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.

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.

Night Sky

Night Sky

Oil on canvas, 5″ x 7″

This is my favorite constellation. Maybe that’s because it’s the only one I can find on my own without help, but it’s still my favorite. Do you recognize it?

Originally I had painted a shooting star too, but then I realized it was hitting him in the crotch. Whoops~

All of the stars I painted are real stars from my book on constellations, though I might be slightly off with the placement of each one relative to the others. The top left star is Betelgeuse and the bright one at the bottom right is Rigel.

The black that I used for this is one I made myself using Iron Oxide Black 306 Bluish from Kremer Pigments. It seems like a good black to use if I were to ever paint something with a Zorn palette.

Firefly Forest

Firefly Forest

Oil on canvas, 5″ x 7″

Another experiment, this time with painting a night scene. I don’t remember all of the paints that I used, but this is the result of having various new paints on my palette that I was mixing to see how they would look and then wanting to use them on a painting so they wouldn’t be wasted. I mixed them all together into one blue color. I think it was mostly ultramarine violet and viridian, both from M Graham.

When I scanned this I did another experiment because with so much dark paint the light from the scanner was reflecting off every thread in the canvas it was hard to see the painting.

Firefly Forest Process

On the left is the original scan after the size was reduced. You can barely see the painting through all the glare. In the middle I flipped the painting upside down and scanned it again. It looks about the same, but the glare was on the other side of each thread. I then aligned the two scans, each on a separate layer, and set the top layer to 50% opacity. Lastly, in the right image, I made a new levels adjustment layer above both of those to adjust the light levels. The glare disappeared, the details were preserved, and the colors closely match the real painting, so it was a complete success.