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This unique commission was requested by a couple who are happy owners of a vineyard in California's Shenandoah Valley. They're also passionate about astronomy, hiking mountain trails and traveling to beautiful settings around the world. They've combined their interests to create a very personal composition. The large scale of the canvas (48" x 60") and the highly detailed features have made this one of the most challenging paintings I've ever approached. I've deeply enjoyed this project knowing that it touches upon subjects that are special and personal to my customers lives.
Below image: Rough concept created in photoshop using the Eagle Nebula imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope and vine photos.
Scroll down to view painting progression images.
↓ 80% complete- Detailing entire composition. Almost finished!
The next phase will add lively star sparkles and translucent color washes over the nebula to create the ghostly veils of gas clouds as seen in the Hubble reference image above. The color washes will help harmonize the whole of the nebula with the soft glow of magentas and lemon/lime tints. Also, more detailing, highlighting and shadowing in the in the grape vines and leaves will be added.
↓ Detailing leaves, grapes and trunks.
↓ 30% complete. Beginnings of nebula luminosity and star placement starting to come into focus.
First phase of mountain details applied.
↓ 10% complete. Chalk grid applied to canvas to scale to aid in accuracy of composition layout.
↓ 1st Stage - Rough layout washes.
Posted Jan. 6, 2015: Acrylic on canvas / 40" x 30". Progression photos below.
↑ "Tapestry of Time" / complete.
↑ Detail: The peak of the mountain symbolizes the proverbial monk on the mountaintop in search
of enlightenment, or the person that seeks knowledge about how the universe came into being.
Such a person might discover 'the eternal now', liberation of the razor's edge, or perhaps they
are gifted a rare moment of realization that all things within the Universe are interconnected.
Progression from start to finish. ↓
↑ Phase 7 - Snow and fog detail. Almost finished
↑ Phase 6 - 75% complete. Ready to start adding snow in foreground.
↑ Phase 5 - Added a mountain side to left foreground to create a dramatic sweep as
the eye moves into the scene toward the highest peak in the background.
↑ Phase 3- Laying in Milky Way details & mountain texture.
↑ Phase 2 - Working in tone and details.
↑ Phase 1 - Laying in rough concept.
Posted September 8, 2014: 36" x 30" Acrylic on canvas. Progression photos below.
Q: What does the year 2094 have to do with this painting?
To find out, scroll down below the image and read how spontaneity
transported me into the future...
↑ Phase 4 / 75% complete: Detailing under water movement of fur and bubbles.
The joy of discovery through spontaneous techniques: I feel great delight in throwing big globs of pigments onto a canvas and pushing the colors around until I find something hidden within the brush strokes. That's the fun of spontaneous painting, you never know where it will take you. When I saw the hint of the bear's presence I knew I'd be embarking on an unusual composition and just maybe even an interesting story. If you scroll down to the bottom of this post to the "Phase 1" sample you'll see how this technique begins to take shape in the sketchy layout of a polar bear swimming at night, maybe a star scape could be added, or the rise and fall of distant glaciers could be placed along the horizon, or maybe just the solitary bear will dominate the canvas. At this stage I didn't know where the composition was going nor had I developed a story line. But I knew as I continued painting that the story would reveal its own voice in its own time. As the scene became more and more in focus I felt a sense of excitement in getting to know my new friend the lone polar bear. I was anxious to see how his story would take shape. His story continues to open, layer by layer, by asking obvious questions: Why is the bear alone? Where is he going? How long has he been swimming? Is he in search of something, perhaps a new home? What has given him that look of seemingly peaceful resolve?
Every question I addressed circled me back to that peaceful aloneness permeating the scene. I realized this element might be the unexpected charisma that draws the viewer in. Because of this I was reluctant to add the moon as the bear seemed quite serene in his solitude and it occurred to me that the moon's presence would feature as a friendly companion on such a singular night. But in the end I desired to see a light source outline the bear's movement and shimmer on the surface of the sea, so the moon I decided, would indeed accompany him. I was resolute that it be a bright full moon happening on a special night, the longest night of the year, the winter solstice. Through that vein of reasoning the title had arrived!
I researched lunar phases and learned that the next full moon happening during the winter solstice is in the year 2094. How wonderfully unexpected! The story takes place decades into the future!
I couldn't help but drift along the currents of time and imagined what the world will be like 80 years from now and what challenges creatures such as polar bear might be facing as their environment warms and disappears into the ocean. Perhaps "The Longest Night" speaks about much more than a peaceful swim during a moonlit winter's night...
↑ Phase 2 - Working up detail and lighting.
↑ Phase 1 - Finding the bear within the paint strokes and working out color and composition.
Private commission. 48" x 36" acrylic on canvas.
This private commission has turned out to be a very exciting and enjoyable piece to work. I knew it would be unique when the customer contacted me about their vision of the first moments of a protostar emerging from its cosmic womb. They shared this Hubble image of the Tarantula Nebula to convey the overall dynamics they desire for the composition. Note the circled area where they envision the newborn star.
The goal is not to render the Tarantula Nebula but to use this spectacular image as inspiration. A title has not been chosen for this piece as of yet and so for now we refer to it as "Creation". It will be interesting to see what surprises develop as the painting takes shape.
↑ Almost finished
↑ Phase 4 - 75% complete: Adding details in star explosion and gases. Layering light and dark washes to add depth.
↓ Detail close up.
The next phase will add even more ambient light, rays and reflections. Bring your sunglasses!
↑ Phase 3 - 40% complete. Layering in details, contrast and highlights. It's starting to look dynamic!
↑ Phase 2 - 25% complete. Laying in first layers of details.
↑ Phase 1 - rough foundation layout.
Posted Feb. 16, 2013: The below image is one of the reference photos I used for my painting of the galaxy M106.
Image credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team, R. Gendler. (Scroll down to follow the progression of the painting in process.)
M106 is a swirling, spewing, gobbling galaxy that hooked my attention upon first glance. I found the newly processed image while perusing Robert Gendler's gorgeous astronomy images on his site. It was just a coincindence that NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day featured that very image the next day: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130206.html . Once it hit public access, the image became an instant hot topic on the internet. And you can see why. I need not mention the beauty of this beast, but I can't help it, I must, it is glowing gorgeousness! This galaxy has a lot going on, around 80'000 light-years across, it's supermassive black hole has an overactive appetite and is devouring hordes of material. And then there's those bright, red hot, gaseous arms reaching out mis-aligned with the rest of the rotating disk. These are glowing hot hydrogen most likely heated by material that's falling into it's supermassive black hole. Astronomer Phil Plait posted an enjoyable detailed description of the dynamics happening in M106, link to Plait's post on SLATE.com below:
March, 3, 2103 - Below: A quick photo of completed painting. See in gallery.
Scroll down to see progression from start to current stage.
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Middle Stone Age Dwellers
Posted January 26, 2013: On the coastal cliffs of Mossel Bay, South Africa, evidence of human occupation dating as far back as 160,000 years ago has been discovered in 28 different archaeological sites. These caves systems are part of a beautiful outcropping peninsula called Pinnacle Point, where excavations have taken place since 2000, to date overseen by paleoanthropologist's, Curtis Marean. These sites have unearthed significant secrets of some of our earliest ancestors, perhaps the first people to adapt to living by the sea, sustaining their daily lives with shellfish, fish, seals, and other marine life. Artifacts from these sites have revealed that modern behavior might have taken place some 30,000 years early than previously believed!
Over the years my interests in anthropology and paleoanthropology have strangely affixed to my space interests. For me, the two subjects align to define one single journey, a long, complex journey that man has been engaged in for many thousands of years; a journey from Earth to the stars. I often think about our early ancestors and what they must have thought when looking up on the immense bejeweled territory of the night sky where the mighty presence of the Milky Way cast down the subtle glow of starlight. When did the ancient calling begin that set man's course to eventually journey off the planet? Perhaps the first cosmic whispers beckoned us on an ancient night so clear the stars seemed to pulse with life. From stone tools to rocket-ships, we fashion the history of our future. How far into the universe can we roam?
Below: Feb.1, 2013, painting complete. Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 36"
Below: Mid stage, a good start.
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Acrylic on canvas, 24" x 36" - SOLD
Posted April, 27, 2012
Artist note: The progression sampled below exemplifies how dramatically a spontaneous piece can change from start to finish. I had no real plans for the overall composition, I simply knew I wanted to tell a story of the steadfast determination it takes to pursue dreams, and I knew I wanted to tell that story through the wildness of spirited horses, the beauty of brilliant light and the power that fuels the freedom to dream. The only element that I intentionally planned was the one thing that was eventually removed, a light source at the top left of the canvas. Early on it became clear that this ball of light was too dominate, pushed viewing to the back of the scene and overwhelmed the main subject of the horses splashing through the starry landscape. By removing the dynamic light, the eye is drawn to the movement and horses in the forefront, and the imagination is free to roam beyond the canvas borders to whatever remarkable realm these steeds are running toward.
Spontaneous pieces like this one often develop in a method comparable to working with clay, a technique of "putting in" and "taking out" elements until a natural flow begins to takes shape. Once the subject is teased out of the abstract foundation, a painting can seem to take off on its own. I balance between spontaneity and personal influence over a composition and at times this process can feel similar to taking an expedition into a mysterious land, where one relies on intuitive wit to get through the journey, and finds themselves awed at the discovery of the unexpected along the way. It can be thrilling, joyous, exhausting, educational, disappointing, underestimated, astounding, blissful, consuming, instinctual, addictive, a harsh mentor, a stampede of gifts. And when such a painting is completed I hope to take my viewers with me, away from the tedium of daily routine, and into the exciting realms of the unknown where anything is possible.
Scroll down to see progression.
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Completed January 8, 2012 (Scroll down to see progression start to current phase.)
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Completed September 6, 2011. Scroll down to see progression series.
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The Inspiration: Hubble Space Telescope image - Orion Nebula M42
These stunning veils of color in this image of the Orion Nebula were produced by Hubble's special color filtering system that allow only particular wavelengths of light through to be recorded. In this way new aspects of astronomical objects can be seen that have never been seen before! The human eye cannot detect such subtle wave lengths of light even with powerful ground-based telescopes, but with Hubble's low orbit position beyond earth's dusty atmosphere and CCD technology, breathtaking details of astronomical objects are being realized.
What excites my desire to explore these images through my painting? It is not only the beauty of the photos but also the astounding information scientists are finding in Hubble's images.
To learn more go to: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/behind_the_pictures/meaning_of_color/index.php
Learn more about the Orion Nebula: http://hubblesite.org/search/?query=Orion+Nebula+M42&x=0&y=0
3/1/11 ↓ Finished painting 48" x 36" Acrylic on canvas - SOLD
Work In Progress↓
4/20/2010 ↑ The beginning stages of my painting of Orion Nebula.
5/12/2010 ↓ Mid stage.
5/18/2010 A Celestial Abstract: I often have several pieces in progress at the same time. Paintings such as this abstract are created during by my "free flow" moods and generate new techniques and concepts. It is an exercise that often prepares me for the works that require a more deliberate approach, such as referenced renderings like the Orion Nebula sampled above.
It is a mystery how this celestial flower will look when finished. There are no premeditated intentions and plenty of opportunity for spontaneous possibilities. That is the joy behind this technique of painting!
7/7/10 Completed painting "Celestial Lotus" 12" x 24" acrylic on canvas
What I learned from this child...story posted below.
One day while visiting a local park the mother of this beautiful child captured a timeless moment between her little boy and his best friend (see reference photo below). The father was so taken by the ethereal quality of the photo that he quietly commissioned this portrait and presented it to his surprised wife on Christmas day.
This commission holds a very special place in my heart. It represents family bond, simpler times and a sense of sanctuary. I was pleasantly reminded of what it is like to look at the world through the eyes of a child, it is captivating and magical. As I worked on the composition I kept wondering what do they see? I know what I see off in the distance, an ordinary landscape, shadows, light, grass, trees. But what does the child and his furry companion perceive in this scene? Does the sunlight dancing upon the grass or the animated shadows under the trees enchant them with wonderment? This child took me back in time and retaught me to look upon my world as if it were the first time I have seen anything like it, and it is magical and it is captivating and I am grateful for my renewed vision.
The parents were considerate enough to send the snapshot (above) - the painting framed and installed in their home - and yes, their wall really is that gorgeous warm color!