The ancient Greeks saw and creatively thought about so much of the natural world, one can’t help but be impressed with their results. Of course there was only so much they could see – the rest was left to us. In the spirit of (playfully) filling in the gaps, I present to you a new painting with speculative constellations, a developing spiral galaxy, and one big black vortex for your enjoyment. Do you see the constellations? What would you name them? Enjoy.
Technical painting notes: I chose to work on a birch plywood, alkyd-primed panel because the smooth, hard surface would facilitate the monoprint techniques used to start the image, and also because I wanted to include sharply detailed fine line work and pin-prick stars. The image began by rolling on a very thin layer of blue/black oil paint, then taking a scrap of plastic bag (touched with paint thinner) and wiping in the grand gesture of the vortex. I then proceeded to use the plastic and some paper towels to blot and wipe the surrounding areas, with the goal of lightening the tones for later glazing. It felt much like wiping an etched plate. I then dripped solvent from a brush onto the panel and blotted with Visa paper towels. Standing back and looking at the results, I felt I should add some spatters of colored blue and white stars at this stage, then leave it all to dry for a few days.
Returning to the dry painting, I brushed on several layers of transparent blue and green glazes, added more stars, and began to think about which star clusters could be mapped as constellations. As soon as the glazes dried, I started painting the lines with my smallest brush. Once these dried, I added more red/violet and warm green glazes, let them dry, then layered in more stars. Some of the stars were accentuated by dabbing paint (the same color as the star) with a splayed brush over the star, thereby softening the hard edges and allowing the star to “breathe” or twinkle. I used dark blue glazes to deepen the tonal value of the vortex.