A light on inspiration…

October 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Dragonfly Light” 2012, Mixed media on canvas.

Acrylic, with multiple color interference and gels, plus luminescent white and ultraviolet pigments on 48″x 24″ canvas.

This project was a result of trying to find a subject to explore that inspired me, outside of my commercial art endeavors.

My mom, Charlotte Oxley, with my brother Doug in her lap and me with my snazzy cowboy outfit and hat. Circa… my early lizard hunting days.

Remembering as a kid, we’d hunt for lizards and salamanders as pets. My brother and I would frequent a marshy area on the other side of a wood behind my childhood home in Wakefield Village, part of the southwest suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas. The area now is a community sports complex, but in the 60’s it was what we called the “gravel pit”, made up of that, dirt and small pine trees. It was pretty much ravaged by erosion and there were areas that water would pool in. In these ponds, me and my younger brother, would hunt for salamanders and other aquatic amphibians and reptiles (except snakes!). There always seemed to be an abundance of beautifully colored, iridescent dragonflies. I assume we tried to catch them but they where way too fast. So we’d have to be content with just observing them.

In the early 2000’s, my wife bought a beautiful Tiffany-style Dragonfly Lamp right before we moved into our new house. The previous homeowners had left some garden items that had dragonfly motifs. Before long we had even more dragonfly stained glass lamps and all sorts of items with the insect shape on them… I was being surrounded by dragonflies! Even though I’ve not attempted stained glass work, I started sketching thumbnail drawings of atypical dragonfly compositions. One of those thumbnails ended up as a stained glass panel detail in a photo-illustration giclee print I did of a home in Eureka Springs, Ark.

During that time, an old high school, Facebook friend and I had wrote about dragonfly symbolism – a symbol of the afterlife. She spoke of a connection between her and her late mother manifesting, during her mom’s funeral service, as a dragonfly perching on her hand and then her father’s hand. The discussion kind of rekindled the idea of a dragonfly as a possible art subject. So when I received a 2′ x 4′ canvas as a Christmas gift from my sister, I started playing around with the idea of a dragonfly composition again but as a painting.

This painting will hopefully be the first in a theme series I’m contemplating called “Wild Life – forms”. Fanciful images of creatures from our world that include mysterious patterns and exaggerated colors and textures that seem a bit more than ‘natural’.

“Dragonfly Light” is so named because throughout the whole composition I’ve explored ways of rendering different types of light. My original memories of that iridescent dragonfly are rendered with blue, green, gold & silver interference additives to the acrylic paint in the body and the wings. Then there’s how I rendered light passing through ‘transparent’ elements like the eye of the insect onto the bladed leaves of the water plant creating a light convergence on it. Light passing though the stylized patterned wings onto those same leaves. Even light passing through the colored, glass-like body of the dragonfly. Also reflected light, as on the underside of the leaves.

I’ve always been fascinated with the way that light works on, through and under water. The reflections on the surface of the “pond” in the background and how surface light gives way to light patterns on the submerged pond rocks in the mid ground.

“IT Came To Conquer The World!” looking dragonfly eyes!

In painting, drawing, etc., there’s always seems to be some point where there’s an indecision about which way to go. With this project it was how to render the dragonfly eyes. initially I did an exaggerated multi-faceted eye that looked too much like something out of an old sci-fi movie. I decided to move on to other areas and contemplate other approaches. And at the “last-minute” I had an epiphany of including a ‘fish-eye’ reflected image of myself as a young boy in the dragonfly’s eyes trying to get a better look at it. Bring this story full circle.

But the exploration of different types of light doesn’t end there. In my teen years I enjoyed working in florescent paint medium (or “black light” paint). In the past few years I’ve played around with the medium in a kind of “Peter Pan” homage to my youth. I had the idea to include some of these musings into this piece to not only heighten the brilliance of the color, but to also create an alternate view of the composition under ultraviolet light.

“DragonFly Light” as it appears under an ultraviolet (“black”) light.

So as you can see, I’ve thrown the spectrum “kitchen sink” at this project!


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