img_8969I haven’t painted a complete skeleton for a very long time – I think since I was a student at Swindon College of Art and Design in 1983, which seems a ridiculously long time ago – so working on the Death card is an exciting and rewarding  challenge. My Drawing students will understand the intimidation I felt when I began this, because accurately rendering the bone structure of the human body is a seriously complex piece of work, particularly the rib cage, which is a multi-layered inter-connected three dimensional nightmare to get right. Persistence! The skull has challenges of its own, but these can be surmounted by careful observation.

I relishing painting the white against black, finding good greys simply by using the  white on the brush as a scrubbed out layer, thin over the existing background. Where it’s denser Zinc white pops forward as a bright highlight. I’m enjoying the antique feel of the sanded dark canvas and I’ll do what I can to preserve some of this on the earth foreground of the piece. 

Only one layer so far, I’ll be getting more detail into the bones during the week, and cursing about painting the teeth, no doubt. I hope to have the first layer of the whole skeleton painted by Sunday evening, then proceed on to figuring out the background landscape and body parts that accompany the reaper. He reminds me of all those metal albums we used to listen to.

In alchemy Death is yet another symbol of the nigredo, with the king and queens’ decapitated heads lying upon the blackened ground before the scythe of the reaper, prior to their cleansing in the mercurial dew and emergence as the purified Salt and Sulphur (remember the Sun card?).

About pearce

Michael Pearce is an artist, writer, and professor of art. He is the author of "Art in the Age of Emergence."
This entry was posted in Alchemical work, Making work, Tarot-related paintings. Bookmark the permalink.

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