PART 1 - ALHAMBRA
I recently returned from a month-long trip to Spain where, among many other amazing places, I visited the Alhambra in Granada. It is a stunning world heritage site due to it's history and the vastness of artisan effort that went into creating the palace and grounds. It is here that the seed inspiration for two of my most recent paintings was found.
From the ubiquitous arabic text to the doors within doors within doors we are reminded of infinity there. The repetition of the devotional words reminds me of the impermanence of life and of our own need for reconciliation with our own mortality and the universe that awaits us all - we are all waiting for a higher power victorious (or at the least our mortality), each in our own way.
The city of Granada where the Alhambra sits is also magical, full of pedestrian alleyways, a winding river, and the rich perfume of woody incense. The Alhambra itself is perched on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is a paradise inside paradise.
But what has stayed with me from my experience there, unexpectedly, was the sound of water. As one travel blogger describes of the Alhambra, "water is the binding thread that ties everything together". The sound of running water embraces your senses throughout the palace and grounds, in every courtyard there is a fountain, and aqueducts follow your footsteps across gardens, stairs, and roads. It draws you into moments where nothing matters but the peace in that sound. I'm not sure if the architects of the Alhambra desired to elicit this response but it is what I felt and what I carried away.
PART 3: GOLD
The symbol of gold is Au, from the greek word aurum, which means glow of sunshine. The english word gold comes from the words gulb and ghel referring also to the color. It is the only metal of this color. The gold's characteristic yellow color is due to the arrangement of its electrons. When alloyed with other metals like silver and copper it has different colors, according to the percentages of the alloy. Gold has the highest corrosion resistance of all the metals and it is corroded only by a mixture of nitric and hydrocloric acid. Gold is a noble metal because it does not oxidize. The mentioned characteristics are enough to make a very useful and desired metal; thus, a very valuable one. (source)
I was invited to participate in a group art exhibition during the month of December, 2016 at Well Street Art Company. It is called the Gold Show, aka, Au: The Northern Element. It will be the shiniest thing in town, as 40 artists have been invited to submit artwork involving gold. In preparation for this show, I have boosted my supplies of gold leaf and paid special attention to gold leaf painting and gilded decorative technique in Spain, especially in the Prado.
PART 4: WATER IS LIFE
"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." ~ Jane Goodall
Background image of Gold Creek, Juneau. I spent years of my young life living on the edge of this creek, which flows out of Perseverance Valley, the site of a major gold mining operation in the early 1900s and where most of the city water has come from since 1959.
The next step was to remind myself of the properties of gold leaf and some historical methods of working with this tricky medium. I watched several YouTube videos on application techniques and read about gold leaf properties and gilding. Somehow I have accumulated 10 different types of gold and silver leaf and, not knowing how they differ, I made some test panels to find out.
I then prepared my canvas, a 2' x 3' board. Gold-ground is a technique where the background of the painting is created in gold leaf, which was introduced in mosaics in Early Christian art, and then used in icons and Western panel paintings until the late Middle Ages. The bole or background color I used for this painting is close in color to the terra cotta clay color originally used in this technique.