Abstracting from the figure at the Art Students League is always fun. You never know what you will end up with. No, the model didn’t really look like a Dancing Pirate. But he did have a red T-shirt and the brighter red and yellow in the top right corner (and the yellow and red small geometric shapes) did come from one of the fabric drapes in the background. The black curved sword was also one of the fabric drapes.
Working with collage makes it easier to achieve the kind of push-pull that creates depth on a 2D surface, but shallowly and with some ambiguity. The black sword is behind the red and yellow thingy in the upper right corner, but in front of the red Tee. And part of it is in front of the pirate’s face, but part is behind it. The repetition of the colors and shapes pulls your eye around the collage, preventing you from getting stuck in any one place.
What fun! Maybe I should have called it Swashbuckling Newspaper Man.
Collage and Push-Pull
In my Abstract Sketch class at the Art Students League, Frank O’Cain talks a lot about push-pull, the often ambiguous attempt to create depth (but not too much) in an abstract painting on a 2-dimensional surface. He occasionally demos the use of collage to create that push-pull effect.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I decided to give it a go. Last time I tried collage (Feb. 2014), I took paintings which didn’t quite work, cut them up, rearranged the pieces and sometimes ended up with a collage that was stronger than the original painting.
This time in abstracting from the figure (we work from a model in the class) I wanted to create the collage from scratch, using whatever paper and colors I happened to have around.
In doing so, I discovered that it is easier to create that feeling of push-pull with collage than with watercolor. More than other mediums, watercolor requires that you plan in advance how to achieve whatever effect you desire. Causing something to visually go “behind” something else in an abstract painting requires thinking about opacity or transparency and how colors combine (because you will see through the top color to the one underneath), in addition to all the other factors that make up a painting. Warm colors come forward. Larger shapes tend to come forward. Drawing a line across a shape automatically pushes it back. Etc. Etc. Etc.
With collage, you don’t have to worry so much about those kinds of things.
Newspaper Man, 18 x 24, $1400
In Newspaper Man, the big green shape comes forward, except that I’ve put opaque black shapes on top as well as a black scribble, all of which push it back. And then the smaller top green shape actually lies on top of the big black curve, which in turn lies on top of the larger green shape. That black shape would still be pretty dominant were it not for the newspaper head coming over it, the scribbled line on it, and the little pieces of rust colored opaque construction paper which sit on top of the black and the green paper.
There’s a lot of push-pull going on in this collage. And the beauty of collage is that you don’t have to figure it all out in advance. You try it one way, and then you try it another. Sooner or later, you get something that works.
My view of Spuyten Duyvil and sunsets over the Hudson River and the Palisades is often nothing short of spectacular…but not always. The reflected glory of the winter sun in the cold Spuyten Duyvil waters where the Harlem River and the Hudson River meet can vary from steely grey to a bright vibrant orange red, depending on the weather.
This particular painting of that reflected glory actually started with my memory of the sky reflected in the waters off Iceland. To the complicated movement of that water I added the colors I’ve been seeing out my window this winter: peach, a little green and many shades of winter’s blue.
I’ve done brighter paintings based on the Breiđafjörđur waters (there is a lot of green in All the Sky’s a Stage, deeper colors in Ebb and Flow, and in Breiđafjörđur the blues are cleaner), but Reflected Glory really is a winter painting.
I love the winter and especially the snow and the way it changes how everything looks. Winter rocks.
2011 in New York City must have been a really snowy winter, because I painted a lot of semi-representational paintings of snow on the craggy rocks along the West Side Highway around 145th Street. I loved that you couldn’t really tell the scale. It could have been a painting of the Alps or Rockies. In fact, I almost called this one, Manhattan Alps V.
This year, we didn’t have as much snow as last year (we are not Boston) but it was much colder. So it was a real Winter, with a capital W. Well, winter still rocks. I love the way the snow on the top of the rocks makes patterns. Winter rocks. And this is Winter Rocks.
Born in Canada. Still a Canadian in the winter under all the layers of down. Winter rocks.
The view from my window includes Spuyten Duyvil (Spitting Devil), the place where the Harlem River creek joins the Hudson River. Facing west, we get great views of the Hudson river and the Palisades and spectacular sunsets.
Seven years ago this month, I painted a fairly representational version of the sun setting over the Palisades at Spuyten Duyvil.
Lately, I’ve become fascinated with the ice on the Harlem and Hudson Rivers and the reflection in the water of the little bridge that connects Riverdale in the Bronx with Upper Manhattan as well as the colorful sunsets. I’ve tried to capture all that in this latest painting.