I’ve been working on a highly textured sort of “over the top” tree of life painting. It contains a lot of little details meant to evoke modern ideas about evolution and the origins of life. It also includes soft double helical motifs, some explicit and some that are just evocative references to helices and twined helices in the paint structure. Links to other posts on this work and the other work in the series are at the end of the post.
Here’s a late stage work in progress photo
The ribbon-like areas swirling up the tree trunk and in the branches were made using media in a pastry bag. The different nozzles used in cake decorating also make different sized and shaped lines when acrylic gel medium is used instead of whipped cream (use a separate set of tools for cakes – mixing and matching not advised). Heavy duty medium is solid enough to retain the ridges and ribbon shapes from the nozzles, and extruded shapes can be laid over in complex textures. The gel will even bridge raised features with some air underneath it instead of sinking down to touch the canvas. In this picture the gel is still only partly dried. Many of the milky white areas will dry transparent and tinted (keep on scrolling for the dry finished picture, and you can compare)
A close up of the gel structures:
To finish this, I wanted to add two ideas.
The first was a better and more bubbly transition between the background areas on the bottom and the thick translucent sky and branch region at the top. More small lenses and little retroreflective glass bubbles were added to accomplish this, and I also added coarse alumina raised circles to suggest cellular things. The alumina dries to a raised coarse rough sparkly black. Some of the alumina circles have a single 3mm acrylic retroreflective sphere embedded in them, which makes me think of primitive cellular nuclei (not all cells have ’em). Here’s a diffuse light shot of the finished painting, where you can see the added features. You can also see how the extruded media shapes dried.
The second idea was some suggestion of leaves. Evolutionary branches and trunks are well and good, but the life forms are all out in the leaves. There’s already a lot going on in the painting. How can leaves fit in without making the work too busy or obliterating too much of the movement and texture already present? I decided to use some of the retroreflective goodies I have on hand and create the eaves as a secret picture within a picture. They are practically invisible under well-behaved diffuse light. (They’re all over the painting in the picture above – can you see them?). When light hits them through a point source or small area source, they’ll light up right before the viewer’s shadow crosses them. Here they are all lit up at once
Other posts on the Tree of Life Series: