I did finally finish the underpainting, and after a few days the paint had dried sufficiently that the effect of the reflective glare off the brushstrokes was reduced enough for me to get a pretty good photo of it. More importantly, the overall composition seemed to be working really well, and I decided it was time to add some color.
I started with the ‘sky’ using a layer of transparent glazes, thin layers of paint the allow the underpainting to show through, to build up the oranges, purples, and pinks, deepen the blacks, and refine the shapes of the dust clouds in the Milky Way. Into the glaze layers, I blended increasingly opaque paint to gradually build up the light from the dense clusters of stars toward the galactic center and the halo effects around the brightest stars, and then finally drop in the pinpoints of pure titanium white for the individual stars. I also took advantage of the wet glaze layers to blend in the atmospheric effect around the edge of the Earth. I didn’t bother including an image of the painting at this point because the glaze layers were so shiny that is was impossible to get a good photo.
Next I spent a few days working on the Earth. I took a somewhat similar approach, laying down a very thin, blue glaze layer and then gradually building up the basic cloud patters with opaque whites and grays. Then I let the glaze dry enough that I could work in thicker opaque whites and blue-grays to drop in the finer details and add highlights where the sun would be catching the leading edge of the cloud-forms.
Next I turned my attention to the moon and the space station which ended up being almost identical to paint from a technical standpoint. In both cases, I stared with a fairly dark, burnt umber (a very warm, transparent brown…almost a dark orange) and black glaze layer that dropped the overall value and warmed up the grays of the underpainting while allowing the details and textures to show through. Then I used layers of opaque cool and warm grays and white to refine the details and textures, and punch up the highlights on the sun-lit surfaces. I also added a few details to the shadow side of both objects, very subtle in the case of the moon, to account for the light being reflected off of the Earth. To the station, I also added a touch of color to the AXIOM text, and the hint of a few windows lit from inside.
Now, in reality, the incredibly bright sunlight being reflected off of the earth would completely overpower any details that might be visible on the shadow side of the moon, and it would definitely obscure not only the Milky Way but also most, if not all, of the stars. But what I am after here is not a perfect visual recreation of what this scene would really look like, but a visual representation of what I think this scene would feel like.
Once everything ‘outside’ was finished, I started work on the interior of the station/ship structure in the foreground. As I mentioned in the first post, the space the figure is floating in is heavily based on the viewing cupola on the International Space Station. I made it much, much larger, elongated the trapezoidal windows around the sides, and drastically reduced the complexity. The actual cupola is riddled with wires, anchor points, actuators for shields for the windows to block direct sunlight, straps, handholds, temperature sensors, electronic gear of every imaginable type, and labels on absolutely everything. It’s actually pretty awesome. It’s cluttered, but very purposeful. When I first started this painting, I intended to include a lot more of these little details, but once the underpainting was finished, and increasingly as I finished the color in the milky way and the earth, I decided I wanted the focus to be on the astronaut and on the view out the window of the place she started and the infinite possibility she was heading toward. In that same pursuit of creating a visual representation of the way the scene should feel, I decided to include the bare minimum of detail in the station interior that would give it some credibility, but otherwise let it recede into the background. With everything now in color except the astronaut herself, I think that was definitely the right decision.
Here are a few images of the painting at this point…with everything basically finished except the figure. The glossy glaze layers have dried enough to be less distracting, but I still had to find a balance between that drop-off of light from top to bottom and the reflections off of the brush strokes. The result is a little extra glare in the sky and cupola walls toward the top of the painting, and a loss of detail toward the bottom, but it’s about as good an image as I will be able to get until the painting is finished.
First a shot of the painting on the easel for lighting context:
And a cropped shot of the full painting with the levels adjusted just a little in Photoshop to try and mitigate for the various deficiencies in the photo:
And finally, a combination image showing the painting more from the side and a detail shot.