Paris in the Springtime! Oh la la!
I didn't want to leave Europe out of my "Postcards from the Future" series, and Paris was the perfect choice for welcoming the continent into my artistic endeavor. I have in fact been to Paris in the springtime, at which point I learned why this city and this season are so often linked together. I remember flowering trees everywhere, and moody rainstorms followed by beautiful turquoise blue skies. I remember climbing the stairs inside the Eiffel Tower at night, and at each new turning the city revealed a new side of herself to me. The amazing 360 degree views from the top observation deck came to encapsulate my feelings of the entire week I spent in this vibrant city. For these reasons, I knew from the onset that the Eiffel Tower would feature prominently in this piece. I also saw it as an opportunity to portray the lasting power of art, even as the city crumbles around this architectural wonder.
With these basic decisions made, I began my journey into post-apocalyptic Paris...
The Art Nouveau movement is so completely linked with Paris that this border practically drew itself. My daughter walking in as I was finishing the last little bit of this border and she told me "Mom, it already feels like Paris!" With that seal of approval it was time to start sketching out my main subject matter...
Before sketching I had an idea for the composition in mind, if only I could pull it off! There were 2 photographs that I took while visiting Paris that always stuck with me, and I wanted to take elements from each photo to make a whole new view of the city. In one picture some pink spring blossoms frame a view of the old city with the Eiffel Tower in the background and unfocused but seemingly standing above the city. In the other picture, The Eiffel Tower is prominent and focused with the modern city center in the background. Out of all these elements I wanted the Eiffel Tower and spring blossoms to be my main focus, so I started the composition there.
I added a view of the modern city center behind the Eiffel Tower, just like the second photo I was working from. I knew the "flower of life" motif would be incorporated in the piece, and once the main elements were there it was obvious to me that the motif would fill the sky.
It's not a "postcard from the future" unless time has taken it's toll! I added some details to the skyline indicating the degradation of time, and *voila*, this sketch is done!
I already had a color scheme worked out for the border, so I started painting with watercolors there. I wanted to set the color for the whole piece with this border, as well as create a faux-wood illusion with some of the elements.
Getting the color just right for this sky was really important to the end result I had in mind. The contrast of the pink blossoms and the light turquoise sky was what really stood out as my overall impression of Paris in the spring. This color is EXACTLY the color I wanted! Art doesn't always work out exactly how I'd like, but this color sure did!!! It was definitely a challenge to do an even field of blue with watercolors in 10% humidity (I live in the high-plains desert called Denver), but I managed to pull off a result I can be proud of. Don't underestimate how much more difficult watercolors can be when the air is dry and literally sucking the moisture out of your paint!!!
I didn't want the foreground of the piece to become a distraction from the subject, but I did want to use it to add texture. I used 3 layers of slightly different greens to set the base, but there will definitely be more texture to come.
Using the light purple from the frame, I filled in the crumbling skyline. In order to create contrast and highlight the exposed concrete details I chose a cool steel grey for the most dilapidated areas.
Using variations on the brown tones in the frame I filled in a watercolor wash over the Eiffel Tower, and some more substantial brown for the tree branches. At this point I'm pleased with how the color scheme is coming together, and I can start to picture how the piece will look with some bright colored pencil outlines, and I like it!
The blossoms are a very prominent part of this piece, and I didn't want to overshoot the subtle delicate pink that I had in mind. I did 3 separate layers of the lightest of blush pinks to add gradations of color that give the flowers interest and depth. And after many grueling hours, I am done with the watercolors for this piece!
Colored pencil in shades of brown finished off the faux-wood parts of the frame and added some nice contrast to a very pastel-based color scheme.
While I had my brown colored pencils out, it seemed like a good time to give the Eiffel Tower her finishing touches. I went with a medium brown, and made sure to highlight the bent antenna at the top of the tower. I had decided to leave the tower intact except for this antenna to create a comical contrast between the modern skyline that is completely crumbling, while this architectural wonder still stands tall.
Using a delicate touch I finished up the blossoms and branches with come colored pencil outlines. I used lighter colors and finer lines to portray the delicate beauty of springtime blossoms.
Can't forget the flower of life motif- it's a vital part of each piece in the series! I used a colored pencil one shade darker than the watercolored sky to finish off this detail. I added some colored pencil lines to the skyline, not straying far from the colors already present. This created a subtle sharpening of these features. The piece is finally getting there, just one more detail I want to take care of...
To finish off the textured foreground I used some matte punched circles to create a little movement and a subtle splash of color. I tried to make it look like the wind just blew those little circles there, but it was actually a painstaking task to glue each individual circle without loosing the movement of the whole group.
And simply by taking of the tape along the edges... it's done! Initials and date in the bottom right hand corner, and that's all she wrote, folks!
I love this piece! As soon as it was finished I knew this was one of my favorite things I've ever made! I have more ideas for other "Postcards from the Future", but for now I need to change gears and finish up a few ideas I have for my upcoming gallery show. However, after a result like this I can promise there will be more "postcards" to come!