Landscape Inspirations

June 27, 2016


Above: A page spread from my Shinola Sketchbook in which I use gouache to play with new colors and the inspiration of John Harris' work.  

I’ve been experimenting  with different colors selections based on inspiration from the work on John Harris, a science fiction illustrator who makes stunning land- and cityscapes.

(I took a copy of The Art of John Harris: Beyond the Horizon to the last MCBA Visual Journal Collective meeting when we were asked to bring books that are inspiring us and pushing us in our work. This collection of Harris' work is stunningly reproduced and I highly recommend.)

I also love the way he captures dynamic shifts in light.

These three small color thumbnails are my first attempts to put my observations into action. In the first (top left on the page spread) I’m not thinking enough about how I want to blend and move my colors.

160619_B_gouacheStudiesCRBRDetailLeft: Detail of the second color thumbnail.

In the second I decide to look at shapes I find in his paintings but change the colors. I'm hoping that approach helps me by allowing me to spend all my time thinking about the use of color and the juxtapositions I want to create. That second color thumbnail worked a bit better.

So then I decided to think about the huge building shapes he creates and strikes with light. I floated my "structure" over the landscape inspired by his many paintings of starships.

There’s so much more to think about, not just about color and light, but about all the atmospheric conditions he conjures in his paintings.

I know that all I’m learning from this observation and play will help me when I go outside and work with the real landscapes in front of me. It’s one of my goals for this year—to start to think about and work with landscapes. (Of course first the temperature has to drop quite a bit, because it’s too hot for me outside right now and the mosquitos are pretty fierce!)

You can view more of Harris' work here.

  1. Reply

    Roz, I was not acquainted with the work of John Harris. Normally I have no interest in fantasy or science fiction illustration, but on his site is the short film about his Secret History of the Earth series of paintings. These are among the most beautiful and moving abstract paintings I have ever seen. Thanks so much for your post and the link.

  2. Reply

    Ted, I’m so glad you mentioned the video. To me those earth images don’t look abstract not just because of how he used NASA images as inspiration, but because he does what he always does which is create something where their was nothing accessible and make it accessible and known. And he does this through color which is amazing to me. So that’s why I think his abstract paintings are moving to me, where as most abstract painters by others are beyond boring to me. But I never would have thought about that if I hadn’t looked at his abstracts.

    Oh, I did think it was interesting he said he didn’t like the act of painting until he got into his abstract project.

    Glad you enjoyed the link Ted.

  3. Reply

    I don’t think we have midgies here. But we do have gnats, but they are worst in the spring and we seem to be past them.

    I didn’t think about the colors reflecting the heat I’m experiencing now. I was just interested in using orange and green—two colors I don’t use often. I am pushing to use colors I don’t normally use. But I wonder what my subconscious is up to?

  4. Reply

    Roz, his remark about not enjoying the physical act of painting until he started doing the abstract work truly resonated with me too. I have never enjoyed the physical process of painting either, and I thought I must be totally weird. It is laborious to me and has never been what I would call fun. Maybe a labor of love is the best I can come up with. So I was especially happy to hear him say that because I have never heard anyone say that before.

  5. Reply

    gnats and midgies are pretty much just names used interchangeably for the same thing 🙂 (just looked it up lol)

    your subconscious can do wonderful things, sometimes, so could be just the colours you wanted to use or your brain saying use these because its warm out. Doesn’t really matter I guess in the long run. Sometimes artists just use colour because they want to, other times colours/subject choice can’t be explained 🙂

  6. Reply

    Jennifer, thanks for clearing this up. It’s good to know. Well at least the gnats aren’t bad here right now!

    The subconscious is a fun thing!

  7. Reply

    He has always done so finely finished work I wonder if it was therefore more of a “task.” And now he is purely experimenting and playing in some respects—though it seems he’s just as present and controlled with these as in his other work.

    I’m glad Ted that you got this validation from his comment. It’s always fun to hear artists talk about their work when they have a rich understanding about it like Harris does. And we all learn something.

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