Tagged: fire

I added a pool of blood to the ground around the head. Right now it’s too bright, and will need to get a layer to moderate the intensity of colour.


The sword is coming along, based on a fabulous samurai sword loaned to me by our lovely costume designer, Lolita Ball, who is simply delightful. The alchemical Queen Amelia looks dramatic and intentional now, having acted to behead the king, now she has to transform herself in order to join the alchemical king in the process of conjunctio, when the two become one alloy. the beheaded element transforms into the pure essence, which I will soon add to the painting as a pure white flame, placed at 1:1.62 on the canvas.

I rendered the head (a self portrait) en grisaille, ready for development when this first layer has dried. Fast and thick, this work will look good as I build the layers of colour over it. 

I have been thinking ahead wondering what comes next in the painting. If Amelia is the elemental representative of the purified air, coming to the earth to be combined with it in the alchemical conjunction, then she will need to bring heat for the elements to be combined. In renaissance alchemical symbolism fire is often symbolized by the sword, so I decided to give her a sword in the hand she holds behind her back. I also like the concealment of the weapon, because it gives Amelia a strength that she didn’t so overtly present before. She’s a strong woman; now she has the tools to complement her strength and implement her will.

Here’s a nice alchemical text about a symbolic sword found on Adam McLean’s fabulously informative website: Flammel’s Hieroglyphics. His Exposition of the Hieroglyphicall Figures which he caused to bee painted upon an Arch in St. Innocents Church-yard, in Paris. London, 1624. In chapter five we find an allegorical figure of a man with a sword standing beside a kneeling figure. In Flamel’s alchemical text the sword is about to be used to decapitate the man, purifying him and releasing the purest whiteness.

I’m going to write Tolle nigredinem – “take away from me my blackness” (quoted from Flamel’s text) on a ribbon attached to the sword. I’m going to need to add a decapitated head at Amelia’s feet showing that she is reaching for the light only after having used the sword to pass the alchemical man through the nigredo to the pure element.

I worked for a hour on improving her hair, adding some white and laying in some raw sienna, that sandy brown with a yellowish-green quality. I’m pretty happy with what I’m getting. On her jacket lapel I painted a couple of button badges, one a peace symbol, the other a yin yang (It’s a big image so you’ll see the details if you click on it). On a superficial level these are very personal to me, being pins that I wore when I was a teenager at school in England, very interested in the CND (campaign for nuclear disarmament) and wondering at the courage of activists who were prepared to go up against the government in defense of their principles. I remember being impressed by the activities of the suffragettes, Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement, the Weathermen and the Black Panthers, Nelson Mandela’s A.N.C., the Communist revolution, and almost any fight in which the underdog prevailed. Nowadays I’m less interested in activism, except for an occasional foray into environmentalism, like the alchemy tree, and hope to inspire spiritual change more than anything else. On a deeper level, the yin yang represents the trinity, emphasizing Amelia’s role as divine messenger, and the peace symbol suggests the goal of her action, bringing peace to the alchemical man who has been beheaded, but transformed by her action.


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.

Here’s a snapshot of the lantern, which I painted a week ago, but forgot to post. In the painting it’s representative of the element fire. (Water is the grail cup, earth is the square on the stone, air the hole in the other stone.)

I think Rich asked for a picture in one of his comments, so here it is, Rich. Thanks to everyone for commenting, by the way, I love the dialogue.

This is the first layer over the initial drawing. It needs some highlighting and lots of blending to get the soft changes in value and colour as light hits all those curving surfaces. 

I didn’t have enough time to get anything done to Bombers today, so we’ll have to see how things go next week, with developing plans for the Geomantic Man painting, which I want to take to Vegas for the conference, and the gilding for the As the Crow Flies piece.

Bombers xxiv

fire.jpg water.jpg earth.jpg air.jpg 

Fire             Water            Earth             Air 


Ostensibly made obsolete by the progress of modern science, as allegorical symbols I think these elements are as relevant now as they always have been. 

In the Aviator’s Dream painting the feathers contain the idea of air, but they are in the shape of the water element: they are there for Icarus, who transforms from an intrepid but foolish winged flyer into a drowning man.