Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Deja Bru Project

The commission was to create a Paris street scene for a new coffee shop Deja Bru at my local shopping centre. The brief was to include the Eiffel Tower, the buildings of Paris and street cafes painted in black and white. 

To prepare for the work I made a half size drawing of the scene. Half size made sense because the complete work would consist of 3 canvases each measuring 48" x 48". It was important make decisions about the composition where I could see the complete layout.

I obtained large sheets of good quality cartridge paper from Arthouse Northside, strong enough to withstand countless erasures during the drawing process. Two and a half sheets were joined and fixed to the studio wall with tape. Fortunately I had one wall that was long enough to do this!

I turned to the Internet to collect the necessary reference. Some images were a breeze -there are numerous wonderful images of the Eiffel Tower. Google Earth helped with the buildings. First I surfed the Net  for Paris cafes to get the addresses. Once I was there it was down to street view and I was in Paris. The view (complete with people) was then saved as a jpeg.

Sometimes I would want to see the building from further back so I'd move the Google man to a different place in the street only to find that the photo included a bus moving along in front of the building! 

Deja Bru left panel

Deja Bru centre panel

Deja Bru right panel

Once the drawing was approved, and after priming the canvases with good quality gesso, I squared up the canvases. The draft drawing was enlarged by doubling each element. 

Although the brief was for black and white, the painting needed to have tones of grey to add depth and to give more scope to do justice to the architectural details. Since the work was so large I used acrylics because they are fast drying, making it easy to move the canvases off the easels as I alternated between the three sections. The three panels were worked on at the same time keeping each at the same rate of progress to ensure continuity.

As I teach in my studio, the canvases needed to be moved to safety during the classes. It was useful not to have to contend with slow drying oils. Working exclusively in acrylics in tones of grey, black and white was a good exercise in tonal contrast - good lighting was essential. I was also swiftly reminded that acrylic paint dries darker - hmmm. I soon learnt to mix up larger quantities and save these in an air-tight container. In this way, the tones remained more constant and would not dry out too quickly. 

As the work progressed, the client suggested including the name of the cafe, so Deja Bru was transplanted to a street in Paris - with a dash of red. 

Final touches included more black and white in looser brush strokes - and it's done.

The paintings were installed last night and I must admit I am pleased. I'll post a photograph soon.