‘Produce an illustration that visually responds to the following extract from Italo Calvino’s 1972 novel Invisible Cities. Try and reflect the visual depth portrayed in Calvino’s writing. Choose how you do this, either by applying the principles of perspective or throwing out the rule book to create an image with its own visual logic.
Thin cities 5
If you choose to believe me, good. Now I will tell how Octavia, the spider web city, is made. There is a precipice between two steep mountains: the city is over the void, bound to the two crests with ropes and chains and catwalks. You walk on the little wooden ties, careful not to set your foot in the open spaces, or you cling to the hempen strands. Below there is nothing for hundreds and hundreds of feet: a few clouds glide past; farther down you can glimpse the chasm’s bed.
This is the foundation of the city: a net which serves as passage and as support. All the rest, instead of rising up, is hung below: rope-ladders, hammocks, houses made like sacks, clothes- hangers, terraces like gondolas, skins of water, gas jets, spits, baskets on strings, dumb-waiters, showers, trapezes and rings for children’s games, cable-cars, chandeliers, pots with trailing plants.
Suspended over the abyss, the life of Octavia’s inhabitants is less uncertain than in other cities. They know the net will last only so long.’
I had a look at images of Chicago. Why? Well, just because it looks like a nice city and it has suitably tall building to create a good skyline if I depict modern buildings…
Elements that caught my eye…water/waterfall, lights, bridges, ferris wheel, boats, trees
Michael Birawer’s painting of Chicago; you can see the warping does still have a logic and co-herence…Its not entirely random
Wow. Below is The Bean, what a great picture. At this point who wouldn’t get a bit distracted with 5 point perspective?? I had to look it up to even understand this kind of visual distortion. Its really tempting to dive into. So I did.
Castle Neuschwanstein is another slight obsession of mine. I love it that an actual real life king got totally carried away building fairytale castles. Poor chap didn’t have a good end.
More inspiration… Ankor Wat. I was thinking about different religions, architectural styles and building materials
Ancient Anasazi dwellings
Eco home, California
Afganistan and Syria
I mentioned earlier that The Bean sculpture in Chicago inspired me to look at 5 point perspective…I couldn’t resist attempting some rough sketches to try and get the hang of it.
I began wondering if I could combine this method with the brief but Im not sure using fancy perspective tricks is the best fit.
The description includes detail that may be difficult to include entirely in one image, but I had a thought about what essential elements should be in the picture. I found I was veering towards the idea of basic dwellings made from natural materials that have sprung up in an ad hoc way over the years with little money or regard to safety. I knew I needed to include dwellings hanging in the space between mountains, which implies the buildings are suspended rather than supported against the rock face. This led me to a tear drop shape.
Here are my idea sketches, exploring different viewpoints in perspective.
Idea 1: An aerial view directly overhead – not much scope to show the actual dwellings though. Too modern looking?
Thinking about the shape and style of the dwellings and rope walkways
Idea 2: Viewed from the side – I was experimenting with the style of house with pointed roofs and turrets, but the main area consists of earth huts strung haphazardly from the rock face.
Block shaped dwellings
Idea 3: Looking up from the ground – this doesn’t give enough sense of height, and seeing the ground is too reassuring; it doesn’t look precarious.
Idea 4: Looking from above – more dramatic and hopefully gives a sense of the drop below
Next I thought about what materials I would like to use. Im really into learning more about using pen at the moment, here’s some exercises from a book by Alphonso Dunn…I have very little experience of cross hatching and I’d like to give it a try. I want to evoke an old fashioned feel to my image. Maybe it was made by an explorer years ago…
And I would like to incorporate a sepia tone. I could add this in photoshop after scanning in my image, but I ordered some brown card to work on…
I drew out my work based on previous sketches and removed the figure as although it gave a sense of scale I wasn’t sure if a single figure ought to only really be present if its part of the narrative.
But for some reason I decided on an over sized tree which is not working well, its too dominant.
I was also stuck on how to draw the eye to the dwellings – but then I realised I could use tone using dark and light pastel which I think has worked alright.
I scanned my work into photoshop and got rid of the tree to firm up my finished image