Updated on 25 March 2017 (Harvard referencing and some content).
21 January 2017. A few days ago I mentioned the subject I had chosen for my last assignment of this course to my parents and they remembered Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Shadow” (Andersen, 1847a). I had not read it before, but when I did, I found it to be an incredibly well-conceived insight into human nature. As was to be expected, it started following me around like a faithful shadow, so I had to make it the third and last subject in my series. My aim for the final painting in the series of experiments would be to devise a cover illustration for a book containing this tale. I found surprisingly few existing illustrations (Andersen, 1847b; Andersen, 1847c, Andersen, 1847d) and not many blogs investigating shadows in their metaphorical sense. One of these, “Schattenflug” (Küster, 2014-16), I returned to several times, however. It contained, among others, a reference to one of the most famous stories about shadows willed to become separate from their owners, “Peter Schlemihl” (Küster, 2014). The following illustration shows the devil taking Schlemihl’s shadow as agreed (Fig. 1):
As my previous two subjects included some very spontaneous painting, I wanted to make the final result of this part deliberately detailed, while easy and transparent.
To give me an idea of what other painters do to interpret similar ideas, I went for a closer look at what the Tate gallery has on offer when searching for “shadow”. In its absolutely most reduced form I found a very clear line drawing by Andy Warhol (1928-1987, USA) “The Shadow” (Warhol, 1981). Linking in with Andersen’s tale, but on a considerably less complex level of storytelling: two reworked photographs by Keith Arnatt (1930-2008, UK) “Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self” (Arnatt, 1969-72) and “Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist” (Arnatt, 1968). By Patrick Caulfield (1936-2005, UK) was one work, “Braque Curtain” (Caulfield, 2005), which helped me placing my idea in a first possible technical context. Vik Muniz was represented with a photograph “Pictures of Dust” (Muniz, 2000), which was one of the rare occasions, where a shadow broken from the horizontal to the vertical appeared as a search result at all. It appear to me that “broken shadows” do not seem to carry much aesthetic appeal to many artists. As, however, this is what I need to illustrate the story, I realised that I would have to be doing lots of own observation. In style Jeffery Edwards’s (*1945, USA) “Moonlight” (Edwards, 1974) connects with the above “Braque Curtain” and seems to indicate a way for me to approach my subject technically.
26 January 2017. In order to comply with course requirements I went through a series of experiments again relating to the application of paint and abstraction from previous direct observation. Since it has been quite extraordinarily cold for the last couple of weeks and there is no sign of any change, I used the opportunity to place paper with very dilute paint outside and see the effect of ice crystals forming. The result was not great. I used one very smooth and one linen structure paper. On both the formation of ice was hardly noticeable (even if helped by covering the paint with snow) and on bringing the paper back inside, the ice just melted, leaving stains I could have produced without freezing temperatures. My impression was that water and paint pigment did their separate things. I will not give up on the matter, however, but will not pursue it further for the purpose of this project (Fig. 1a-c):
28 January 2017. For the same temperature reasons ( minus 15°C during the day) it was practically impossible to stand or sit outside for any reasonable amount of time except for quick sketches. Apart from one 5 minute attempt with ink pen and paintbrush I caught all the following impressions with my camera – which was not a bad idea, because I found that shadows from a low sun tend to change incredibly quickly and an interesting effect discovered would be gone the next second.
Here is sketch of the shadow of a roof and chimney falling on a wall from a neighbouring house near my son’s school. Despite the strong radiation coming from the midday sun the shadow’s outline was quite blurred, with a darker centre and “fluffy” border. What I am after, however, is the following effect: Where the shadow falls across the window, the stone frame seems to make the shadow “enter” the window opening, because physics requires its outline to follow structural elements (Fig. 2).
With the above effect kept in mind I went to look for some images my older son and I had taken a few years ago from my workshop window with the main light on. They must have given the lady living in that house the fright of her life, but it was irresistible ;o) (Fig. 3):
Figure 3. Shadow experiments on a neighbour’s house
Again the edges of the shadows are blurred and, as is better visible on the lefthand photo, the outline appears to be drawn into the window openings. If my composition requires it I will try and emphasize that effect. It both connects with my first assignment subject (as the shadows of my bottles travelled both on the table and up the back wall) and with one of the crucial scenes described in the fairy tale: The chief character, a scientist, sits to make his shadow fall on a house opposite to the balcony he is on and wills it to enter the house.
In order to get an idea of the associated patterns I took a walk round the area near my son’s school to catch shadows falling on walls and into houses, some of persons, including myself near windows in particular. Please ignore the unavoidable “photographing position” (Fig. 4-12):
The following effect I really liked, it appears as if the shadows of the trees were intentionally placed there to be part of the building (Fig. 7):
Here follows a small series of photos taken near an old farmhouse. By coincidence the sun’s position allowed my shadow to “enter the house” by a window (Fig. 8-12):
I found that with the sun so low the part of the shadow travelling on the ground is less dark than that on the wall. Also, I may need to take into account that the shadow’s colour will change with that of the background. If I paint it as a transparent wash, this will take care of itself, but not if I choose to use opaque mixes.
One idea was to have the full facade of the building available for the cast shadow, as e.g. in one of the famous scenes in “The Third Man” (Garrett, 2015).
Since Andersen’s tale is located in a southern country, I went to look for a corresponding photo of a street with balconies of the sort described by the author. There were some I had taken during holidays, but the problem with those was the inevitable position of looking up at the balconies from a low point. So I resorted to images available on the web to collect ideas for the composition of a suitable facade. Thus equipped I started my experiments.
In order to set the scene properly and to get a first rough idea of where light and shade will need to be for a working composition, I produced a preliminary watercolour sketch in my sketchbook (Fig. 13):
I was quite happy with this attempt and could see how thorough preparation for a subject allows some mental tuning. Roughly, the composition is working including an interesting overall distribution of light and shade apart from using them to tell a story. It was a coincidence that I let the man rest his right arm on the railing, which made his shadow reach out beyond the visible part of the room in the house opposite. The latter opens up a side story, because it is impossible to tell whether the intentions of the shadow – if taken as an already detached entity – are necessarily innocent.
This first sketch has some major weak points regarding the physical properties of the shadow. It will have to be smaller in order to allow the room appear larger. Also the outline will need to be blurred. The room and light to the back of the real man also are not quite present yet.
29 January 2017. In preparation for the background of my A2 painting carton I tested the addition of sand and charcoal to acrylic binder as well as white paint and experimented with the effects created when adding water-soluble writing ink and water-proof antique ink. I have to apologize for the poor quality of the below images. The sketchbook is not spiral-bound, so near the end of the book scanning the pages becomes awkward (Figure 14-15):
The effects produced with binder mixes were not good (top image), but the mix of white paint and crushed willow charcoal turned out to be very interesting. I used a painting knife to spread the mix, which caused some of the larger pieces of charcoal to disintegrate and follow the movement of the knife (bottom image, 2 images second row). Another very interesting result was white paint spread with a coarse paintbrush, covered in water-soluble ink when dry and added to by water-proof antique ink. The antique ink mixed with the already dry water-soluble black to then dry into a combined water-proof layer. On top of both tests I tried small areas of a transparent wash of white ink.
The use of inks on top of dried acrylic paint I had tried before in a wild experiment with partly crushed dry leaves dropped by my workshop plants covered in white acrylic. I had tried to see whether dripping ink on that mix would create “shadows” in front of the leaves. As the effect did not appear, I decided to paint over the structures with my mix of inks to see whether I would be able to enhance them. When placing the finished piece in direct sunlight to take the photo, I noticed the most beautiful metallic sheen. My black ink appears to “disintegrate” into its component colours every time the underground is water repellent, producing this effect (Fig. 16-17):
The antique ink helps to highlight the structures, another beautiful effect:
Both the above tests appeared appealing as well as suitable for my purpose, so that I decided to first of all prepare the background for the final painting with a paint-charcoal mix to serve as basic layer for the walls of the houses (Fig. 18-19):
30 January 2017. Today I found a graphical interpretation of the situation in Andersen’s tale (Andersen, 1847e), which resembles mine to some extent, but leaves the shadow on the facade and seems far too distant (literally and metaphorically) and casual for the actual monstrosity of the scientist’s intention – the shadow is far too large for my imagination to allow it to enter the house at all. In addition, I cannot imagine that a single candle would be strong enough to light up the complete facade of the house opposite – of course this is always open to an artist’s interpretation, but seems inappropriate in this context – after all, it is a scientist carrying out this “experiment” (Fig. 20)
31 January 2017. I did some experiments in my sketchbook on combining my background with the above metallic effect, noticing instantly that they would not be combarable. The paper in the sketchbook allows a totally smooth distribution of paint, so the background layer was too slippery for my paint-charcoal mix to spread in a similar way to the painting carton (Fig. 21).
I did not rely on the results, but realised that I would not want to continue with acrylic paint at all here. The first layer of my background was delicate in a strange way, so I tried to respond to that by going over it with a roller using my black (diluted) and red (straight) inks. The result made me very happy (wonderful metallic lustre structured by the charcoal), but was extremely hard to take a meaningful photo of (Fig. 22):
Taking the lighter and darker areas into account I first made a very rough drawing with white charcoal, then continued to apply black, red and white ink by intuition. Here are the steps (Fig. 23-27):
Here a detail of the above (Fig. 25):
I was very happy at this point with having decided not to add any more acrylic paint. The semi-transparent layers of ink allowed me to produce a very beautiful indirect light, as e.g. in the man’s face and since they were part of the background, they are in complete harmony with it. The details of the painting will have to be approached with great care in order not to overload it, probably by leaving parts as drawing (Fig. 26).
2 February 2017. Here came the difficult part, not wanting to overdo it while knowing that the painting was not quite finished. I went through two more cycles, adding a few things in order to create some counterbalance to the main storyline while staying with the subject, then decided to leave it as it is to wait for tutor feedback. This is the finished painting:
And here my favourite details (Fig. 28-30):
Working on this painting has been one of the most interesting experiences gained throughout this course. The combination of materials is something I will be coming back to, because I think that it holds immense power for development.
This is the last post for my series of paintings for Assignment 5 of this course. Self-evaluation will follow in a separate post.
Andersen, H.C. (1847a) The Shadow [online]. Classic Reader, Blackdog Media. Available at: http://www.classicreader.com/book/109/14/ [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Andersen, H.C. (1847b) Der Schatten [online]. Märchenatlas, Dr. Karen Lippert, Leipzig. Available at: http://www.maerchenatlas.de/kunstmarchen/der-schatten/ [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Andersen, H.C. (1847c) Der Schatten [online]. Lesekorb, Labbé Verlag, Bergheim. Available at: http://www.labbe.de/lesekorb/index.asp?themaid=107&titelid=987 [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Andersen, H.C. (1847d) Der Schatten. Hans Christian Andersens Märchen – gesehen von Günter Grass. Steidl Verlag, Göttingen.
Andersen, H.C. (1847e) The Shadow [online]. Encyclopedian Dictionary, [n.k.]. Available at: http://hans-christian-andersens.blogspot.co.at/2012/05/shadow.html [Accessed 30 January 2017]
Arnatt, K. (1969-72) Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self [photograph, colour, Cibachrome print, on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-shadow-of-his-former-self-t07647 %5BAccessed 21 January 2017]
Arnatt, K. (1968) Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist [Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/arnatt-invisible-hole-revealed-by-the-shadow-of-the-artist-p13145 [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Caulfield, P. (2005) Braque Curtain [acrylic on canvas] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/caulfield-braque-curtain-t13038 [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Cruikshank, G. (1827) Peter Schlemihl [etching] [online]. [n.k.]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Schlemihl#/media/File:Peter_Schlemihl.jpg [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Edwards, J. (1974) Moonlight [screenprint on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/edwards-moonlight-p03115 [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Garrett, A. (2015) Film Noir of the Week: The Third Man [blog] [online]. Old Hollywood Films, Amanda Garrett, 25 June. Available at: http://www.oldhollywoodfilms.com/2015/06/film-noir-of-week-third-man.html [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Küster, S. (2014) Vom Verkauf des Schattens an den Teufel I [blog] [online]. Sabine Küster, Berlin. Available at: https://schattenflug.wordpress.com/2014/11/01/vom-verkauf-des-schattens-an-den-teufel-i/ [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Küster, S. (2014-16) Schattenflug. Schatten in Kunst und Kultur [blog] [online]. Sabine Küster, Berlin. Available at: https://schattenflug.wordpress.com/ [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Muniz, V. (2000) After Richard Serra, Prop, 1968 [Photograph, colour, Cibachrome print, on paper mounted onto plastic] [online].Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/muniz-pictures-of-dust-107865 [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Warhol, A. (1981) The Shadow [graphite on paper] [online]. Tate, London. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/warhol-the-shadow-ar00594 [Accessed 21 January 2017]
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) The Shadow [pencil drawing on paper?] [online]. C. & G. Merriam Co. 1913, Encyclopedian Dictionary. Available at: http://hans-christian-andersens.blogspot.co.at/2012/05/shadow.html [Accessed 30January 2017]