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A Window on the World

I don’t know about you, but I like to know how things are done because I’m intrigued and endlessly inquisitive. I recently watched a short doco on how they make cruise liners but that’s straying off the point.

People often say to me that windows and glass in general must be very hard to do, and indeed they are not without challenge but a bit of exploration and playing with ideas has given me something of a formula that works. However there are many sorts of windows and glass types so you can’t rest on your laurels! There’s always something new to learn.

I chose this building because it is just breathtakingly beautiful and a real symbol of vision for the rebuilding of Christchurch. Obviously glass is transparent but it also has a colour of its own. Depending on your viewing position you will either see through the windows, reflections on the window surface, or a combination of both. One of the beauties of painting as a medium over photography, is you can play with these concepts to suit yourself. I love seeing inside through the window though not in a peeping Tom sort of way. With the Deloittes building here, we have changes in viewpoint as the building ripples away from the viewer and the inside can only be seen at the closest point where we are stood at 90 degrees. And as a painter I can choose to take down that street light!

First step is to paint what is seen inside the room. In the second storey we merely look up to the ceiling. On the bottom floor we are still looking upwards but can see furniture next to the window. Artistic licence has sexed up the chairs a bit from the actual grey. The tones in the room get darker as it recedes giving the illusion of depth perception. The black messy looking area is the underpainting for what will be the reflected tree foliage.

I don’t have the steadiest hand in the world and masking tape is a real best friend. I could say 3M are sponsors of my work but not since the discovery of Hello Banana* and inferior masking tape which is less sticky and doesn’t take the first layer of paint off. A fast vertical painting motion is best for these window frames to avoid the paint sneaking underneath the masking tape.

But there’s always a little area that lets you down and I go back with a bristly stronger brush and water to “clean up” before the paint sets too hard. Another beauty of acrylic, allowing removal if you act quickly. (* a veritable treasure trove of imported Asian goods)

After this has dried then it’s time to have fun putting a layer of glass over the top. This building has its windows AND a decorative wave effect of many more glass panels on top. I mixed up a warm blue with retarder medium, which gives a translucent effect, and washed this over the pane areas one at a time for the first glass layer. Only the top left pane has been coated with blue here so you can see the subtle difference between it and the ones left unpainted.

Once finished you do have to wait longer for it to dry. Preferably overnight. The usual job of retarder medium is to delay drying whilst you keep working the paint. If you had wanted a stronger glass effect you could add some white to the blue mix and this would fade the inside of the room painting more.

So on with the glass panels where the coloured ends are effectively opaque and the transparent middles are done with another retarder medium mix but more heavy on the paint this time. The tree reflection was given depth by the black undercoat and then blue wash over the top as the glass here had a strong bluey green colour. There is another reflection to the left where a distorted building can be seen in two panels only (thanks to all the differing angles). Glass effect painted as a last layer here to emulate the distortion.

So another painting baby has grown up ready to leave. I struggle to stop and part with something I’ve spent so much time with. Currently being scanned and colour matched ready for prints. Details very soon.

In short,

1. Paint the inside of the room as could be seen by a viewer

2. Paint the window frame lines over this surface

3. Make a mix of “transparent paint” to go over the top for glass

4. Show reflection on top

5. (optional) You could add another transparent mix wash over the reflection to give it a more glassy look. Observe your reference material to see how the reflection is distorted where appropriate.

6. Have fun

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