TM8315 While Passing the Magellanic Cloud 20×36 oil on panel
The Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy neighboring our own Milky Way, is both mysterious and beautiful. With its luminous glowing gases, stars, and bands of dark dust it just begs to be painted. I like to imagine circling through and around it, taking in the views from different perspectives. Thanks to pictures from the Hubble Telescope, I have a starting point. Thank you NASA. On with the journey!
TM8315 While Passing the Magellanic Cloud – detail from center right
Technical painting notes – While Passing the Magellanic Cloud is a somewhat complicated painting. It was developed using monoprint techniques and many glazes, all techniques described in some of my other cosmos posts. The band of dark dust passing across the entire lower portion of the painting was primarily achieved using a palette knife and a very soft wash brush. A mixture of dark blue-violet oil paint was mixed with Liquin Impasto medium, then applied loosely with a palette knife. While it was wet, I dragged the color with additional standard Liquin medium using a soft wash brush and a light touch.
TM8313 Orchid Nebula 24×18 oil on panel
Is it a reflection nebula? or an orchid? Forms follow the laws of physics, whether on earth or beyond our atmosphere. Looking at some of the Hubble photographs, a familiar subject can suddenly appear . In this case, the gases thrown off by a new white dwarf star seem to describe the form and color of an orchid. Enjoy!
TM8313 Orchid Nebula – detail from center left
TM8313 Orchid Nebula – detail from upper right
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 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.
TM8164 From the Fringe of Certainty 36×36 oil on panel
This expansive view deep into the night sky, with its reflection nebula, clusters of stars, and possible constellations, is also a look into the deeper recesses of the mind. How did it evolve? The painting began with an imaginary nebula – From the Fringe of Certainty – and remained just that for several months. I knew it wanted to be more, and pondered the problem of where the painting should go – what could I add to deepen the sense of discovery. Then I realized that as scientists were studying the universe beyond the earth, so were they studying the universe within the human mind. I saw a diagram of synaptic neural connections and saw the relationship between that diagram and the way we diagram constellations. So… I mapped some of the connections between the stars in the painting, and added the pattern of neuron connection (left side of painting). The result is more satisfying, and speaks of discoveries on many scales – every discovery “out there” is also a discovery that will affect our consciousness and sense of being. The Fringe of Certainty gained a broader meaning. Details below. Enjoy!
TM8164 From the Fringe of Certainty – detail from left side with constellations in front of reflection nebula, mapping of neuron connections
TM8164 Detail of right side, with constellations
TM8164 Detail of lower left and mid left, with diagram of neural connections
TM8164 From the Fringe of Certainty 36x36 oil on panel
What do we know and how do we know it? Our perceptions are guided by our senses, by what we can study and intuit, and by what we can imagine. Nature always seems to be saying “whatever you can imagine, I can trump.” The Hubble Space Telescope only proves the point. The images of reflection nebulas, colliding galaxies, and exploding stars are more beautiful than anything one could imagine, opening new worlds of possibility for artists. In the spirit of the possible, I bring you a new painting inspired by what the Hubble “saw.” Enjoy!
Technical painting notes – From the Fringe of Certainty features a significant proportion of dark, luminous blue blacks. To achieve such a deep color and keep it luminous, a white primer was used. Dozens of layers of transparent glaze were brushed on, in colors concentrating on the transparent pigments of indigo, ultramarine, dioxazine violet, thalo blue, Prussian green, and quinacridone violet. It seems counterintutive, but transparent pigments can achieve deeper tones than opaque pigments, and with greater brilliance. With so much cool color, a hint of red violet and red orange were needed for balance – hence the inclusion of red tones in the upper right of the nebula and in some of the stars.
To view additional smaller cosmos paintings, click on the Portfolio Cosmos Oils page in the column to the right
The right title for a painting can be as much a part of the creative process as the actual painting. Of course the painting has to be successful and meaningful visually, but a good title can enlarge the context, frame the meaning, or add a playful note to experiencing the artwork. When I started the group of watercolors “Migration Series,” I was influenced by new images of space coming from the Hubble Telescope. Many of the early titles came from observed scientific phenomena. As the series developed, I started to take liberties. If scientists could name nebulas, why not me? These two watercolors reflect both the serious and impish sides of imagination.
TM8075 Migration Series - On the Way to Who Knows Where 22x30 watercolor, iridescent watercolor, ink, and pencil
TM6645 Migration Series - The Hope Nebula 22x30 watercolor, ink, and pencil
TM6399 Migration Series - Passing by the Ring Nebula 22x30 watercolor
You’ll see it here first! The new portfolio page of watercolors is up and ready for viewing! The paintings are inspired, in part, by the Hubble Telescope photographs and by my own imaginings on a theme of migration (for are we not all travellers through this life?). Technically, the paintings all started out as watercolors, but most of them have some ink and pencil work as well. Do visit the page regularly, as I will be uploading additional paintings over the next few weeks. Enjoy.