Well, you’ve probably been wondering what I’ve been up to since you’ve not been seeing a lot of new talismans appear in recent weeks. It’s because I’ve decided to start painting again! Some of you may know I started out life as an sci-fi/fantasy illustrator and then fine artist, but about 10 years ago switched to jewelry full time. Recently the desire to paint has returned in a powerful way and even though I have four large pieces still awaiting completion, a new one has come through and I’m going to go with it since it’s been rather insistent.
Preparing for a painting is a lot of work. The first stages are all about concept and preliminary sketches. This one comes from an old pastel piece I did a few years ago. It was fairly well along and I liked where it was going, but when I went to spray it with fixatif, the stuff spattered all over it and ruined the piece. I set the piece aside but thankfully kept it, and a couple of weeks ago I decided to develop the idea a little further, as you can see from the sketchbook and another quick color piece.
Most of my sketches like those in the book are just a few gestural lines as I start pulling a concept and composition together. I did several of those. Next I wanted to work up a loose chalk color study in the correct proportion of the final piece, which would be a 20” x 44” panel.
Like the one that was ruined, this is on blue toned paper. The scene is on a desert planet, set high on the edge of a red rock mesa which overlooks a vast plain of salt over a thousand feet below. The sun has just set and the afterglow has painted the rocks with flamelike color. In fact, this section is called the Fire Altar. The rock formations are actually closely layered fins, very broad when viewed from one direction, but when seen edge on, as they are here, they look like flames. The idea for them came from the granite formations of White Tank in Joshua Tree National Park and the Fiery Furnace in Arches.
I also played with the composition and dimensions a bit, giving it a more panoramic line.
The moon is rising; the planet actually has a second captured moon, a tiny irregular reddish rock that I was going to put into the frame, but found it distracting. What you don’t see well are the linear arrays of thousands of pylons of luminous green, aqua and blue stone out on the salt. This is a breathtaking sight that I’ve wanted to paint for years. That will come out more in the final painting.
At this point I was ready to start the painting, which meant prepping the panel. So, on to Home Depot where I purchased a 4’ x 8’ sheet of hardboard and had them cut it to size. Then the real work began. I like a very smooth surface, which means several coats of thinned acrylic gesso, sanded between each coat. Thanks to our hot high desert sun and single digit humidity, I was able to complete the entire job in a day, but it was a workout. Each coat was brushed on, then the board was set out in the sun to dry, then brought back in and sanded. I did this eight times to get an even, bright white coat…messy, sweaty work. The next day I gave the coat a final sanding with 400 grit sandpaper, bringing it up a vellum-like surface.
After three days to let the panel dry, today it was ready for the ground. I brushed on a thin layer of tanzanite-hued pigment thinned with turpentine, then removed most of it with a rag. This emulates the toned paper of the studies, and as the image is built up on top of it, it will impart a luminous glow that subtly shines through the layers. The base color of this ground will also help chromatically unify the piece…kind of like its soul color.
Ah, the smell of turpentine. I’ve missed it. Once this dries, I’ll start working up the underpainting. Until then, it’s jewelry making time!
Have a great weekend!