This is an exciting day for me. Today I’m starting actual easel work on a new, large format, commission painting that has been in the works for nearly a year.
Last summer, I submitted a few compositional sketches to the same client who commissioned ‘The Triumph of Daedalus over Fate and Futility’. He was interested in commissioning a companion painting, at the same 120×60 inch size, of Prometheus stealing ‘the fire of the gods’ to give to human kind.
As you can see, this idea started off pretty rough. Just quick gestural sketch. Over the past year, I’ve been refining the idea, working with multiple models, submitting drawing to the client, and building the panel for the painting. Here is the final composition drawing, to scale, and ready to transfer to the panel:
In this painting, the Titan Prometheus, Brother of Atlas, is shown on the right, carrying a flaming torch, looking out toward the viewer, and moving toward stairs that lead to the long decent to Earth from Olympus. Earth is shown in the background on the right side of the composition, in the darkness of night before Prometheus brings the light of wisdom, curiosity, creativity, and reason (the fire of the gods).
On the left side of the composition 5 muses follow Prometheus out of Olympus. The five muses represent five facets of the creative faculty that Prometheus is gifting to human kind…the actual fire of the gods, and that quality which makes human kind separate from the other living things on Earth…the masters of their own destiny, and free of the need for gods and superstition. From right to left: Muse 1 represents Philosophy, Reason, and Law. Muse 2 represents Astronomy, Cartography, and Navigation. Muse 3 represents Medicine and Biology. Muse 4 represents Mathematics, Physics, and Engineering. Muse 5 represents the creative arts.
In the background on the left is Olympus, shown at early evening.
More than just being an illustration of a story from Greek Mythology, this painting is about the beauty and wonder of the human mind and body…our capacity to understand the world around us, unlock its secrets, solve problems, and create new wonders, and be the only masters of our own destiny. It is about how reason, observation, science, and philosophy free us from the need for superstition, myth, and belief in the supernatural. It is a close to a religious painting as I will ever get.
Before I arrived at the final compositional drawing, I did multiple drawings of Prometheus and all five muses, their costumes and the props they carry to indicate what they represent. I played around with variations on the background. Here are a few of those preparatory drawings:
Now that all of those ideas have been pulled together into a final drawing, I am beginning the process of transferring that drawing onto the 120 x 60 inch aluminum composite panel that will be the support for the final painting.
I blew the drawing up to full scale, and printed it out in four quadrants in preparation for an oil transfer. This basically involves coating the back of each section of the drawing in a thin coat of Burnt Sienna oil paint, positioning it over the panel, and carefully tracing over the drawing. The end result is a perfect reproduction of the drawing in oil paint on the panel. You can read a wordy post about oil transfers and how awesome they are here.
These images show the process of performing the oil transfer on the first quadrant of the drawing.
Once the entire drawing is transferred to the panel and has had time to dry, I can start work on a grayscale under-painting of the entire composition to work out all of the values and the lighting.