Monday, August 16th, 2010 Archives

We had a very busy day in the studio. Ethan and Joseph were occupied with the second coat of gesso on the big Virtues canvas, then Joe got into stretching the third of the eight foot square canvas that Cyn McCurry sent from Texas onto its panel, ready for a wash of distilled water prior to preparing the surface with a coat or two of gesso so I can draw the empress and her attendants onto the new surface.

While the lads worked hard at preparing the surfaces for painting I added more peacock feathers to the Angel of Death, getting them most of the way up the right wing. I’ll add colour to them tomorrow and figure out what needs to be done to the top of the wings, then get to work on the empress drawing if the gesso dries fast enough to take the graphite.

I scanned images from Michael Maier’s Atalanta Fugiens, a well known alchemical emblem book. Emblem books were incredibly popular bestsellers in the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, filled with allegorical pictures and their accompanying epigrams, generally speaking rooted in mystical Christianity and Neo-Platonism. I love these books! They’re inspiring, mysterious and fulfilling, and profoundly supportive of the desire of man to understand the mind of God, while written and illustrated in a style that is unapologetically intelligent, requiring the reader to be thoughtful and patient as the sometimes obscure messages of the emblems is revealed by research and exploration. I emulate them in my paintings, hoping to equal their spiritual depth and to follow their guidance toward a better understanding of the universe.

The first layer of feathers reaches to the top of the left wing, leading me to much head scratching and sitting and looking at the painting in order to figure out what to do with the structure of the wings around the top of the arms and shoulders. I want the wings to feel more like a cloak, instead of being so flat and simply hanging in space behind the skeleton, so either I expect to shape feathers around the top of the wings, or to paint a set of wing bones that come in and out of the highest feathers.