My husband, friends, and I have ‘creative nights’ where we take the evening for creativity. Sometimes, we share a common theme through our artwork, but usually, there are no guidelines and everyone makes what they want. I’ve always enjoyed the themed nights but had never been part of an official painting collaboration.
This was an exciting month for me. Art Shop’s Featured Artist for June, Džesika Devic, and I planned on an official collaboration for her Prints of Paris collection.
I was excited and nervous. Collaborations with photographers is an area I would love to explore, but it has higher stakes than when I’m painting solo. I’ve had a lot of freedom with my art up until now. Even my commissioned paintings have given me a lot of freedom. Representing someone else’s art carries a lot of pressure since it is so often a deeply personal connection.
My paintings up until now have focused on organic subjects and nature. The Prints of Paris collection features buildings and landmarks. Painting for this collaboration definitely had me outside of my comfort zone — but that is exactly what I am looking for with these challenges.
I decided to go with Paris Lights, a photograph of the Eiffel Tower, for two reasons. The iconic tower is a subject I have attempted (and failed) in several drawings, never being happy with the final outcome. My attempts were too focused on the geometric detail, trying to sketch every beam and angle while missing the overall feel of the tower.
The second reason might seem obscure to some. I have needed glasses to correct my farsighted vision since I was eight-years-old. One of the most beautiful experiences for me is being in the passenger seat at night, driving towards a city with the windows down and cool air blowing across my face. I take off my glasses and the city lights transform into brilliant kaleidoscopes of colourful circles. This photograph captured that feeling for me, so I wanted to combine these experiences into my painting.
To prepare for the challenge, I researched some paintings and artists I wanted to draw from, namely Vincent Van Gogh’s The Church at Auvers. I liked the organic treatment of the building. Although it is manmade and of stone, it doesn’t look rigid among the rest of the painting and nature. I remember seeing the painting when I visited the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, with my mom when I was fourteen. Over a decade later, this painting style is what stays with me most from the trip.
To achieve the goal of keeping my style while trying a new subject matter, I decided not to use straight lines or a ruler to map out the tower. Instead, I used masking tape to roughly measure where parts of the tower should fall. I’d loop the tape in two and make marks to keep the structure symmetrical, without being rigid.
After mapping out the tower, I painted the sky. The sky in photograph is simple without a moon, clear clouds, or stars. I used thick, short brushstrokes of blue and white. I ended up painting over this first sky attempt after painting the tower because I decided my original sky didn’t capture the intended feeling and looked too much like daylight. Instead of completely painting over this layer, I added the darker rings on top, allowing some to show through. I like the added depth this gives the final sky.
Finally, I painting the ground and lights. I still have a lot of exploring and growing when it comes to painting structures and cities, but I am happy with this first endeavour and believe I achieved what I set out to create.