Project 1 – Exercise 1:  View from a window or doorway

“Painting is like an open window on the world.
– Alberti (De pictura ,1435) 

“A window becomes a frame for its variable content, a marker of difference between what is inside and outside” (Orell, 2003)

Ideas for my view of the external world:

I notice that I did kind of looking out paintings in part 3 – project 3 ‘A Figure in an Interior‘ – click here. My model looking through the balcony door window and turning around to see what is outside. This may be a good point for continuation – now with me myself at the interface between inside and outside.


  • A linear approach or an exploration of planes and spaces? Expressive and gestural or flat?
  • Looking out of a window – looking through a doorway – looking through a window
  • Mirrored images from the glass surface (doubling)
  • Plain view outside
  • Stepping in or stepping out.
  • Paint and materiality – gestural strokes as a metaphor for my rotating view
  • Opaque and transparent – reflection and reflexive

Language is full of metaphors: Window blinds: not able to look through it, cover a transparent window – a blind man? Windows  = computer term for opening and closing screen windows.

The french philosopher Louis Marin investigated the concept of representation and stated that “the viewer while contemplating a painting is looking as if looking at the real world through a transparent plane, the painting bears on the surface an image or a reflection of the world”. What means in combination with Alberti that the window is a mirror into the world (Taban, 2014)

Final Paintings:

Painting #1: Acrylic on canvas (40 x 50 cm)

Stefan513593 - Project 1 1 - Exercise 1 - painting #1

Stefan513593 – Project 1 1 – Exercise 1 – painting #1


Painting #2: Acrylic on canvas (50 x 70 cm)


Stefan513593 - Project 1 1 - Exercise 1 - painting #2

Stefan513593 – Project 1 1 – Exercise 1 – painting #2

Contextual research:

[All online images accessed on 25 & 26 Oct 2016]

The course material mentioned the painting ‘A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris’, 1907-09, Oil on canvas (12.3 x 9.8 inches)  by Gwen John. I found a very fascinating article about her painting by the artist Barry Nemett. A beautiful post full of poetry as the painting itself. Talking about the end of her relationship with Auguste Rodin, her Welsh roots, and the twilight zone ,’dammerung’, as a metaphor for her life and reflection “Here, absence is presence, which, like the glazing of dawn with dusk, is precise in its ambiguity.” (Nemett, 2016). The image is about painting light and shadow, the blurred image of a building looking through the window like a symbol for looking out, forward, the leave the emptiness and of the inner space.

Other intimate views with a strong emotional response and inner reflection as a dialogue between the inner and outer world are the paintings by Edward Hopper  – see my earlier research on him. In the same research post I looked at painting inside out by Pierre Bonnard, who rather merged figurative shapes with the surrounding interior and contrast those with the outside landscape.

Raoul Dufy (1877 – 1953), a French painter, illustrator and designer,  is mentioned in the course material for his paintings of many views onto sunny Mediterranean scenes from interiors, suggesting a cool retreat from the hot, dazzling world outside. His images become famous for ceramic design. His paintings made in bright colours and a kind of calligraphic and decorative brushwork are informed by the Fauve, Paul Cézanne and Georges Braque. The painting ‘Fenêtre ouverte à Saint-Jeannet (Open Window at Saint-Jeannet)‘, 1926-7 (Gouache on paper, 656 x 507 mm) shows a window view, with clear focus on the landscape outside. The window act just as a frame without much details. It looks to me rather like a landscape painting on a wall surrounded by sketchy line markings for an illusion of space.

His painting ‘Open Window, Nice1928 (Oil on canvas, 65.1 x 53.7 cm) in very bright and saturated color does convey the fresh and crispy air from the Riviera coast. Through the combination of flat rather abstract color areas and rather illustrative line markings the image becomes a joyful play and experience. This painting reminds me like a combination of two artists from different era: The wallpaper in reference of Eduard Vuillard (1868 – 1940) and the mirror reflection of Patrick Caulfield (1936 – 2005) pop art related paintings especially ‘After Lunch‘, 1975. The center tabletop acts as an abstract element by itself, outline marks do not match the blue color patch, the table top has a a different perspective right angle to the viewer. Quite symbolic meaning for a sensual embodiment.
Others : Gillian Collins ‘Night reflections’, Oil on canvas (18 x 18 inches) => I like the metaphorical depiction of two doorways and a window with reflections. Somehow between Bonnard and Hopper.

– View from my home?
– From a train see E Hopper ‘Compartment C, Car 293‘, 1938
– From a car? see Gregory Thielker’s rainy windshield paintings (Bromwich, 2016)
=> Transit as my personal related them consider my current travels

For another painting approach for rather flat color areas alongside a figure I looked at Richard Diebenkorn (1922 – 1993) and his paintings ‘Woman in Profile‘, 1958 and ‘Coffee‘, 1959.

Preparatory work:

Thumbnail sketches to find appealing and exciting views:

Stefan513593 - Project 1 1 - Exercise 1- sketchbook #1

Stefan513593 – Project 1 1 – Exercise 1- sketchbook #1

Revisiting some ideas in context:

Stefan513593 - Project 1 1 - Exercise 1- sketchbook #2

Stefan513593 – Project 1 1 – Exercise 1- sketchbook #2

Context and elaborated sketches for option 1 and 2:

Stefan513593 - Project 1 1 - Exercise 1- sketchbook #3

Stefan513593 – Project 1 1 – Exercise 1- sketchbook #3

I did see three options for continuation:

  1. Looking through the loggia door window:
    => mood= curious, concealed; atmosphere= sunny, luminous with contrasting darkness inside, warm and cool; thoughts= my view as an artist, framed, hidden, secret
  2. Looking through and at the open bedroom window with the mirror effect:
    => mood= excited, calm; atmosphere= explosive, contrasting, colourful; thoughts=window as mirror (Alberti), painting as a mirror
  3. Looking into the kitchen and through the window on surrounding landscape:
    => mood= relaxed, break-time; atmosphere= fall time, starting to snow; thoughts= refections outside-inside, emptiness of kitchen, human presence, protective or fearful mountains?

My thinking: Is one too self-conscious? Too illustrative? How would I know? I am positive and will leave some decisions open and just continue with my paintings  on larger scale. To avoid overthinking and images that would appear deprived. I decided to work on two paintings – option1 and 2  – leaving option 3 for a later exercise.

Work in progress:

Painting 1:

For this painting I decided for a small-middle scale (40 x 50 cm canvas) – reused from experiments of an earlier exercise. Smaller as this would have a more intimate appeal when looking at it. I reused the canvas as I felt this adds a personal touch to the painting in context  of my relationship with the external world.

I worked rather loose and expressive with three colors only: cerulean blue, white, black. I was quite satisfied with my quick painting approach and even thought about to keep it monochrome (step 3), decided to color in the key forms as those were what attracted my in the first place (orange and yellow with white), and mix with blue for the receding trees and shrubs. I finished the painting at that stage.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 1 - Exercise 1 - painting #1 - work in progress

Stefan513593 – Project 1 1 – Exercise 1 – painting #1 – work in progress

Thinking about my concept of camouflage and viewfinder, looking out onto the loggia, I remember some artists who deliberately used the more or less reflective glass in museums and galleries as a visual tool. The observer sees a reflection of her/himself. By that the reflection becomes an integrative part of the art work. Gerhard Richter pushed this to the extreme of hanging large grey glass on the wall so that it all became a reflection. ‘Mirror Painting (Grey, 735-2), Spiegel, Grau (735-2)‘, 1991 (Pigment in glass, 280 x 165 x 4.5 cm). Adams describes in his essay the evolvement of painting as that from a window toward a mirror metaphor in a way of visualisation of own experiences and emotions (Adams, 2016).  A large black mirror that is been used by artists to see tonal values better by reducing the impact of color (see my post – click here). The work itself resides somehow between abstraction and representation. Richter did paint an image, just grey paint on the back of the glass to act as a weak mirror. There is a mix of Alberti’s view of painting as a window and the more modern way of looking at it as a mirror.

How can I relate to this in my painting?  There is the window aspect as the representational part of looking out. Then there is the Me part of how I look and present my experience. Than I could add the layer of mirror and reflection with a translucent layer painted with a camouflage image. The Mylar layer will reflect the observer back. So the looking our becomes a looking in. Would this work without being too illustrative?

The painting before adding layer:


Here the two steps – in the second step taped to the painting. The Mylar foil is smaller – actually I did not have a larger one. So I was looking at how to use that limitation as an advantage. It becomes obvious that the layer acts as a frame, special window, to hide or to show. Taped as one would do to tape temporarily a paper for painting and than to remove it. Here it can act as a metaphor for time and how long we can keep our voyeuristic gaze.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 1 - Exercise 1 - painting #2 - added layer

Stefan513593 – Project 1 1 – Exercise 1 – painting #2 – added layer

Painting 2:

I had a clear idea how I will work on this painting. In acrylic for kind of Pop-Art appeal in a taken reference to Paul Caulfield and Raoul Dufy.

The image split in two window part: opened window to the left and looking out to the right. The surrounding space with two dividing complementary colors: blue-violet and orange-yellow. The window curtain with some faed images looking through the window. Keeping the shapes and forms of the outside objects rather simple. A few line marks for the room space.

At the end I added Clear Tar Gel on the glass part for higher reflection. Wondering afterwards whether this just adds a representative element.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 1 - Exercise 1 - painting #2 - work in progress

Stefan513593 – Project 1 1 – Exercise 1 – painting #2 – work in progress

Overall I do believe that I kept it quite simple and avoided overworking. The painting is quite in context of modern 20th century painting. I am wondering whether the composition is the most successful one. Trying to crop (Photoshop) and look at various options did not give me further insight, so I kept the painting as it is. The image itself as a frame around the window and the mirror side.




  • Once again I found that doing the painting was fun and inspiring. My initial thoughts and contextual research supported me to find a looser approach and to work especially on painting #2 with bolder colors – an experiment for me.
  • Although I do think that painting #2 is alright, I am not convinced that I would like to work in this manner further (bold colors use with flat areas) I was missing at times a more gestural and interactive painting approach.
  • I appreciate my looser painting approach in painting #1. I feel that I restricted to look at too much accuracy and more at planes and relationships. Working from larger shapes downwards truly helped.
  • I was very much engaged with working with Metaphors (window, mirror) as I learned from A Tarkovsky. Especially with painting #1 on the conceptual side of self and the viewer. I would like to work further along that line.

Next time:

  • I wonder whether painting #1 would not even be better in very small scale: more intimate so that the observer really need to look at in close distance.
  • Working along the line self, external world and viewer I believe I need to work less representational as I did in painting #1 (with some illustrative elements).
  • Metaphors: Is the the right way to go? At times I felt this led more towards a planned and more self-conscious (?) approach?


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