Birth of a White Dwarf

TM8312 Birth of a White Dwarf 30x36 oil on panel

TM8312 Birth of a White Dwarf 30×36 oil on panel

The nativity is a classic European Renaissance subject for paintings, but easily as dramatic is the nativity brought to us by the Hubble Telescope images. The planetary nebula designated NGC 2440 is home to one of the hottest white dwarf stars. In this painting, I show the dwarf star (at center) as it ejects its shell of gas. Looking at the photos from Hubble, I couldn’t help thinking that this is our new nativity, including the “halo” framing the intense star, hence Birth of a White Dwarf.

TM8312 Birth of a White Dwarf - detail from center left

TM8312 Birth of a White Dwarf – detail from center left

TM8312 Birth of a White Dwarf - detail from center right

TM8312 Birth of a White Dwarf – detail from center right

Technical painting notes: I began the painting using techniques from monoprint – rolling on a layer of blue/green/black paint then wiping away lights and adding textures by pressing and blotting into the wet paint with crumpled plastic. When this layer was dry, I used thinly washed transparent and semi-transparent layers of oil glaze to develop the color. One compositional problem was how to avoid too much emphasis on the center. I manipulated the halo and introduced off-center bands of luminous gas to draw the viewer’s eye into and around the painting. I also introduced some bright stars showing through the gas to increase the sense of depth in the painting.

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