Memento Mori (update 3)

One of the books I bought recently is “Imaginative Realism” by James Gurney and he has some stuff in there about making clay maquettes (scale models) to help with painting. On this Memento Mori project I wasn’t sure how the alcove should look so initially I just painted it based on my understandings of light and shadow. It didn’t look very realistic to me though so I decided to make a tiny clay model of the alcove and skull and light it in a similar fashion to the painting. It really didn’t take that long and it made a big difference…below you can see the earlier version and what it looks like now. The skull is the same but look at the alcove it is resting in:


Alcove changes from maquette

Alcove changes from maquette

Really this is something that I have been working up to – taking more time and effort to figure the piece out properly. Earlier I’ve copped out and just guessed but often it’s not that time-consuming to do a little research and experimentation…it can really have a dramatic effect on the art.

On this painting, I had also “oiled it out” too much and the surface was really glossy and weird to paint on. I wanted to radically alter the alcove’s shadows and lighting but the paint was acting weird since the surface was too oily (FYI this is on smooth wood panel). It’s also normally tough anyway to lighten parts that are too dark – it ends up chalky, even without the surface being too oily. I ended up breaking out some really fine-grain sandpaper and sanding away much of the alcove, then repainting it…that did the trick.

Here’s where this painting is at now (below). I just did the bottom row of text today which I painted in freehand by painting backwards, upside down etc to ensure all the spacing was correct. The background was dry, so every time I messed up (which was often) I could just wipe it off and redo it. I’ll be adding to the text later to make it look etched into the stone. I watched (or rather listened to) the film “Die Monster Die” while I worked on it. The title of that film doesn’t give any suggestion that it’s actually based on “The Colour Out of Space” by HP Lovecraft, an author who is a favorite and who has influenced me greatly. I usually “watch” something or listen to music that fits with the art I am making…much of the time I have been painting this piece I have been listening to the Cadfael score for its medieval feel.

OK, back to talking about the painting…when I first planned this I had two rows of text that were as large as the top row but since just the MEMENTO*MORI took me a really long time with tons of repainting I decided to simplify the lower line of text. I think a lot about about digital versus traditional art when I paint text…this takes a digital artist 2 seconds with minimal effort if they just type out a pre-made font but when you really need to do it from scratch it takes quite a lot of doing! I saw an Albrecht Durer masterpiece in Germany and felt a little better when I could see a faint haze around part of his lettering that made me realize that even genius masters like him were human and fallible when doing text on their paintings.


Memento Mori WIP 04-15-2012

Memento Mori WIP 04-15-2012



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