A journey in 5 stages of the same view, in an elliptical trajectory.
Leaving from and returning to the same point, Ellipse is an artistic experience that seeks to surprise you at each of these stages, yet expected.
In the footsteps of Alfred Sisley
Impressionist painters have produced series of paintings with the same landscape view, variously illuminated according to the time of day or of the year.
So is he going to Notre Dame Church in Moret-sur-Loing, painted by Alfred Sisley in an exceptional series.
Taking the same composition frees the drawing and gives way to color. But I think that's not really the reason for these series. Rather the search for light, translated in different ways in painting, to retain timelessness through various tests.
With an oriental touch
My church of Moret-sur-Loing is the Hassan II Grand Mosque of Casablanca. I pass by it at least twice a day on my way to work, all year long.
I know this building well because this mosque is open to visitors of all faiths, and I have visited it several times. It is built above the ocean, like a link between the sky and the sea.
Along with 5 paintings, I first thought to follow the footsteps of Sisley in a series strictly using the same view with different lights.
But these paintings are for the Casablanca paperpad, which I started 6 months ago, in 24x32 cm format.
I wish that when turning every page, the reader gets a Wow effect, getting surprised in spite of our tacit agreement to keep to the same view.
It is this path that gives the title to the project Ellipse: the parenthesis that takes us from one view to another, and brings us back to our initial point.
Hassan II Large Mosque
Ellipse 1, End of day
End of day
The first watercolour must have an immediate impact. The end of a spring day shields the mosque with a golden light on an ultramarine background. The position of the building reveals the shadows that lengthen, and at high tide, the rolls of foam trace an oblique that gives depth to the composition.
I chose 3 colors: ultramarine blue (green shade), sienna, and permanent rose. Chromatic ranges between blue-violet and orange, ie complementary colors.
A few words about values: I systematically test my paintings by examining them in the dim light. Thus, I ennoble the colors and control the contrasts of the watercolor. It must be readable and render an extensive number of values (white, black, but also intermediate tones). The transitions of values are positioned on the sky and the minaret, the body of the mosque brings the strongest contrasts.
Ellipse 2, imaginary
Having started to the maximum of what I could imagine, difficult to take over. It's good to start at full speed, but how do you keep your foot stuck on the accelerator? The solution to maintain the effect of surprise, is to go for the opposite.
Since I had painted a faithful representation of the mosque, I put it back completely for Ellipse 2. In principle, turning the page, the reader must tell himself "But where is the Large Mosque?".
To make it fun, it is still in place, over the sea, but reinterpreted: the sea, the tower, the access doors, the buildings, the background. Normally, everything is there.
To better hide it, I greyed the background with a combination of Vandyke Brown and cobalt blue. These are soft and transparent colors, on which I bring out fantastic ships from the world of Jef Bertels. While painting them, I imagined them moving on my paper sheet. I outline them using bright colors (Aurolin yellow, permanent Rose), and use the mast of the boat or the inclination of the aircraft to add diagonals.
Jef Bertels is a Belgian artist who practices watercolor like other media, oil, acrylic. I had been touched by the strength of his imagination, the surprising and evocative atmospheres of his paintings. Some of his paintings represent strange ships over a grayish background that fits well with my subject.
Ellipse 3, American style
On the next episode of the ellipse, the surprise comes from the introduction of a character: keep the composition of Ellipse 1, but bring the point of attention on the character (Loriane).
Gervaise and Loriane went to take a picture at sunset to serve as a model.
Here is an essay on my sketch pad. The style is called 'American': simplification of forms, contrast of colors, highlighting of the silhouette.
It looks like a frozen instant .
The composition is set on 6 different planes (see illustration). The details are on the background, as if we had adjusted the view on the horizon line (we can even count the people on the beach in microscopic points). But the composition highlights the character:
- Diagonal 45 degrees to the character (bravo to the photographer, the view is great!)
- I played on the colors to put more contrast on the weighing (make it flash)
- I introduced a ricochet: the 3 characters who advance towards Loriane (on the 3rd plane). They are the same colors as the main character (green, red, black)
It's basic, but it works. Same frugality on the colors: almost everything is painted in ultramarine blue and Vandyke brown when mixed, they become complementary and provide black. The main character is painted with olive green and permanent Rose (also complementary colors).
Ellipse 4, abstraction
On the 4th step, I thought I was playing ease. Away from figurative representations, I started on the idea of abstract painting.
But man, I've never done it.
After a lot of ranting, and a week later, I asked for help from Loriane who immediately drew several proposals. I specify that she asked me about the main elements to incorporate in the drawing:
- The junction between the water and the sky I chose a kind of glass to represent the mediation
- An immense construction I placed different squares in perspective
- The spheres of the minaret of course
- The bars of the palisade in the foreground
- A message to the sea, on which I wrote down the principle of the Ellipse project: The trajectory that connects the points of an ellipse is suspended between the water and the sky.
Elucubrations about abstraction
8 hours, I got stuck in front of my graphics tablet. I blackened leaves and leaves without finding a path.
Equipped with my graphics tablet, I try different decompositions of the subject. Take back the structure of the building, with the different levels of mounts, disperse the 3 balls of the minaret arrow.
Bring as a vision prism a detail of the mosaic, in which would insert the main drawing? But I remain representative, it is not abstract enough.
Ellipse 5, Sunrise
Returning to a figuration was therefore a relief after this complicated passage on abstraction.
To complete the project, I wanted to return to the first painting, giving the impression of an identical and yet different representation.
Having painted the end of the day, it was enough to represent the dawn. In June, you have to get up early to avoid missing the few minutes when the sun is behind the mosque. The tripod of my camera on my back, I got on my bike at 5 Am on a Saturday morning, to capture the perfect moment.
Comparison of paintings 1 & 5
To mark the continuity of the paintings, I kept the ultramarine blue and the permanent rose, but I traded the land of Siena against the Vandyke brown. The point of view is practically the same.
Making up a bright new day with real differences:
- The sky is glowing with the sunrise, according to concentric circular forms
- The mosque that was bright becomes the dark point
- The buildings in the background reflected the points of light, at sunrise they prolong the darkness
- The reflection of sun on the ocean is painted totally differently, just to show that the painter can do what he wants ... and that you believe him!
Ellipses 1 & 5
Altough I have completed the 5 paintings, I still have a story to prepare a 3-minutes-long video.
Excited by the collaboration with Olivier (alias OAMM) and Benoît (alias Minetti) of our previous project , I asked Olivier to compose a (extraordinary) music for Ellipse, and sent him the first paintings.
2 weeks later, I received the 1st soundtracks.
I first worked on a 3-dimensions carousel of 5 paintings to represent the elliptical trajectory of the project. But watching 3 minutes of carousel is far from exciting.
Looking at other modes of communication, I thought of a Prezi effect, which by successive zooms binds a story that can be viewed as a whole after a backward traveling. No, this is not complicated, it's a kind of visual jigsaw puzzle whose we see pieces first and then the complete assembly.
Transposing this effect to a video App, is not so easy, because it is necessary to take care of the zooms if one wants to avoid tiring the audience.
Always so fun to accompany the variations with the color of the instruments and the orchestration. Fluidity of the watercolor and strength of the drawing, the ternary rhythm corresponded well; and then symbolically, it was necessary to include the three spheres of the minaret of the mosque, or to turn around ... as following an ellipse!Original musical compositionOAMM