A little about my process
I think my years spent as an industrial designer have shaped my need for precision - working with tiny tolerances, and defining and specifying products for manufacture and tooling. I enjoy art that has a degree of precision, but not so much precision that it looks machine-made or mass produced. I like to see that a real person crafted it, with passion and creativity and a teeny bit of human imperfection!
I work from home and my limited studio space affects the scale at which I can work. I would love to have a huge studio and workshop, with space for large paintings and sculptures - it's on the wish list!
Monochrome shadow paintings:
My process often begins the same way a designer approaches the design of a product, with either 3d models and mockups or digital experiments. This is especially the case for my monochrome shadows paintings. In fact they are the 'accidental' result of some experimenting I was doing with some three dimensional wall sculpture ideas.
I started playing with blocks of wood (initially my old set of Cuisenaire rods, from when I was a kid) and seeing how they looked under different lighting conditions.
This was not terribly successful, so I progressed to quickly cut pieces of balsa wood. I enjoyed the shadows they cast, but the reproducing this precisely required workshop equipment I didn't have available - and my arrangements of blocks were only temporary - so I translated them into various foam card mockups that I could move around easily and photograph of under different side lighting. I liked how they turned out, but they were impermanent, and moulding or casting them seemed just a bit too tricky at the time. . . .
And then, one day while I was squinting at a deeply shadowed foam card mockup on the sunny table in front of me, I realised that I could paint (on a flat surface) just the shadows. I liked that this added a degree of puzzling to a painting, and that only if you stood at the right distance would you be able to make out the forms you were seeing - of course I'm sure some people never work it out, and just see a kind of random pattern! That doesn't really matter.
I often use photographs of mockups casting shadows as my inspiration for paintings. Here are some examples of a progression from wooden block arrangement, to foam card mock-up and then finished painting.
I use masking tape to delineate edges where the (imaginary) blocks are raised but not casting a shadow - in my experience I always get a raised edge when I use masking tape, especially if it is used to mask not only paint but also gesso. This witness where the tape edge was creates a subtle change in surface that is only visible on close inspection, and becomes obscured with distance. It also allows me to make the most subtle differences in the brightness of the surfaces that define the tops of the blocks. By building up additional coats of white on the 'tallest' areas those areas become whiter and therefore come 'forward' to the viewer. It's a subtle effect, but I do believe that it makes quite a difference.
I paint all of the shadow areas by hand - with no masking tape: shadows don't have a 'thickness' in real life, so they also have no thickness in my paintings (fussy industrial designer coming out there I think!).
And so that is how my monochrome shadows paintings came to be initially. I still use photos of mock-ups to generate ideas, but I can now also quickly design new arrangements on paper or on the computer, having played with so many already using this technique. I enjoy the fact that I got to this point almost by accident, while trying to achieve something different. And I'm still experimenting with ways to use this concept in proper three dimensional form. If you scroll way down my Instagram feed you will see a ceramic wall piece that I made based on one of my cardboard models.
In a future post I will write a bit about the process I use for my coloured shadows paintings, and how that differs from the ones in this series - it's similar but different!
Thanks for reading down this far, hope you found it interesting. Email me if you have any questions or comments :)
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