I worked late and produced this drawing for the new piece. I’m not sure quite where this interest in Amelia Earhart has come from, perhaps it started with my friend Fred Tonsing, who’s her nephew or something. I’ve been thinking about her mythical status, of course, for “The Aviator’s Dream” painting (here’s a photo), and it seeems to me that the romance about her that works for me is as follows: Amelia is a beautiful woman of very strong character, determined to conquer the elements by circumnavigating the globe. She leaves the ground in her airplane and is taken by the air element for its own, because she can’t belong to the earth any more, having become too much one with the air. Now she flies eternally in the ethereal sky of the other world.
In this painting the air element (represented by Amelia) reaches out toward the light, which is not visible in this picture. There’s a bare light bulb suspended on the left of the canvas. The t-square is a dry-wallers square – perfect for drawing composition lines onto large canvases. Keeps everything on the level.
This is going well – Here’s Justice with a quickly painted en grisaille setting the tone for the later layers. I really enjoyed the luxury of knifing down thick flake white paint so that there’s some rich texture in the body of the cloth. When I’m doing knife work I’m careful not to allow ridges of paint to build around the edges of things, because that would cause horrible problems later. The edges are always softened by a rag.
Flake white is my favorite white, although it’s toxic as hell, so I avoid getting any on my fingers as much as I can.
After I got the flake white down, I added a bit of zinc white to it, because there’s a subtle difference between the two. Flake is a little grayer than the zinc, which is a touch more opaque than the flake. I use Titanium later in the process because it’s super bright and very opaque. I would use it earlier too, but there are too many problems with the surface of the paint when it dries – it causes further layers of paint to bubble and not sit properly. You can’t put much over a layer of white anyway. Look at those gorgeous pre-raphaelite paintings in the Tate Britain – they’re all crazed because of this.