  Canaletto re-imagined and 3-dimensionalized the appearance of the Venice’s Rialto Bridge using color, linear perspective and Palladian designs. For example, consider Palladio’s earlier design for a bridge with multiple arches (example 2).

Example 1. Canaletto’s 18th century capriccio of the Rialto Bridge with steps.

Example 2. Palladio’s design for a multiple arched bridge with steps.

Artists who are well versed in art history like Wayne Thiebaud are familiar with the principles of Vitruvius, Palladio and linear perspective as well as painters of architectural space like Canaletto.

Like Canaletto, Thiebaud began with a series of sketches and designs for architectural landscapes using art historical models. What follows are a series of examples demonstrating part of Wayne Thiebaud’s process from his initial sketches to his larger scaled oil painting. See how the image evolves through its stages.

First consider Thiebaud’s environment in San Francisco (example 3).  Next, we can begin with example 4 which presents a page of sketches just as Leonardo Da Vinci did.  An image is refined into a drawing (example 5) and then developed into a larger oil painting (example 6).

Example 3. Photo of San Francisco streets.

Example 4. A page of Wayne Thiebaud sketches.

Example 5.  Thiebaud’s refined and enlarged drawing.

Example 6. Thiebaud’s larger oil on canvas painting, 60×48”.

Learning to align parallel shapes to a vanishing point along a common eye-level has been practiced since the early 1400’s.  Canaletto employed the principle as you see in example 7 and later, Thiebaud would employ these principles but, distilled the operation as seen in example 8.  I also use the principle but, I give a feeling of confused parallax/binocular vision by using two different vanishing points near to one another. Because we move our focusing eyes so frequently I used more than two vanishing points to give a sensation of greater movement to my scene, walking along the Brooklyn Bridge (example 9).

Example 7. Canaletto aligning parallel lines to a common vanishing point in “Dolo on the Brenta”, a slow day on the Brenta Canal, Venice,

Example 8.  A pastel by Wayne Thiebaud aligning regularized hay bales, on a rising plane.

Example 9.  On the Brooklyn Bridge walkway toward Manhattan, an oil on enameled laminated aluminum.

My last example returns to Palladio and Canaletto’s interest in arches and shifting elevations. I have only just begun this painting of the converging highways and arched approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. I will hopefully show you this image after further developments.

Example 10. Convergence before the Brooklyn Bridge, oil on enameled laminated aluminum in an early stage.

In invite you to join me this year for Jerry’s Artarama’s tradeshow and workshops at their Artarama in November (9th -11th) in Raleigh Durham NC. I have three workshops to offer you.  My Friday workshop FR1807 is “New Affects and Ancient Sources for Painting in oil/wc/and Acrylic. My Saturday workshop SA1807 is “Nature Up Close” n oil/wc/and acrylic. My Sunday workshop SU1807 is “Cities in Motion, Bridging Realism and Abstraction”. A more fulsome description is available through Jerry’s Artarama. Go to www.artofthecarlinas.com/all-media-workshops.


5 Responses

  1. Fredric Neuwirth

    Example #6: Thiebald’s sketch to painting; what is interesting is the shift or change in the vanishing point alowing the perspective to shift to the left elongating the shadows and roof line.

    Your start of arches in perspective has great possibilities. Would love to see the next stage of development.

  2. Linda Boisvert DeStefanis

    Hello David,
    I miss your classes… and enjoy seeing what is new with you and your work! I am happy to see you are still finding inspiration under our beautiful bridges, as well as on top of them! Beautiful work!
    Thank you for all your help and how you push us all to experiment and grow!

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