Friday, August 5, 2011

Backyard landscape

Our backyard has been going through some major upheaval lately. We're in the process of laying down a new patio, which has included: digging and cutting through some major root systems, moving dirt, bringing in sand, rock and pavers, and positioning new plants throughout the yard. In addition to that, I just completed a tree house for the kids, which was very satisfying, but brutal work in this summer heat. This seemed like a subject matter to make some art about..

I had initially started a small painting of the backyard, which I worked on for a few days.  As I was painting, however, I started focusing more on the various stacks of pavers, tools, and trees scattered around the yard. It seemed like something that would be better captured with drawing rather than painting...mostly because the forms kept changing from day to day, as the workers moved the bricks and tools around.  I needed to finish these quickly, with the backyard being in such a state of flux. I found working on these so exciting, mostly because the arrangement of the piles and forms that I was drawing were out of my control; their organization depended solely on what state the jobsite was left at the end of the day. Each day I was offered a new configuration of the space which I could then draw later that night.

I started all of these at dusk, working on them for about an hour before the sunset, then returning in the early morning, just after dawn, to work for a few more hours. It was a strange sensation to draw with the fading light and then resuming the next day...kind of like very slowly squinting at what was in front of me, with the reverse in the morning.  For now, I've found this the best time to work because it's way too hot at any other time of day, and I avoid the shifting shadows caused by the light coming through the trees.

There's something analogous happening with the construction of the drawing and the construction of the landscape, too. Site lines and level lines are being employed to mark off the space, patterns are being 'drawn' in the ground with the pavers, and materials are being pushed around on the surface of a plane.  The methodical nature of the process is very similar to the construction of a drawing...I guess that's why I find building things so wonderful to watch and do. I also enjoy framing the contrast of the geometric and organic forms: trees sitting in containers, brick edges meeting sand, bark patterns set against lumber.

I'll be leaving for our annual vacation to Asheville next week, where I hope to do some small paintings. For now, these drawings seem just what I needed to document this window in time. They'll probably be finished with the work by the time I get back (hopefully) and I can resume with some more paintings of our house.

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