by Richard Ewen
Watercolor on paper, 2013
Courtesy of the Artist
Since 1987 I have roamed the streets of Paris, intrigued by the architecture and fashion of the storefronts. Initially I painted a frontal view of a store with parts of the adjoining stores along side, which included the architectural features and also the walkway and pedestrians. At this time I was using Kodachrome film to produce slides and I would project the image on my stretched canvas or paper and trace the outlines of the objects in order to begin my painting. Once I began to use digital photography, I then transferred my image to my computer, enlarged it to the desired painting size and printed it in sections. I then taped the parts together and made a tracing from which I marked the image onto my paper with transfer paper.
I was intrigued when I first enlarged my photograph because there were always objects in the image that I had not noticed. Eventually I began to concentrate on the windows and started to eliminate everything architectural and focused on the glass of the window. I now had a photograph of the reflections in the window glass plus the interior of the store and its objects interacting in transparent and opaque layers depending upon the intensity of the light coming from the store and the strength of the light being reflected back from the surface of the window.
Some years, most recently after the recession of 2007 - 2009 the window decorations were much less interesting and creative and I turned to Paris street scenes and concentrated on rainy days and nights. I also began to paint landscapes in other parts of France.
By 2013 I was back to the window reflections and again recorded more images per trip than I had time to paint. Watercolor on paper, and also acrylic on canvas lend themselves to transparent buildup of layers of thin paint that make the realism possible.
L’Avenue, 41 Avenue Montaigne, 8th, Paris is viewed as if you were across the street from the store. The intersection shows pedestrians and cars in shadow and in sunlight. You can make out motor scooters parked along the street. On the right partially obscured by the bright sunlight are two mannequins with long black hair placed in front of a large fabric or tapestry. They are standing on a curved ridge inside the store. The store L’Avenue is actually behind the viewer and because it is a reflection in the window, its letters are backwards. Looking closely at the bottom right of the painting you can make out the outline of a Smartcar.