On a fine fall day last year I got a call from my friend, Jack Irons. I had just finished my 100 paintings in 100 days event, and he had been an enthusiastic participant throughout those three months. During the Narathon I had been exploring new subject matter and I was enchanted with painting the moon, starry night skies, and the Milky Way. Jack saw these night-scene paintings of mine while he was in the midst of finishing his new solo album, Dream of Luminous Blue. So he called me up to see if I would like to do a painting to illustrate each of his new songs, and I said “yes, I would love to!” We talked for a good hour, he told me about the music, what his creative process had been, and told me stories from his life that rounded out the feeling and the background to his new music. For the next several months I worked on these six paintings. As I sketched the design for each painting I listened to the track that I was illustrating. It was such a rich well to draw from; the rhythm and melody guiding my inspiration, the music spoke volumes to me. Throughout this project I was thrilled to be working on it. The series unfolded quite naturally, when I finished one painting, I already had the vision for the next. This was such a rewarding project to be a part of.
The vision - A bright full moon in a blue night sky, stylized clouds encircle the moon, and stars ornament the sky.
The process - I wanted the moon to be very bright, luminous! I made multiple layers of blue wash, and placed stars to accent the moon. I particularly enjoyed the cloud patterns, and creating shapes that would complement the round sphere of the moon.
The vision-Imagine you are in a plane high up in the atmosphere, below you is a landscape of clouds illustrating the wind movement, and lit up by the sun. You are traveling through atmosphere, vaporous architectures surround you.
The process-This was a tricky painting, getting my vision onto paper. I used many colors, and my brush continually moved around the painting, adding bits of color and shading to this spot, then that spot. I knew when it was done, and stopped before I applied too much paint, wanting to keep it fresh and dreamlike.
The vision – This song title was like a riddle or koan for me. How do you illustrate a subtle realm? What does it look like? Is there form? As I ruminated about this I searched for photos of star nurseries taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. These images inspired me, they took my breath away, and they triggered my creativity. I was ready to design this painting.
The process - While painting this scene I was transported to this place. I painted in the basic shapes lightly, and then added more colors, layer upon layer. I added hundreds of stars in multiple colors to light up this realm. Although no defined shapes were planned I found hints of figures, whale tails, moons, and birds had emerged through the play of shapes and colors.
The vision - I listened to this song many times, pondering how to illustrate it. An elephant trumpets in the song, punctuating the urgency of the times for the animals and the whole planet. I pictured a large African elephant facing the viewer directly with great strength and feeling, while holding a flower in a gesture of offering or peace.
The process - The elephant required a careful hand, with an ever deepening shading to portray the textures and shadows, while preserving the highlights of his form. I painted the eyes early on as they are the window to his being, and they had to be alive and looking towards you. I painted the night sky full of stars, with a deep red at the horizon, as the sun has just set. The silhouettes of the three trees added a grounded landscape for the elephant. This was the final painting in the series, and I spent a lot of time with this one.
The vision - Saturn from an angle so that it looks like it is rising up to the top of the paper. An imaginative scene in blues, purples, and yellows, with multiple moons and many stars.
The process - After several half starts I figured out the design for this painting. Saturn was created with careful subtle applications of paint, with the movement of the planet in mind. I kept the background soft and multi-colored with multiple wash layers, then added spots of more intense color, then painted the stars.
The vision - You are traveling through the universe, and passing through the outer rings of red and orange towards the blue. The blue field is vast, and lit up in multiple shades. In the center of the blue is a dark field with a five-pointed star in the middle of it. The star is distant and the light draws you towards it.
The process - I placed the rings off center and painted the outer red/orange/yellow rings to suggest fire as well as light.I painted the blue field with multiple colors of in lines moving inwards to suggest the iris of an eye. I used a lot of saturated color in the field surrounding the star to give the sense of vast depth. At the end I placed many stars floating around the outer rings.
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