17x24cm Oil on Birch. A view toward The Bund and Huangpu River from the rooftop café of The Rockbund Museum
I’ve always been fascinated with shapes created within cityscapes. The way light and shadow play off the buildings and interact with the sky. During my time as an art student in Philadelphia I would marvel at the distinct shapes formed between light and shadow and the severity of contrast that made the shadows seem as though they would swallow you and the light an ethereal transcendent highway. I was always keenly aware that the shadows contained objects of definition and detail. At the time, though, my limited skill with color did not allow me to communicate the effects and relationships of the elements at play around me.
I did attempt a few cityscapes, which always became an unsuccessful jumble of unrelated shapes. Only one was deemed successful enough to have survived, partly out of sentiment. It is titled “Backyard,” and is on view in the Cityscapes Gallery. It is a painting of the courtyard outside my small efficiency. More to the point it is simply a painting of the shapes formed by the sunlight and deep shadows that would occur in the mornings and evenings.
In this recent attempt at a landscape I realized early on that it would still become an “unsuccessful jumble of unrelated shapes,” but that the more I worked the more those shapes ‘snapped’ into place an became a legitimate part of the larger picture. The closer the work progressed toward completion the more I found myself revising lines, shape, and colors to connect areas. The perspective that a large city like Shanghai provides can be quite bewildering and challenging to recreate. This was a very slow and methodical painting. My portraits tend to be more quick and loose. It is comparable, for me, to working with a 500 piece puzzle (my portraits) versus a 5000 piece (this cityscape). In the end I am quite surprised that this project has left me wanting to pursue another of this nature, and I’m eager to see where this takes me.
Scott Anstett is a American artist, teacher, and avid cyclist living in the Pacific Northwest.