Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Invisible in the City

Before you scoff at the title, imagining a long-winded post of the oh-so-original feeling of being alone in a big city, bear with me.  I’ll try to make this as brief as possible and related to my actual painting, which I’m WAY more excited to talk about (because I have process shots!).  So here’s the “feelings” part (feel free to skip to “process”).

Soon after moving to the city I struggled to be happy, which bothersome to say the least.  I was working full-time and felt overwhelmed with trying to settle in a new apartment while finding time to write and draw.  My new schedule also doubled my working hours, squeezing my time even more.

At the same time, I started to feel very alone.  I was one of thousands of people walking to work, one of millions pressing an elevator button, and one of the countless masses that left work by 6pm, evidenced by the one-time I took the subway (missing out on the first train which was actually too full, an experience that had never happened to me before). 

In retrospective, it was one of the few negative reactions I’ve had towards change.  I’ve written about how I love change, look for it, and readily embrace it but this change, for whatever reason, scared me and it was like I was looking for a reason to be unhappy.  Over the course of a particularly unfortunate weekend, ‘invisible’ felt like the most accurate representation of how I was feeling.

Soon after, those feelings went away and I realized that everyone feels alone and invisible at some point.  Solitude is a common feeling no matter who you are.  When I originally felt that way, as usual, I thought "I could write and/or draw this", but it was even more exciting to think of a way to portray the temporary feelings of invisibility everyone has or will have felt, especially when moving or living in a large city.  So, I got to sketching.


Technical aside:  If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve noticed I often draw in my notebook, scan the sketch, and continue the color process in Photoshop.  Thanks to a jiggering of some of my Photoshop brush settings, along with a more comfortable work flow/style, I now start a lot of paintings directly from Photoshop because I’m able to replicate the look and feel of using a pen. End aside.

Despite the above aside, I technically started the concept in my notebook, but quickly moved to Photoshop.  Here’s the notebook thumbnails.  

It was more due to impatience that I eventually moved to Photoshop, picking a few elements of each sketch I liked.  Here’s my first iteration.

As mentioned in my last post, I decided to be a little more deliberate in my style and really employ a loose sketchiness in my work.  Here you can see thin outlines of buildings and the positions of would-be people.  After some thought, I started outlining in heavier black lines and I also blocked in some color.

Okay okay…starting to look good.  In my third iteration I worked on what would be the final outline, making sure each person had a body, a face, and that the buildings would stand out.  I made the decision to not include any clouds in order to simplify the entire image.  Here was the final black.

I was feeling really good here but I knew there was a big piece of the image I hadn’t tackled yet at this point and it was making me nervous.  But by this point, I needed to start the final color. 

This was the part that took the longest but I was really pleased with my decision to make each character monochromatic.  I’m sure in an earlier time, I would’ve wanted to color everyone “realistically” but I’m trying to become more aware of overcomplication and it would help with the later aspect of the piece I knew would come soon.

Here was the colored part and at this point I started working a little on every little thing to not get tired of it.  

I worked on the buildings a lot, as I couldn’t figure out what colors I wanted them, what colors I wanted the windows, did I even want windows?  Eventually, there was a breakthrough where I thought, what if it was nighttime instead of daytime?  This changed everything. 

While the colors of the people didn’t change due to their non-natural nature, I could now change the colors of the buildings (which were a dark blue) to a nicer violet and the windows could be yellow.  I was much happier with this change.

I then took some time to figure out whether or not I wanted to implement what was basically the reason for this painting – the invisibility part. 

See, at this point this picture is just "people in New York."  Which is fine. But it's not what I wanted to showcase. My reason for making this was to represent invisibility and, while it may be too literal, that is what I wanted to do.

So I started to make parts of each person invisible.  Unfortunately this started to look a bit on the awkward side so I added smoke.  This gave the city a nice element and weighed down the bottom half of the composition.  By then, all I did was finalize the colors, clean up lines edges, and then add a little last element in car lights, which I think adds to the city image.  And, after a long, long process, I finished 'Invisible in the City.'