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.

Waterfall Book 15

Moonlight Frog
Watercolor on acrylic-toned paper, 7″ x 5″

Most of this notebook so far has been graphite so it’s time for more experimenting. Something like watercolor might bleed through or ruin the paper, but I sealed the paper first using an acrylic mixture of clear gesso, gel medium, and red and yellow earth fluid acrylic paints. This provided a toned ground to work on and completely prevented any of the watercolor from affecting the other side of the pages, as well as making it easy to lift the watercolor. The only watercolor used was indigo.

Overall the approach seems to have potential, even though this try was a little messy and the acrylic has some uneven streaks of color. The idea for the picture is a last minute one, since I had a hard time thinking of something to make this time. It’s past midnight for me, so I missed the Wednesday posting goal by a little. Maybe next week I’ll make up for that with something special.

Star Gazing Between Cypress Trees

Night Sky Watercolor 8

While I was painting these night scenes of the sky obstructed by trees I started thinking about how conditions for doing something, like watching stars, are often not ideal. Then I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 11:4 “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” This is another poetic parallelism in the Bible where, in this case, the same idea is being repeated to present both cause and effect. Another way of saying it would be that if you always wait for what you think is the perfect opportunity then you’ll miss every opportunity. So what if a few trees are in the way? Can you still at least see some stars? So what if you don’t have the best painting studio? Can you still at least make a drawing?

In the last sketch I was actually trying to paint real stars from a photo I had taken. The positions aren’t completely accurate relative to each other, but they’re all real stars. The biggest one in that painting is Vega. The first painting is on proper watercolor paper, for a change.

Last Light

Last Light

Watercolor on regular printer paper, 3.75″ x 2.75″

I was about to try sketching a portrait in watercolor, but then I noticed the light outside was very dark and blue. It was after sunset but there was enough light to see the shapes of trees and the hills behind them, so I sketched that instead with indigo watercolor.

Even regular printer paper can be used for watercolor, though it absorbs the paint quickly and can’t be worked much before it starts to tear so you have to work faster and more deliberately. At the very least, it can be a very inexpensive way to sketch out ideas or test what colors will look like next to each other or practice brushstrokes. A lot of artists, including myself, say they feel more confident when working with cheaper paper because they aren’t as worried that they’ll make a mistake and waste their materials. When using printer paper I feel like I can try anything and not worry.

Moonrise

Moonrise

I went outside to try taking star photos and I noticed the moon looked interesting, so I took one photo of that with the same settings that I was going to try on stars- 4 second exposure at f/4.5 and ISO 800 with a 50mm lens. I got star photos too, but nothing interesting.

This is the view from my front door if I look toward the highway. That big tree is a huge oak that a lot of acorn woodpeckers like to drill holes into so they can stuff acorns into them. It’s called a granary tree when they do that, and they’re always trying to protect their store of acorns from squirrels and other birds.

Firefly Forest 2

Firefly Forest 2

Oil on canvas, 7″ x 5″

A moonlit forest with fireflies.

I painted over this a few times with different paints and I don’t remember everything that I used, but I know the white is zinc white (PW4, Daniel Smith), there was a greenish black mix I made with ultramarine, transparent yellow medium (PY128, Rembrandt), and I think quinacridone magenta (PR122, Daniel Smith), and some atrament black (PBk31, Mussini). There may have also been some viridian (PG18, Williamsburg) from a sample tube I have. The fireflies are dots of nickel titanate yellow (PY53, Daniel Smith).

There’s a little bit of glare from the camera, which kind of obscures the fireflies a little.