PAINTING LUMEN 9

PAINTING LUMEN 9

LUMEN 9 originated from an idea that I brought home with me from the hospital in May of the year 2000. When the idea came to me, the only thing I had to draw on was an advisory pamphlet for patients, so I used the back of it for a rough sketch of the composition. I carried the idea in my head for years afterwards and didn’t get around to executing the painting until ten years later.

Contrary to my usual practice I began this one without doing any color sketches or other preliminary work, other than the rough sketch I had brought home from the hospital. I started to draw the shapes on to the canvas with a charcoal stick. The canvas was already toned a light blue-grey color.

lumen9-progress04
CHARCOAL APPLICATION
CHARCOAL SKETCH
CHARCOAL SKETCH

To make the transfer of the shapes more accurate I enlarged the image on my computer and printed a copy at the same size as the canvas. In some of these photos, you can see the printout, clamped to a piece of cardboard for me to use as my “model”.

After drawing in the major shapes I sprayed fixatif on it to keep the lines from smearing while I painted over it.
I masked off the small door/window at the lower right and loosely painted a darker blue gray tone to separate the inner and outer spaces.

Below is a photo of the painting with the blown up reference sketch, after I darkened the inner space and pulled off the masking tape.

LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS

Once I got a good amount of color on to the canvas I often make adjustments by drawing directly onto the surface with a charcoal or pastel pencil. Pastel pencils are especially handy because you can draw on the painting surface with a color which fits in the color scheme you are working in and the paint going over the lines blends in seamlessly with the pastel.

SEAWALL & LUMEN 9
SEAWALL & LUMEN 9
SEAWALL & LUMEN 9
SEAWALL & LUMEN 9

At this stage “Seawall”and the Lumen painting are both about half done. I would spend a day working on the oil painting, then while that layer dried I would be working on the Lumen painting, which was in acrylics.

I thought I was close to finished, but after looking at the Lumen painting a while I decided I didn’t like the regularity of the rectangular shapes in the background. I later painted them out and replaced them with a more disorganized and erratic complex of lines instead.

LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
lumen9-progress30
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS

I’m holding a curved aluminum ruler made for tailors and clothes designers, which come in three different shapes. I find them more useful than ship’s curves or plastic French curves…and there were a lot of curves to draw in this painting!

LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS

As in all my Lumen works, the essential metaphor is that of a figure making his or her way past great obstacles towards an opening, a source of light. Initially, I painted in a boy on the top of the structure but decided I didn’t like either; both the pose and the placement of the figure fell short of my expectations. After some reflection, I painted him out.

lumen9-figuresketch
FIGURE SKETCH
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS
LUMEN 9 IN PROGRESS

On a marvelous morning in May of this year, I walked into my studio and saw in my mind’s eye exactly how the figure should be. After another day or two of painting it was finally completed.

LUMEN 9 – DETAIL
LUMEN 9 – DETAIL
lumen9
LUMEN 9

EDITOR’S NOTE: Prints of LUMEN 9 are now available in our shop. These are the first reproductions in the LUMEN series.


  • Wow, Michael. This is stunning. I cannot help but think about who created this, where it leads, what stories this makeshift tunnel towards the light might tell. Thank you so much for sharing the process.

    I imagine some fortunate patron will own this before May 2014 rolls around, but if it remains in your possession and if you have plans to return to Spectrum Fantastic Art Live (fingers crossed), it would be a treat to see this one up close.

  • Kirk Howland

    Michael, I really find the process you show very insightful. Another great image of your work.

  • dennis mcgill

    it is good to see that you are still working . so many of my favorite people have gone beyond the “vale” . wishing you and yours a better New Year. thank you for sending these updates, all my best to you, dennis

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