On Monday, I painted two plein aire oils from the uppermost level of a parking garage. On Tuesday I attended a crit session with some other painters that I meet with regularly. OF course, I showed them the paintings.
I managed to remember to photograph the first painting twice — once as it emerged from the garage session, and then again after I had been through the critique and had tweaked it in the studio. I didn’t do a lot to this painting in my second go-round, but when I finished I was concerned about the loss of some of the “naive” quality of the red building. Here are images of the two versions:
Library Parking Garage, View South (first draft) 12 x 16, oil on board
Library Parking Garage, South View (draft 2), etc.
The differences between the two are slight, but the concern expressed by one member of the crit group was about the wonky perspective on the red building. I later mucked about with that building (as well as darkening the edge of the roofline the takes up much of the bottom of the painting and which will get more work). I’m not sure the red building, as it now stands, is what I want. Another person suggested perhaps making all the buildings more wonky, which I didn’t have time for, but would still consider.
This series of decisions (as well as a rather funny comment by a fellow critiquer) is what made my ears perk up when I read the Schiller quote. Is the first wonky take more “naive” in Schiller’s sense, than the second, somewhat less wonky, version? The comment from my fellow painter (who actually defended the wonky perspective) was something like “I’d like to be behind your eyes, seeing what you see when you drive down the street.”
The second painting references the Morandi/edge discussion and is a continuation of my visual wandering around the constructs of edges. I don’t have a photograph of the original post-garage painting, but the photo below is of the painting after I worked it a bit prior to the critique session. My hasty working was to try to eliminate the edge that runs down the slab of building in the center of the painting. My intent was to push that building out of the way of the steeple and crane, both of which were central to what I was seeing.
The Library Parking Garage, West view (draft 1) 12 x 16, oil on board
After the critique, I modified the edge treatment of the slab, as well as pushing back, through losing the edges, the church roof and the foreground building edging. I also added shadows and changed hues a bit — the result is shown in the image below.
The Library Parking Garage, West view (draft 2)
This last version, below, now sits in my studio, awaiting further revelations; I have made the slab more colorful and attempted to mirror somewhat the big block of sky on the other side. I also modified some of the color in the bottom righthand building.
The Library Parking Garage, West view (draft 4)
So to recap: In the first version, which is close to what the original looked like, I tried losing the edge of the big building on the right. Then I went to the critique meeting, where the lost edges were seen as too lost but also some of the other edges as too defined; so I added the lighter strip down the side of the big frontal slab and muckled about with the edges of the other buildings. Further emendations included changing some of the color, sharpening the steeple and church elements, and attempts at making the slab wall on the right echo something of the sky on the left.
I’m still debating about reinforcing that edge and wondering what it is that losing or finding or almost finding an edge means to the painting as a whole. What I was thinking of while I was painting was the sharpness of the steeple and the crane and the losing any impact of the slab, in spite of its size on the canvas (and in my view). That’s what happens in cities — people no longer see the altered, mangled buildings that sometimes inject themselves into photographs. But why did Morandi lose his edges as he does — is it the sense of oneness of all things, the lack of object individuality that he’s concentrating on? And then he delineates a very strong contour line on the opposite side of his lost edge, so he not only finds the other edges but thrusts it at us. Somewhat like that crane thrusts itself…..
OK, I’m through meandering. Please comment willy-nilly as you will. And I’m interested in why one loses or finds or sharpens or softens edges — not as a matter of aesthetics or realism, if you will, but as a matter of intent and philosophy.