Saturday, February 21, 2009

Buildings as Blocks of Color

"Spirit Room"
5x7, pastel

Students who haven't painted much architecture sometimes get lost in all the details buildings present - the mullions in the windows, the bricks in the walls, the bundles of powerlines arcing overhead. I like to think of buildings as just blocks of color. This allows me to take a broad, painterly approach, and I can always add in as much detail as I wish toward the end.

Imagine the scene as a flat, abstract pattern of shapes. Examine the relationships between high-value, warm (sunlit) surfaces and low-value, cool (shadowed) surfaces; note the quality of the edges made by adjacent color-shapes (walls and windows); and don't worry about perspective at this point, but do get the angles you see right.

This is how I painted "Spirit Room,"an old bar in Jerome, Arizona. This is a building of the flatiron variety, which can present some complex perspective issues, especially in a town like Jerome, which sits perched on a 30-degree mountainside. After using the method I describe above, I felt I hadn't observed some of the angles accurately enough, so the next day I made some minor adjustments in perspective. Also, I added the little window below street level on the bottom right; without it, the viewer would have a hard time understanding what was going on there.

(Photo by Tom Willa)

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