The interior is often depicted as an abstract design of tone and colour, shapes, lines and angles, with the figures, if there are any, providing a strong focal point. I like the idea of bringing together still life, the interior and the figure all in one painting (an example from Bridgeman, Felice Casorati, Girls in Nervi, 1926)
In the interiors of Matisse, Bonnard, Vuillard and others, interiors are full of pattern, colour, flooding light, dark secret areas, attractive furniture and ornament. Perhaps their paintings contained a large element of imagination. My own real home is simpler and doesn’t have so many attractive corners. Its lines and shapes don’t provide convenient pleasing combinations.
To make my interior more interesting with a pleasing abstract composition I realised I would have to partly imagine the interior I want. I will have to simplify the background, and introduce new elements to achieve a satisfying arrangement.
The brief asks us to consider the effect we want, but encourages simplifying. Effect could be semi-abstract with minimal detail versus realistic and detailed. Colourful or monochromatic. Expressive of mood and atmosphere.
The figure could be in the foreground, middle or background. I made quite a few usable sketches of my living room for the exercise “quick sketches around the house”, so it occurred to me that I could do several small painted sketches from these, with figures added (every painting I do doesn’t have to be large, ‘good’ or ‘finished’. I made tiny (A5-6) painted sketches of still life’s on tables in part 2, and my tutor noted that these too are paintings and to be valued).
So here are my sketches of interiors from part 2, with ideas for figures inserted digitally.
I transferred five of the sketches onto sheets of canvas paper, scaling to A4 – some I drew by eye/hand, some I transferred from a printed, flipped copy of the sketch, using acrylic gel medium, one I scaled up and copied using a pantograph.
The paintings, done in acrylic, are shown below in the order in which I painted them. I only got three done, so the other two will wait for a future project.
1. Two Figures sitting at the dining table – I set out to achieve the effect of strong sunlight in the view outside the window coming through and bouncing off the varnished table, lighting everything up with a golden glow. I felt I made a good start with this one, getting value, temperature and colour contrasts. I avoided precision and detail (by my standards!) and the effect I got is in the right direction – I set out to create a strong abstract design of lights and darks. I wish I could have achieved a greater sense of sunlight flooding in and silhouetting the figures, as in the paintings of Dan McCaw. He seems to achieve this by bleaching out light areas, restricting colour to the dark passages; and by using minimal detail and modelling of form, just suggesting enough with his accents to enable the viewer to fill in the detail in their minds eye.
2. Coming down the stairs – I wanted to capture the effect of strong sunlight again, striking the figure directly as well as reflecting up from the shiny floor and and bleaching detail out of the figure in places. My husband posed for this when the low morning sun was striking the bottom of the stairs. His lower body and legs and the bottom stair were almost completely bleached out by direct sunlight. Again, I’ve got strong contrasts, but how do I achieve that glare and sizzle of light that I’m after? The reflections in the marble floor weren’t working until I remembered to simplify them.
3. Figure in a doorway – this composition, with the figure only half seen in an open doorway in the distance, was partly inspired by Nude in an Interior by Pierre Bonnard, but also by Chardin’s figures seen through open doorways. It was a frustrating struggle, never getting past the ‘horrible’ stage.
4. Figure sitting at a round table – not painted yet.
5. In the kitchen – not painted yet. I looked at some paintings by Robert Spooner and Anne Blair Brown of figures in kitchen interiors while thinking about this one. A kitchen setting is busy and complex, and I will have to think through how I could simplify, and how to place and paint my figure, as it would be in the foreground and form the most important element of the composition. To create atmosphere and avoid making a technical illustration, I will need to minimise detail, lose edges and allow shapes to merge.