Friday, October 30, 2009

Civil War Small Works

Ridgeline, McPherson’s Farm, Gettysburg
Ink Jet Print, Earth, Gouache
5” X 15.5”

This image depicts the ridgeline on McPherson’s Farm looking south. Native soil taken from the area outlines the slight rise in the ground. It was along this rise that the Union forces first met the Confederate forces coming in from the West starting the battle of Gettysburg.

The photographs that I am working with are from my collection that I have taken during visits to Civil War battlefields. I photograph vistas from vantage points that best capture the monumental movements of both nature and armies. The images feature sweeping scenes of vast desolate open spaces that vanish into the distant horizon. The compositional elements are open fields, tree lines, fences and sky. Strong perspective lines draw the eye in, enhancing the feeling of vastness in the scene.
I create a panoramic image by standing in one place and panning the camera to capture the horizontal landscape. The images are stitched together using Photoshop software creating a wide horizontal field of view. I then print on watercolor paper using an ink jet printer.

After the images are mounted on a rigid surface, I work over them with various water-based media & the collected earth pigment. The over-painting process smears & smudges the underlying ink jet print. This creates an interaction between the paint and the print. When painted, the printed blacks & grays morph into soft blues & greens with unexpected halo-like effects around the edges. Colored gouache mixes with the ink, softening the hard edges of the printed image. The paint texture is translucent and allows the underlying forms and structure to show through.
View of Thomas’ Farm, Monocacy MD. Battlefield
Ink Jet Print, Earth, Gouache
5” X 13.5”
View looking West at the Thomas Farm in Monocacy, Maryland. On the fields depicted, the Union army held up a confederate advance long enough to save Washington D.C. Local native soil was used to depict the contour of the land.

In my painting I welcome elements of randomness, chance, and chaos. The media undergoes transformation on the picture surface itself. Paints are applied to the surface in a pure form and then mix and morph on the surface of the painting. For example I work a lot with iron powder which can be made to rust over time resulting in rich unexpected color details and texture. The addition of soil creates flat neutral blocks of earth tones that can obscure the underlying space or enhance the perspective.
Best Farm, Monocacy Battlefield
Ink Jet Print, Earth, Gouache
6.6” X 13”
View looking south to the Monocacy River from the Confederate line. Local earth is used to describe the landscape.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mounted Prints-

In my recent work, I’ve been working with panoramic map illustrations from WW1era.The images depict the vast battlefield with labeled town, roads & rivers of Europe. The views are from a high imaged vantage point. Looking off obliquely at the scene instead of straight down like a conventional map. The images are simultaneously both map & imaginary painted illustration. I start my painted collage process first by printed the image with the Epson 1280. After printing they were mounted on to 3/8 MDF boards. I paint on top of the image using gouache & mixing iron powder with natural glues. The iron powder is built up in layers so that the iron can rust & turn different shades of browns & oranges.Verdun Rust Front
The original illustration eventually becomes obliterated with the over painting. However I am careful to maintain the original since of space & prospective used in the illustration. It becomes a framework for the world that I then work with in.Verdun Belt of rust

Works on Paper-

I have created a body of work that combines images that I print using an Epson 1280 ink jet printer & painting. Most of the imagery depict photographs of battle scarred landscapes & maps from the World War 1 time period. The images feature sweeping scenes of vast desolate open spaces that vanish into the distance, giving the images a prominent horizon line & sky. Working on top of the ink jet printed images with water-based gouache & soil; smear & smudge the black and white ink jet print. Giving the impression of a hand painted postcard. Colors become heightened in un-expecdated & un-photographic ways. The water from the paint releases various colors of the die used in the ink jet printing process. The printed photographic blacks & grays morph into soft blues & greens with a halo like effects around the edges. Colored gouache mixes with the ink softening the hard edge of the printed image. The paint texture is thin and allowed to puddle and blotch. Layering paint with soil & iron powder flattens the photographic depth of the original image. Soil creates flat blocks of natural browns tan hue. Iron powder adds rich color details of different shades of reddish rust colors.

The images that I am working with come from are the battlefield around Verdun France. During 1916-17 the armies of France and Germany tried again and again to break each other. Alistair Horne in What price of Glory sights “Verdun was the First World War in microcosm; an intensification of all its horrors and glories, courage and futility.” The area was mercilessly shelled. Hills changed elevation by several meters; the topsoil was blown away so that nothing will ever grow there again. Large sectors where declared a zone rouge a dangerous “no go” area for human habitation. Much of this area was simply planted over with fast growing pine trees in the 1920’s. It was an effort to both hide and reclaim the vast wasteland of unburied soldiers, toxic soil, & unexploded munitions. A total of nine villages were forever erased. Most importantly it is the final resting ground for close to one million combatants.
I highly recommend the book by Alistair Horne What price of Glory Verdun 1916

This website is a vast resource of period photos and documents culled from original books, magazines & newspapers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Falling Zeppelins

I have created a series of drawings based on images of burning Zeppelins. During World War 1 The Germans used massive Zeppelins to bomb towns and city's in England. The slow moving blimps were filled with an explosive gas, hydrogen, that made them lighter than air. Even though they flew high and at night they became vulnerable to attack. Once they caught on fire, do to ground fire or attack from aircraft, the end came quickly. These spectacular events were witnessed by thousands of people on the ground. A number of remarkable photographs were taken & thus inspired these drawings.
I plan to expand the drawings into making larger paintings on velvet.

The following excerpt is an eyewitness account from the book 'Many Fronts ''The Passing of a Zeppelin' edited by Lewis R. Freeman 1918 and found on the following website.

“Not a sound, not a shadow, heralded the flare of yellow light which suddenly flashed out in the north-eastern heavens and spread latitudinally until the whole body of a Zeppelin—no small object even at twenty miles—stood out in glowing incandescence. Then a great sheet of pink-white flame shot up, and in the ripples . of rosy light which suffused the earth for scores of miles I could read the gilded lettering on my binoculars. This was undoubtedly the explosion of the ignited hydrogen of the main gas-bags, and immediately following it the great frame collapsed in the middle and began falling slowly toward the earth, burning now with a bright yellow flame, above which the curl of black smoke was distinctly visible. A lurid burst of light—doubtless from the exploding petrol tanks —flared up as the flaming mass struck the earth, and half a minute later the night, save for the questing searchlights to east and south, was as black as ever again.

Then perhaps the strangest thing of all occurred. London began to cheer. I should have been prepared for it in Paris, or Rome, or Berlin, or even New York, but that the Briton— who of all men in the world most fears the sound of his own voice lifted in unrestrained jubilation —was really cheering, and in millions, was almost too much. I pinched my arm to be sure that I had not dozed away, and, lost in wonder, forgot for a minute or two the great drama just enacted.”

For further reading I recommend “London 1914-17 The Zeppelin Menace”

Actual photo. I have always been fascinated with these rare photographs.