Friday, January 8, 2010

How I Fell in Love with Buildings

For the past two years, I've almost exclusively painted buildings and cityscapes. I love painting buildings because there is this incredible, ambiguous narrative that a building has-- they can say so much while still leaving so much up to the interpretation of the viewer. For my first two years as an art student, most of my assignments were assigned-- for example, I was given a nude model or still life and I was told to paint it. The theory of my department is as I see it that an artist should develop interests and subject matter in a natural, organic way-- you can't necessarily jump from beginning to mix paint straight towards becoming a great abstract painter, for example, it takes more time and effort and natural development. While I may have doubted this system while I was in the midst of painting a still life for the 5th time, I think that looking back I was able to develop my love of buildings as subject matter in a slow, natural, organic way.

During my Sophmore year, we were assigned to paint a series of landscapes outside during the fall. It was an amazing few weeks-- we would bundle up, grab our canvases and paints, and trek into the forrest. It was peaceful and challenging and sometimes downright frosty. My first painting featured all the rich, warm, lovely colors of fall. It was so picturesque that I kind of resented it. My roomates forced me to hang this painting in the hallway of our suite, by the entrance, but I try to avoid looking at it because I think it is too cliched.

By the time I began to paint my second landscape in this series, the leaves had begun to fall and turn gray. As the leaves fell, more and more of a building began to appear through the thinning trees. Without much concious thought, I added the building into the background of my painting:

In the end, this painting became much darker and I began to love this painting a lot more. I think a lot of that had to do with the joy I had while painting the light glowing from the windows:

While most people may not love this painting, I appreciate the way that the addition of the building made it less of a cliche. The painting became specific. It was about a certain place, a certain light, a certain experience. When I began to seriously paint buildings during my junior year, I always looked back to this painting as the start of this love affair.

Stay tuned for my next post-- a journey through my junior year of painting and a continuation of my love for all things concrete!

Where it Began...

First semester of my freshman year at college, I decided to go crazy and take a drawing class. I'd always enjoyed drawing-- all over my notes, in sketchbooks, on scraps of paper. It seemed like a fun idea to take a class. I had no idea that this decision would suck me in. After a semester of drawing, I decided to challenge myself a little, and I took my first painting class. As a determined non-morning person, this was especially challenging because the class was at 8:40 AM, twice a week. Further, the class was called Life Painting, meaning that I would be learning how to paint from nude models.

My first class, I was entirely overwhelmed. Paint seemed really tough to control. The figure kept moving slightly. My paintings seemed to turn into indistinguishable gray blobs. Soon, however, I fell in love with painting.

The only issue was that my first semester of painting resulted in a series of pretty poorly painted nudes. While I was home, I photographed one of the most terrifying of these nudes.

I came home that summer, brimming with excitement over my new painting skills. I pulled out all of my new paintings, and my parents acted suitably impressed. A few weeks later, I noticed that all of my paintings were in my bedroom, in a pile, facing the wall.

So, what does a starving art student do with a painting like this--one that sits dejectedly facing away from the world? Reuse. I ripped off the canvas to reveal perfectly good, re-usable stretcher bars:

I will still certainly save this canvas. If anything, it is a solid reminder of just how far I've come in only a few years, but I'll also be able to take these stretcher bars back to school with me where I can stretch and gesso a new piece of canvas-- and this one will be naked-man free.