The City as Muse

By Bob Bahr

“City Hall, Philadelphia” (watercolor, 11 x 15 in.)

“Everybody has a muse,” Thomas Bucci says. “I see painters who have a love for rural landscapes, or for beautiful skies. I’m not anti-nature, but I’m not the guy taking a walk in the woods. I’d rather walk down 5th Avenue.”

“Cumberland Overlook in Grey” (watercolor, 11 x 15 in.)

Bucci says he appreciates how a cityscape gives him powerful compositional tools, in particular the wires, poles, roads, and buildings that provide perspective lines that firmly situate the viewer in the scene. “In architecture, we refer to one kind of urban design as axis and episodes, which simply means a line with interesting elements at intervals along the line, or axis. The axis, which is often a street, is the connection between two things. When you come upon a notable building or other element, and you look down the axis, you see the next interesting thing. It’s planned that way; it has an episodic feeling to it. Paris is all about avenues and axis, for example.”

“A Walk Down Light Street” (watercolor, 11 x 15 in.)
Inspired by Architecture

“Silhouettes of buildings are simple and they draw me in,” says the artist. “It’s stimulating to see. When I visit Maine, I love to get up first thing in the morning and catch the fog before it disappears by 9 a.m. Atmosphere creates a sense of depth in a painting, a touch of 3D. Linear perspective, atmospheric perspective, and what I call chromatic perspective all do this. By chromatic perspective I mean that colors become less saturated and cooler as they recede in the picture plane. When something is backlit, when the sun is behind an object, it creates depth, too.” Stark sunlight works for Bucci, as well. He tells the story of painting belted Galloway cows, and instead of putting them in a field as the primary subject, he “zoomed in on the landscape and got the cows with their shadows. I built a cityscape out of cows,” he says with a chuckle. When there are no canyons, and no concrete canyons of a city, Bucci will find raking light crossing through some other vertical shapes, just like a street at dawn or late afternoon, broken by the towering shade made by structures.

“Chinatown Rain” (watercolor, 11 x 15 in.)

Thomas Bucci has been living in Washington DC and working full time as a professional artist since 1996.

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