I liked the cloudy sky in the Temperance painting well enough to do the same thing in the Sun piece, laying down a patchy coat of blue, ragged off carefully to avoid all the gold – fiddly work because of all those curving edges. You’d think that it would be easy enough to simply paint over the whole surface, then wipe away the paint from the gilded surfaces, but there are a couple of problems with that approach: first the gold is so thin that rubbing it with a cloth will abrade the surface enough to fade it, letting the red gesso show through, which is what you see in old churches where gilded surfaces have been cleaned repeatedly and left un-restored; and second, the oil of the paint leaves a microscopic residue over the gold that dulls it, no matter how much you try to clean it.
I shot pictures of Jen as Fortitude. She wore a beautiful Edwardian dress picked out for her by Heather (one of my students who has an eye for fashion and loves to be involved with anything to do with clothes) and looked absolutely gorgeous, so I’m considerably happier with my progress on that project. I have photos of models for several of the cards now, so I’m ahead of the game and can proceed with painting without running out of reference materials.
I’ve laid out five decks of cards in the studio so I can compare them to each other, looking for compositional choices and trying to figure out the most common themes in the images. In most of the cards Fortitude is portrayed as a young woman either holding open the jaw of a beast – a lion or something like it – but in the Pierpont Morgan deck it’s a young man with a club swinging at the beast; a completely different image with a very different interpretation.