SketchUpArtists asked me to write an illustration tutorial of some kind for them, and since they were nice enough to create that little artist’s spotlight piece how could I refuse? But I put it off, and off, pleading illness (which was true, and grim). Only last week did I finally feel well enough to produce an example piece for this article, revisiting the grandiosely-entitled Pavilion for Oblivion project from 2007. This is what I produced in my post-fever haze:
For some reason I felt like adding a figure…I’m not sure why. I stopped trying to seriously draw or paint human forms about the time that I went back to architecture school for my graduate degree. Architects and their minions don’t seem to like to include humans – except as silhouettes or their blurred/sketchy equivalents – in their drawings or illustrations. I suspect that they, on some levels and as a professional whole, simply don’t like people…people distract from the “design intent” in images, and mess up the “design intent” in reality. No point in dwelling on the irony of that prediliction. Since, as a consequence of my month-long illness, I neglected (simply forgot) to renew my professional memberships, I suppose there is no reason to consider myself an architect any more, except in my imagination. (Perhaps that has always been true, odd exercises in curtain-wall construction on the Fenway in Boston notwithstanding – and no, I’m not going to provide a link to them.) Very few people can now read the dead language used to spell out my qualifications on my diploma. So why not put some people in my renderings then? I’m free.
As always, this is probably best interpreted, medium-wise, as a painting across basic 2D graphics extracted from a digital model. It’s a painting in pixels, of course…I did not break out my old watercolors, temperas or oils, which are undoubtedly rotting somewhere in the bottom of a box in the basement.
Of course, I’m not particularly happy with this rag-cloaked despairing person in front of my pseudo-dolmen…something isn’t quite right, which implies I need to practice a bit more with the human form, or perhaps human clothing. That cloak bugs me! Perhaps I should come up with something better for SketchUpArtists. And the painterly quality of the rendering also bothers me. I feel that perhaps I have descended further: not only is the architecture depicted really an example of anachronistic, reactionary fantasy, but without realizing it I seem to have largely adopted a sort of Pre-Raphaelite approach to illustrating it. It’s as if a poor “blade-by-blade” imitator of John Everett Millais had devoted himself to painting scenes of Deconstructivist follies. (This is not as unlikely a possibility as it might seem…twenty years ago, as an art student, one of my first great aesthetic enthusiasms was for the PRB, although my primary interests were Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris, not Millais.)
I think I’ll shred this thing, tearing it up (digitally, of course), and append the results below while I try to think of some other non-architectural things to do.
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Some simple visual exercises suggest that the element that offends what remains of my artistic sensibilities is simply the part of the traveler’s cloak that spreads on the boulder to his back. Both examples above, with the left side of the image cropped away to remove that portion of the garment, seem improvements over the original composition.
I’ve concluded that manner in which the ragged cloth is distributed behind the figure is simply not believable, although I’ve had a certain amount of difficulty in attempting to discover what should happen, either by using digital tools or by simply draping some cloth across a small statue of the Buddha (which is the closest thing to the seated figure I can find in my office). It seems like an admission of defeat to leave the work in the cropped state without discovering some solution. The more drastic crop, left above, does bring the whole illustration somewhat closer to the notion of an architectural illustration through its apparent magnification of the pavilion and its elimination or attenuation of foreground elements.
The manner in which I construct this sort of graphic image, using multiple layers and masks with Adobe Photoshop (that is the true topic of the article I have been asked to contribute) also lends itself to a more drastic sort of shuffling or “remixing.”
I’m not sure whether I consider the images below “radical” or “casual” reworkings of the original. But I do find that I prefer these alternate versions to the supposedly “finished” piece, although I would be hard pressed to consider them as truly illustrative of anything other than a general mood.