Assignment 1: “A Black Tulip and its Shadow”

Updated on 19 February 2017 (Harvard referencing).

19 March 2016. While spending more time in hospital with our son I had ample opportunity to think about the mechanisation of human life and, as it were, people themselves. The idea of working with Leonardo’s (1452-1519, Italy) Vitruvian man (da Vinci, ca. 1492) (Fig. 1), trying to superimpose on the famous drawing a setup using tools like such as pincers, nuts, pliers, folding rules and such like. I gathered a large number of objects and started experimenting.

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Figure 1. Leonardo da Vinci (ca. 1492) Vitruvian Man. Ink and wash on paper. Source: Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

20 March 2016. Having sat on my workshop floor for several hours, pushing my tools around in a futile attempt to create something exciting, I realized that I did not want to continue here. Suddenly both the subject and setup seemed dull, flat and uninteresting. It may be that I am very close to tears nowadays and additional demands from outside our small fragile world sometimes seem unbearable. So what I am planning to do instead is to take the gorgeous tulips our son picked from his favourite flower shop (yes, even some wild boys like flowers!) and paint them in a soft light. Pushing on from the previous exercise, however, I decided that I would like to paint one of the flower heads in black and white, a statement which I think leaves a whole universe for personal interpretation. Since I never know whether there will be time while the tulips are still fresh, because our son’s condition can deteriorate suddenly and quickly, I took a large number of photos and decided I would work from the photo best suited to accomodate both coloured and black and white sections. To this end I would produce some sketches exploring tonal contrast. In preparation I had a look at several artists, who had produced still lives with tulips, but I had my painting firmly settled on my mind so I decided I did not want to be influenced too much by what other people did. And also, considering what I found on the internet, still lives with tulips can go awfully wrong. They appear deceptively easy to paint and are not. So I decided that I wanted to use the opportunity to gain experience by painting them without reference to the work of others.

First I produced a series of photos with two different bouquets, many different arrangements and lighting conditions. Among these the following view from slightly above under the strong daylight lamps in my workshop produced the pattern I had had in mind: I would paint the colourful bouquet against a dark background and the shadow of the arrangement on a bright surface (Fig. 2).

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Figure 2. Setup

This was followed by sketches in my sketchbook to make sure the dark/light arrangement would look OK (Fig. 3):

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Figure 3. Sketch to identify light and dark areas for compositional purposes

30 March 2016. Back from a strange Easter holiday with everybody in the family seriously ill for at least a week I nevertheless finished Assignment 1 today. I had prepared my background with the Payne’s grey I had produced for the previous exercise and adding white and a bit of sap green in order to produce the particular sheen of the shadow.

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Figure 4. New discovery: Having two separate trays for mixing greys and colours keeps mixtures perfectly clean.

After the background had become dry I roughly sketched in the outlines of flowers and shadows using black and white charcoal, then painted the shadows using the neutral grey with sap green I had prepared earlier. On top of this I put first layers of both flower heads and leaves, not yet paying particular attention to colour correctness (Fig. 5a-c).


Over the next few days I kept adding both opaque and transparent layers by carefully observing emerging patterns. This is the result (Fig. 6):

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Figure 6. “A Black Tulip and its Shadow”: acrylics on A2 painting carton

Considering my previous experience with acrylics I am very happy about the result, in particular having found out some immensely important aspects about the layering of colour, something I had never knewn how to pay proper attention to before. I am beginning to understand the basics ruling composition and the use of both achromatic and coloured pigments. Most of it is still somewhat intuitive, but I am learning. Looking back over the assignment, I am not sure whether I might have been expected to do a lot more preliminary investigation regarding arrangement, but what I got appears relatively convincing to me. I am also happy to have a message to come with my bouquet of flowers, a message I need to carry with me at all times – now more than ever.

References:

Da Vinci, L. (ca. 1492) Vitruvian Man [ink and wash on paper] [online]. Academia of Venice. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitruvian_Man#/media/File:Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_Viatour.jpg [Accessed 19 February 2017]

 

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2 thoughts on “Assignment 1: “A Black Tulip and its Shadow”

  1. belld01 April 2, 2016 / 9:28 am

    That is quite a brilliant composition, Andrea. The final painting is very engaging. I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work as you progress through the course.

    Like

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