Here we have the second piece to come from the idea of dealing solely with shadow. If you recall, for the first piece of this nature, I drew the shadows cast by my belongings in my dorm room, but I removed my objects from the space. You can find that piece and blog entry here. This time, I decided to deal with the whole campus as a space for two reasons. First of all, we had much more time to work in, and were expected to produce a larger amount of work, and second because I needed a bigger space to think about and pull together. I had already exhausted my dorm room as a source of interesting shadows and was ready to move onto other places. So what better than to take a large area to supply interesting shadows and tie them all together?
My campus is a very diverse place. There are different colors, feelings, and people spread across it. During the day, the campus has many different flavors and I would not consider it all to be one “place” in the sense that I was using the term. However at night, because the campus has all the same kind of street lamps scattered across it, all with the same sort of glow, I found that there was repetition in the shapes and intensities of the shadows across campus. So, I decided to deal with the campus at night alone, and use these shadows to show unity across this vast area.
I started with observation and photography. I took pictures of shadows that I found interesting. I looked for pattern, and movement and especially contrast. I played with the exposure on the camera as well and never used a flash so that I could preserve those shadows as I found them. Once I had some shadows to work from, it was time to break them down. I wanted to oversimplify the shadows and pull them down to their most basic parts. I worked in only black gouache.
This piece is made up of 20 individual drawings of these basic shadows. In some of them, I introduced tone in the form of a wash or with brush hatching. These drawings tend to lean towards the more representational, and easily describe the area which they are depicting. As I worked, I tested the boundary between representational and abstraction. As I drew, my small drawings became all pure, flat, black and white, and some of those are still recognizable places while teeter on complete abstraction. I think that the balance between these two types of drawings is valuable to the finished piece. A every level of my process, I focused heavily on composition. Without much quality of craft of surface treatment to worry about, I was freed up to compose images using only the fundamentals of design. This is an interesting thing to do at this stage of my education where the emphasis right now is on technique, craft, and finish. Pulling back from that and focusing on the basics was refreshing and freeing, and I think that I could continue this series without becoming board. The images are so graphic and simple that they become powerful and bold, even though each one is only 6″x10″. The finished collection on the wall was roughly 4’x5′.
Attention was also paid to the arrangement of the pieces on the wall. I tried to create a working composition out of the pieces that I had made. I found a black diagonal running from the upper left to the bottom right which felt good and though my lights were concentrated on the other two corners, I was sure to spot enough darks and lights throughout all the spaces to balance out the piece. I wanted this piece to feel organized and clean.
Perhaps in the future I will continue with an idea like this for other spaces or the same space and see what it turns into. It definitely did not feel like homework, but more of a study that I was doing of my own accord. Of course, out assignment was nearly open-ended, so the origin of the piece is really all mine. 😀 But it was the good assignment that led me to consider the first piece of work, and from it produce a second.