You can see from the email below that this project really began over 4 years ago, as a mural for her bathroom wall. The reason it's taken so long to arrive at a final piece is that I've been bobbing up and down in the fickle seas of commercial art, sometimes up to my neck in painting work but increasingly adrift on desert islands of unemployment.
It was during one of these dry periods that my sister first emailed me in 2013, offering me a leg up in the nicest possible way.
Over the years we'd had a chance to talk about the mural on a number of occasions and my sisters thoughts had gradually moved on from the traditional notions of the honeysuckle trellis to alien landscapes with fungal growths and weird insects. She is a lover of sci-fi and fantasy novels, and various visions had emerged such as the amazing world of Pandora in the movie Avatar with it's floating rocks and dense forests. This direction was way more interesting for both of us and really seemed more appropriate for the person I know my sister to be.
Many of those ideas are themselves very reminiscent of artwork we had both loved in our childhood. Artist/Designers Roger and Martyn Dean were one such inspiration, producing wonderfully organic and mysterious worlds in their illustrations for album covers and book jackets in the 70's and 80's. They also worked on sculptural projects, creating props and concept pieces for concerts and exhibitions. One project I'm often reminded of was an organic shaped 'pod' house. This now got me musing.
Originally the idea was to paint directly onto the bathroom wall, but I knew having a framed picture would make it possible to re-hang if my sister ever moved (something she had thought about). I also knew it would require something more interesting than a rectangular shape.
I'd recently been producing vector graphics for machine cutting shapes used in sculptural reliefs, and I started thinking I could design an interesting frame for a window onto the fantastic landscape that we were talking about more and more.
My sister had been supplying me with large number of images via Pinterest boards that she found interesting, many of which I used as reference inspiration. Pinterest is a great way of exploring and sharing visual ideas via the interwebs.
I emailed the initial designs to my sister and she loved the visualization of this new direction.
But things were to take a turn in a slightly different direction once more.
Following a pause when I was doing a few other odd jobs for new clients, I started having dialogue with family and the subject of my sisters (Ahem)th birthday came up. Suddenly her painting seemed like the obvious answer to everyone's problem of what to do as a present for this milestone event.
This presented a number of issues. The painting now had to become a secret from my sister, a game of pretending (cruelly - sorry sis) that I'd somehow lost interest and had other priorities. We were still working out new ideas she really wanted to include, like hidden creatures in the rocks and foliage, but I had to get ever more vague about when I was going to get started.
Once I got painting in April the game of deception was further complicated by various ups and downs we've both been experiencing in our lives. There were times when this 'life stuff' might have been easier if I'd been able to tell her how the painting was developing, but such is the price of surprise. I think it was worth it in the end.
Anyway, by the time we were all on holiday this summer and she was nagging me about it again I'd already finished the painting. When she came down to visit us a few weeks later I had to spirit it into a spare room and hide it under a duvet behind a mysteriously closed door. She's not the easiest person to hide things from.
Even up to the last minute we were having to play this game. I realized two weeks before her birthday party that the finished painting just wasn't going to fit into our car. I didn't want to trust the transport of this important piece to a courier service so called on the assistance of my brother -in-law to come down and drive it to be stored at the venue for the party. He had to be 'man of mystery' in his excuses as to why he needed to borrow her car for the day (thanks bro).
A few details about the final production.
The vectors for the frame were drawn up in Adobe Illustrator and passed on to the CNC routers to be cut in MDF. The cutting machines tool follows the exact paths of the vector lines. It's an incredibly precise production method that takes all of the pain out of making interesting shapes like this.
I opted to paint in acrylic as it allowed me to work in many layers without long pauses waiting for drying.
Many details were added into the base composition during the painting. My sister has a love of hidden or camouflaged animals and objects in pictures. There are therefore a number of animals and creatures hidden throughout the painting, including the dragon mentioned in the title.
A lot more detail was worked into the foliage in the foreground as well as other little additions that evolved naturally during the process of painting.
The work took just over a month in total, all done in a makeshift studio in the front room of our house (sadly I'm not getting enough commissions at the moment to afford a studio space).
One marvelous quality an original painting like this has is that it changes, sometimes dramatically, with different lighting conditions. Painting this as I did coming out of the winter into spring and summer, these changes were striking at times.
A printed image has a flat and homogeneous surface, and while it does change to a certain degree in various lighting conditions, it's a world away from the interactions of light through the layers of impasto and varnishes of a painting.
My sister's going to have fun watching this piece change from day to day, even hour to hour.
If you're interested in commissioning a painting or other type of artwork then drop me a line via the contact form on the main site. Always happy to see how I can help make your creative ideas come to life.