Archive for the ‘memento mori’ Category

Memento Mori MMXII – completed

May 22, 2012

OK, I have completed my Memento Mori painting.

I’m pretty satisfied with this but towards the end I just wanted to wrap it up and work on other projects! I started this in October 2011 so I’ve been working on it for seven months, off and on.

Here’s the finished painting:

Memento Mori MMXII

Memento Mori MMXII

I spent about 21 hours painting this, in many separate sessions. I also spent about 4 hours drawing / planning it and then another couple hours making the maquette model to figure out the lighting and doing additional studies with a skull model etc. I talk more about that in previous posts (below).

Here’s a detail view:

Memento Mori MMXII (detail)

Memento Mori MMXII (detail)

I think that “Memento Mori” will be a running theme for me for at least my next few projects…I usually work on a few paintings at once so right now I am planning my next one while I also redo some parts of my tragically flawed A Chaotic Nocturnal Reverie painting.

Happily I am also going right from finishing this onto another oil on wood panel project, the Robert Campin study I am working on. I really love painting something with an archaic feel onto smooth wood panel whilst listening to some Medieval music…quite lovely.

Here are my other posts on this painting:

1. Memento Mori: work-in-progress

2. Memento Mori: update 2

3. Memento-Mori: update 3


Memento Mori (update 3)

April 15, 2012

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



Memento Mori (update 2)

February 26, 2012

Although I haven’t been posting on here much lately, I have been doing a lot of art, especially sketching figures and learning stuff from a bunch of books that I’ve purchased over the past couple years. I’ll probably write about my favorite books later, but for now I just wanted to post an update for my memento mori painting. It’s looking like I’m going to have a bunch of pieces coming up with this theme, actually.

So here’s where I am at with this one:

Memento Mori work in progress Feb 25, 2012

Memento Mori work in progress Feb 25, 2012

I wasn’t happy with the diagrams of skulls I could find and so I ended up ordering a fairly realistic skull model. It’s made of plastic and is surprisingly heavy. I did a charcoal drawing of it and altered my painting a bit based on that. I’ll probably do another large skull study later and make it more accurate and realistic-looking.

Here’s the model skull I bought:


Memento Mori – work in progress

October 17, 2011

I just got back from a 3 week European vacation a week ago and I saw a ton of insane art over there that had me riled up to paint and draw and stuff. Then to top things off I spent a long time looking at which has SO many crazy works of art. The stained glass on the first page is one of the craziest things I have ever seen, especially given it’s age and the medium! Then after looking at a couple of Hans Memling’s pieces I instantly really wanted to do a skull in an alcove Memento Mori / Vanitas sort of thing. I’ve actually never painted a skull so that’s one reason I wanted to do it. I was also thinking it would be relatively easy and I think I could do a pretty good job on it, especially if I do it in monochrome. So I spent a few hours over a couple days planning and drawing directly onto an 11 x 14 inch wood panel and then started painting today. I spent about 2 1/2 hours today on this and am super excited about it.

I actually realized recently that it’s been about 6 months since I’ve painted! Yipes, that’s not how one gets better. I did do some drawing over the past months and I need more work on my drawing skills at this point anyway. In any case, I’m very excited about this project and have really been enjoying working on it, which wasn’t the case for a few recent projects 🙂

Oh the cherub at the top is grey because the pencil didn’t get locked in very well with my base coat of acrylic which was supposed to wash away the pencil too and prevent it from muddying up the oil paint, oh well. Later it should get covered by the raw umber I am using so it fits with the rest of the painting. That cherub was inspired by something I saw in Venice…I wanted to give a little glimmer of hope to the painting.