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My Painting Project: Urban Minimalism

I have just finished a 5-month teaching contract at a local school. Teaching is all consuming, it has to be in order to do be done well, but it does affect my capacity to “think” about art. So, recent weeks I have finally been able to stop and take stock of what I am doing, and where want to go with my work.

I have decided on a new project which I am calling “Urban minimalism“. It was initially inspired by the empty streets around where I live in Brynmill, Swansea. In recent years Brynmill has been increasingly taken over by HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupancy) rented out to the growing population of university students. In the summer months most of the students leave and the local streets which are usually crammed with cars are suddenly empty. I was struck by both the physical empty space as well as the peace they left behind. I wanted to capture this temporary calm in paint.  So I started to take lots of photos of the local area with an eye to using them for the basis of paintings.

My “rules” for composition and painting

  1. No cars
  2. No People
  3. Bright light. There must be shadows – at diagonals if possible.
  4.  Simplified forms – there must be little detail in the final painting. I found this the most challenging “rule” to stick to.
Shadow Play

I wanted to explore the interplay of the geometry of shadows and man-made structures – the tension between the 3D buildings and the 2D shadows. The simplified blocks of colour. Shadows are one of the earliest ways man has used to mark time and seeking out the long shadows that mark the rising or falling of the sun in the morning and evening are a reminder that the empty streets are only temporarily so.


In future, I am intending to extend the “principles” of this project to other urban landscapes.

18 thoughts on “My Painting Project: Urban Minimalism

  1. I like your artwork Very Much, Emma 🙂 ✨ I’ve no time left for commenting much more right now, but I will do it soon. Best wishes!

    1. Lovely! Thanks you!

  2. I love this new style Emma

    1. Thanks Jan.

  3. This looks like a very interesting project. I love the work thus far. Janet

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Janet.

  4. Strong colours and composition with just enough ‘little details’ I think. Great idea : )

    1. Thanks, Viv. Thanks for taking the time to say such positive comments !

  5. Absolutely love this style, your colors are genius, so beautiful!

    1. Thank you so much for your enthusiasm!

  6. Love your work and thoughts behind your ‘Urban Minamalism’ project. I think self-imposed projects are a great thing for artists in creating a concentrated and cohesive series.

    1. Thank you, Denise – I usually get a sort of obsessed about something like LED street lights, car headlights in the rain at night or unposed people but self-imposed rules are new to me and an interesting “constraint”.

  7. Quite lovely. And creative. Am I understanding correctly that to be a “trompe-l’oeil”?

    1. thank you and no it’s not, just painting of houses

  8. I love the simplicity of the pieces and the colours you used to make them! Just wondering what type of colours you used? Oil, pastel? 🙂 I’m very curious!

    1. Thank you for your encouragement.I used oil paint with Turner Medium to flatten out the brush strokes.

      1. Interesting! I look forward to seeing more from you then 🙂

  9. […] years ago. I came across them in my folder of printed images and decided I wanted revist my “urban minimal” themes.  The light in St Thomas is quite different to that in Brynmill, where I am at […]

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