Cell phones: not romantic?
I didn't think too much about it when I started including cell phones in my work. Since their introduction in 2007, smartphones gradually became an extension of everyone's arm and part of everyday life. When I photographed people on the street, many scenes included phones, so they naturally became part of my work.
Phones have become so ubiquitous, I was a bit surprised when people remarked on them in my paintings. It must have been a jolt for them to see cell phones in figurative art where it had never been before. After all there is not one cell phone in all the painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I was delighted that many viewers thought including cell phones in my paintings was interesting and fun, perhaps a new symbol of modern life. But a few were less pleased. My sense was that they felt that the technology detracted from the romance of my paintings, and that it was a bit of reality that they would prefer not to see in their art.
A love/hate relationship with my cell phone
I certainly understand that sentiment. Like many, I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. But now that cell phones are an integral part of our lives, I feel that they belong in my scenes of everyday beauty and happiness. They are part of our relationship with others and of our daily activities. They help tell the human stories in my paintings.
For instance, in the painting above we automatically recognize that the two women on the left are hovered over a phone, even though we can't see it. I've decided that they're checking when their favorite restaurant opens for Sunday brunch, while the woman on the right is looking for messages about meeting up with her friends. It's all part of the story of these figures.
Cell phones as design elements
I also like to use phones as design elements; they can function as dark or vivid punctuation against lighter, more neutral colors. On of my favorite parts of the painting above is the seated woman's hands as she lightly grips the phone. They seem so graceful and elegant. Also, I like the contrast in pose and energy of the woman in the beach chair concentrating on her cell phone versus that of the woman lying on the beach towel dozing under the warm sun.
I find that many of my beach scenes now include people on their phones, reading an eBook, checking messages, or taking a selfie. It seems that anywhere people relax, they're on their phones.
Cell phones in Paris
In city street scenes as well, cell phones are rarely absent. In some cases, the cell phone creates the story. In the top painting, the woman is distracted by her phone while her dog barks at a biking commuter. In " No Time for Lunch", the woman is engrossed in her conversation while she strides down the sidewalk. But I think my favorite cell phone painting is "Perfect Selfie". What better way to use a cell phone than to take a romantic selfie with your sweetie in front of a flower market in Paris?
Your turn; if one of my paintings hung in your home, might it include a cell phone? If not, why not?
I'm Linda Hugues and I paint cityscapes of everyday happiness from my travels in Europe and my home in Florida. Here on my monthly blog I write about everything related to my art life, in and out of the studio. Enjoy!