I wear black all the time. It’s a silly quirk from my days of being a punk/ goth/ metalhead too droll for anything else. That may make some surprised when they realize I’m actually obsessed with color, and I keenly observe it wherever I go. As a San Francisco cityscape artist I find myself walking around the city and imagining all that I see as an oil painting. The details become blotches of color in my mind, a mixture between impressionism and realism. But I never have been more appreciative of color until being in Morocco. Here, it is both subtle and loud, and it flows between the two with seamless ease.
The Importance of Color
There’s no solid rule with oil painting, and whether it’s abstract, impressionism, surrealism, dada, realism, or a countless number of other styles, artists begin breaking down the subject to basic elements. For me, that entails color. Often times the first few stages of my pieces appear as abstract sections of different hues. As the painting progresses, details become more refined, edges become crisper, and viewers begin to recognize what the subject is. Realism for me is a process, and color helps shape it. Becoming a San Francisco cityscape artist has helped me with this method of painting. Cityscapes have so much detail in them that the only way an artist can approach such a complicated subject is to to break it down. Start general, and with time, hone in with a greater variety of colors to bring out details. Morocco’s palette is very rich, and there I could see how my method of painting would work for capturing such a visually potent country.
So, Just How Does a San Francisco Cityscape Artist Experience Marrakech?
I was in Marrakech just a few days ago. The city is made of the same rust red that makes up the landscape of the surrounding area. It is a raw color, one that holds no reflections and melts into the black of the dark alleyways. The rust red is the background tone and all the shops and stalls stand out in the foreground. Silver jewelry studded with gems, intricate lacquered wood boxes, unnaturally colored clothes, and ornate metal wrought lamps jump out against the canvas that’s Marrakech. These are only a handful of things that accentuate, rather than cover up, the surrounding environment. Even the smells of food scream out, “Rust Red!”
Walking down narrow alleyways filled with people in robes, feral cats, and playing children were my favorite moments. But the city’s color was also oppressive. It seemed to sink into my being as water absorbing into paper. It left a stain underneath the freshly painted marks, and filled me with a complexity of emotions much like the city itself.
The colors were striking and demanding, and I felt that in order to catch the realism of Marrakech, an artist would need to imbue the same rust red within every piece, from cityscapes to portraits. The tone would be saturated in the the brightest blues, starkest whites, and deepest blacks. It would permeate throughout the composition and scream out “Rust Red!”
Though the intensity I felt from the people and off the streets will haunt my images much as it haunted my dreams, I look forward to painting all that I saw.
Marrakech… I loved and hated you…
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