The Lovers Vl. Oil on wood panel, 14″x11″. Latin translation: Kelley Vandiver was here. This is part of my tarot card series and is originally based on the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait by Jan van Eyck. It depicts Jesus and Mary Magdalene as the lovers (one of the coolest conspiracy theories first seen in da Vinci’s Last Supper).
Mary and Elizabeth. Watercolor and gold leaf on paper. It measures 7″x7″. The Latin translation reads: “The essence of Heaven flooded into you”. Zacharias, the husband of Elizabeth was praying in the temple when he was visited by the Archangel Gabriel. We don’t know how old she was but it refers to her as barren and old.
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
— Luke 1:13–15
The Archangel then went to Galilee to inform Mary that she would become pregnant and give birth to Jesus. When Mary heard that her relative was “old” and pregnant, she went to visit her. This painting is that meeting between relatives where they are both astonished. Elizabeth gave birth to John that became John the Baptist. I am not really sure why I made them ducks but I have been enjoying the ducks in the duck pond at work.
Elijah. Watercolor and gold leaf on paper. 7″x7″. Latin translation: Wake up!!!!! Narrative paintings (paintings that tell a story) were done like this a long time ago and are unique in that the main character appears twice. He is asleep and also in the distance he is walking away after the angel wakes him up and feeds him. The inspiration for this painting once again comes from Hans Memling. Some of the funny things about this painting are that I put two of the Deathly Hallows in the painting (Dumbledore’s wand and the Resurrection Stone). The Invisibility Cloak might be there…we wouldn’t know, it would be invisible. As you know, the Deathly Hallows have been around a very long time.
I am always interested in process photos. I took photos at the end of each day and you might think this only took a couple of weeks to paint. No, I spent about two months on this project because it was so complicated. I made my friends promise that they would stop me before I painted another egg tempera painting because it takes so much time. Hopefully, you will understand why even with only these few photos.
In the first photo you see the MDF board that has been primed with Fluid Medium (VAE). The Vinyl Acetate Emulsion protects the painting from discoloration from contaminants in the MDF board. The second photo shows the drawing on a special gesso called Tempera Ground. It is a new product from Natural Pigments that doesn’t include rabbit skin glue (for animal lovers). The third photo shows the base coat of Tempera Ground for the stone as well as the base coat on the objects (I painted over the Tempera Ground in tinted acrylic gesso for the objects). The last photo shows the solid layers of gray egg tempera for the stone niche being put in.
In the first photo the niche is still under way. In the second photo, I am now happy with the shadows and I am ready to start splattering with a toothbrush. In the third photo, you can see all the splatters but the white dots in the shadow look life floating dust so I have to tone down the splatters in the shadows. The fourth photo shows the painting in egg tempera finished for now.
To cut down on the time, the objects were just painted in oil. In the first photo you see the chalice being started. I start and finish the painting in one layer in oil. In the second photo, I have finished the chalice and I am starting the corn snake. The third photo shows the finished snake and the start of the butterfly. The last photo shows the finished objects and the very dry looking egg tempera background.
To finish the painting, I sealed the egg tempera with an isolating layer and then glazed oil over the shadows. It takes weeks for the egg tempera to cure so I can apply the oil glazes. I am now waiting for everything to be completely dry so I can varnish, frame, and finally sell the painting.
Ace of Cups. Egg tempera with oil glazes on wood panel. It measures about 14″ x 11″. There is a lot to say about this painting. Aces are beginnings because they are the first or number one. Cups represent love and compassion and emotions. They hold things like you would hold things in your heart. They are also very feminine as they have a stylized shape of a woman’s uterus which is receptive like a cup. That is why Dan Brown, in his book “The Davinci Code”, brought up the theory that the search for the holy grail was actually the search for Mary Magdalene (the partner of Jesus) and her bloodline.
In my painting, I refer to a different Mary as the chalice or the Holy Grail…the Mother of God (Mary) which is what the Greek says in the corners of the painting. The snake is a common symbol in Christianity as the tempter Lucifer. However, in Hinduism, the snake, which is also called Kundalini, is the sacred life force that rests in the base chakra which is important for many reasons. It is the force that causes life when a woman gets pregnant and also when the time is ripe, the Kundalini or snake will rise up certain channels to the crown chakra and the goddess Kundalini will join with her lover Shiva, causing enlightenment. The butterfly appears as a symbol of rebirth and transformation (yes, I use that symbol a lot). The 20 sided die is the reference to God. The 20 sided die is used as a life counter in Dungeons and Dragons (yes, I am a total nerd). I added astrological symbols to show that life is a web and we are affected by the stars (a simple example is how the moon affects women and the tides). The astrological symbols also refer to elements like the center symbol of the circle with a dot in it is also the symbol for gold. The painting will be available for purchase in the near future.
I call it a hybrid because the background (niche) is egg tempera with oil glazes while the objects are painted in oil.
The Skull of St. Valentine. 7″x7″, watercolor on paper with 23.5K gold. Latin: You will die. I know I have painted a lot of skulls lately. In fact, this was the third time I painted this composition this year (long story). The original idea was to paint this in egg tempera, which I did, but it needed weeks to dry before I could glaze it with oil paint. While the first was drying, I corrected the composition by adding a couple of things and painted it again! While the second egg tempera painting was curing, I decided this would be a great addition to the Sacred Bird series. That’s basically how it all played out.
The painting was sparked by a photo of a painting by Hans Memling with a human skull in a niche. Not long after I was looking for information about Saint Valentine and saw the photo of his skull on display covered with dried flowers. I merged both ideas except used butterflies instead of flowers and a bird skull instead of human, of course. The Latin was on the painting of Memling’s.
Years ago I took an egg tempera class. It was a great class but I was not really into painting traditional icons. I was not only able to adapt the technique to my own style but I found a wonderful book by Koo Schadler, that helped me greatly. Koo’s technique is based on many old masters that were able to successfully blend egg tempera with oil painting. My painting is egg tempera with oil glazes.
I don’t normally use my egg tempera supplies mostly because it is so difficult and time consuming but after investing hundreds of dollars, I felt that it was time to try using them again. It really as been years.
The Latin is “you will die”, and was inspired by a Hans Memling painting of a human skull. I love the ruby “third eye” stone.