Friday, June 10, 2011

Gettysburg "Fish Hook" Drawings

An example of a print of John Bachelder's Map of Gettysburg. The Library of Congress, describes the map as: “Colored bird’s-eye view showing the topography of the battlefield by the perspective of the drawing, shading and coloring. Drainage, vegetation, roads and streets, railroads, bridges, houses and names of residents, fences, points of interest on the battlefield, including designations of places where officers were killed or wounded, are indicated. ….The locations of the corps, divisions, brigades, etc. of both armies, with the names of commanding officers, are given in detail. Badge symbols are used to identify the Federal corps.”
My unfinished copy of the Bachelder map from 2010. Oil on canvas 53"x36". This approach led to a dead end or did it.
I’ve been working on creating a representation of the Gettysburg battlefield for quite a while. It’s a massive on going project, with so many directions to explore. This particular series has a starting point with the wonderful map by created by John B. Bachhelder in 1864. I have always enjoyed “bird-eye” views of landscapes and battles. This was a common way to depict landscape popular in the 19th century. I am hopping that a similar approach might be interesting to work on.  However, I was missing a framework on which to base my interpretation on. I came up with working with the famous “Fish Hook” element that the Union line held for most of the battle.
From this concept I came up with two basic compositions. One looking east from the view of the center of the Confederate Army facing the Union army. The other view I like is looking south with Culp’s Hill in the foreground. This view gives an enhanced sense of perspective and space.Once again I’m working on my favorite paper shopping bags. They are cheap and relatively durable. I am always looking for things that are in my environment that I can use for creating artwork. Re purposing these bags fit my needs for cheap paper quit nicely. More importantly I can create more freely and take more chances with this work, knowing that I have a large stack of paper on hand.
The drawings are created with charcoal, black sumi ink, black tempera paint, and white latex house paint. I also try and work with the brown paper color, letting it come through the various layers. This time with some of the pictures, I mixed some Fullers Earth with some molding paste. As the stuff dried it cracked and raised away from the surface. However it remained hard and pretty well stuck to the paper. You can see this effect on some of the detail images that I included. This painting technique is far from being archival, but that is not my concern at the current time.
View of the hook looking east. Culp's Hill on the Left and the Roundtops to the Right. Mixed media on brown paper shopping bag. 34"x17"

Detail of the above image
A simple painted jester of the line
Thicker articulation of the painted surface
Adding locations and landmark, sculpting the terrain.
Detail of the above image

View looking South. Culp's hill in the foreground.

Reworking an earlier composition.

You can see how I went through similar process with both compositions. Culp's Hill view with locations marked.

(Note- This artwork was all completed before the History Channels TV show “Gettysburg”. That show made repeated references to the "Fish Hook" element of the battle. I don't want to give the impression that this TV program inspired these pictures in anyway, shape, or form.)

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