For once, there are several still-wrapped canvases, and even an unfinished painting in my studio, but I got a little distracted by an idea for a new work.
Japanese influence has been floating in and out of things right now: thanks in no small part to my husband’s obsession with all things Japanese literature. We also recently brought some gorgeous prints for our bedroom. I’m reading Beauty and Sadness, by Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata, a book which feels half-poetry, half-painting.
All of these subtle nuances from the East, as well as being captivated by David Attenborough’s Life of Plants, culminated in a new Cosmic Painting.
I started off a little differently that usual. I always start my paintings with a rough base coat of acrylic paint in sienna, but this time I added a couple of coats of black acrylic as the base for my space background. I don’t usually begin with such a dark layer, but I knew I wanted this piece to have lots of glow and contrast, so starting with black made sense.
To my pleasant surprise, the black allowed the first thinned layer of oil paint to blend beautifully, and I found painting this first cosmic layer super fast and easy. I used some dry brushes to soften and to create some depth.
It was important to find a focal point in this painting: which will ultimately by the flowers in the bottom left, but the space around it needed some drama, so I created a diagonal and vertical plane where the majority of the colour and life is contained. These colours will also play a crucial role later within the flowers themselves.
A second layer was added to the background, which allowed me to enhance the darks and to soften some of the brightest pink and blue areas, careful not to overdo it or to create too much ‘noise’ that will deter from the flowers.
Next was creating the stars. There are several ways you can do this. You can either paint each one individually, which is for me unbearably time-consuming, and definitely not worth the effort without a steady hand. Another option is to load a brush with a thinned mix of white, and then hit the back of the ferule with another brush to achieve the spatter effect. I’ve tried both of these in my past paintings, but have found my favourite technique to be the simplest.
Load the brush, point at the canvas and flick the bristles to spatter. Move closer or further from the canvas for varied sizes. The most important is to check your consistency on a test piece of canvas first: if your mix is too liquid then your ‘stars’ may drip and move instead of being circular blobs. You can either do this with the canvas laid flat, or up on the easel as I prefer to do.
This painting is a small yet significant departure for my Cosmic Nature series so far. I find it quite difficult to come up with a pleasing and interesting composition that features only the night sky: I love the scenes of nebulae and the simply stunning images from Hubble, but for me, they need life, they need biology that can be seen with the naked eye. I can see plenty of opportunity to incorporate these into some new pieces, and I’m also considering a series of mini-paintings along this same theme, so stay tuned!
Thanks for stopping by, and stay tuned for more updates on this piece!
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