1833 Leonid Meteor Storm

Leonid meteor shower in 1833
Mixed media on bristol board, 6″ x 10.5″

The scene of 1833 shown here is a copy of an engraving by Adolf Vollmy. Estimates ranged from a few tens of thousands of meteors per hour over a hundred thousand per hour. One of the quotes I read from eyewitnesses said “never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth.”

My own church (Seventh-day Adventist) believes that event to have been the fulfillment of what Jesus said in Matthew 24:29, “and the stars shall fall from heaven,” (excerpt) as one of the signs that His second coming is drawing near. The symbolism here becomes apparent when considering that the point of origin for the Leonids is the constellation Leo, the lion, and specifically from the asterism called the Sickle, which is a group of stars that forms a part of Leo. Jesus is referred to in the Bible as the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” and is said to return with a sickle in His hand to reap the harvest of the Earth. The sky that night was so thick with meteors that it was obvious to everyone they were radiating out from the sickle, even if seen from different geographic locations, and thus astronomy learned that meteors are indeed in space and not just an atmospheric phenomenon as people thought before.

Before that, in the same verse, it’s stated that “immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light…” which we believe was fulfilled in the dark day of 1780 (Wikipedia link). The tribulation referred to would be the persecution of Protestants, which was greatly declining from 1724 onward.

I first started this by shading some general shapes with a stick of water-soluble graphite. Then I painted over that with a transparent mix of clear acrylic gesso and an acrylic medium, which wetted the graphite and gave a silvery dark grey base to build on top of. The acrylic mediums also sealed the graphite from smudging further and provided a textured surface to draw on top of. I started working a little with black and white charcoal, but eventually settled on just using various mixes of zinc or titanium white with acrylic mediums to build up transparent layers of white. For areas that needed to be darkened again I either repeated the first step with the graphite or shaved off pieces of graphite to be mixed with acrylic medium to make a dark paint.

If you have any questions on any of this, feel free to ask.

8 thoughts on “1833 Leonid Meteor Storm

  1. This is beautiful, very well put together and I love your use of mixed media, I had never heard of this artist, and have now been googling meteors, I love space and rocks, I might just get a metal detector, all because of your blog post. I love it, thank you for sharing.

  2. Beautiful painting! I read your process and it answers most of the questions I just asked you about your baby robin post. I’ll put water-soluble graphite, clear acrylic gesso and clear acrylic medium on my list of art supplies to try out.

    1. Thanks 🙂
      I don’t remember where I got them, but I use a set of Pacific Arc graphite sticks- 8B, 10B, 12B. I don’t notice much or any difference between them. It looks like they’re on Amazon, but right now the price is really high. Maybe it was at Hobby Lobby or Michaels? There’s other water soluble graphite out there in normal pencil form, but these are nice for covering large areas fast.

  3. Hi Josh, I enjoy your work and have nominated you for the Liebster Award. The Liebster Award is a wonderful way to get to know some WP bloggers whose work we’d like to encourage others to see — If you wish to accept, please visit my blog tomorrow, Sunday 19june2016 and check out the Creativity + Inspiration blogpost. Cheeri-pip! janina 😀

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