Friday, May 8, 2015

Egg #13- Pompeii, etched and dyed batik style goose egg

     One of the first images I remember as a child, looking through a National Geographic, was of the remains of a domesticated dog who had succumbed to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the city of Pompeii. This image haunted me for years. The dog belonged to a family, and was chained to the floor, and still had the brass collar around it's neck. It was surmised that the dog suffocated to death. I had wondered about the dog's final moments, even as a child, but didn't have the language or the skill to convey that as a young artist.
          In 2007, I was able to chaperone a High School trip to Italy and France with my Mother and my sister. We spent a few days touring the Italian countryside and cities. On the list of places we  traveled was to the city of Pompeii. I can tell you that the electrifying moment of stepping onto the mosaic floor and walking through the ruins felt eerie and familiar at the same time.
     Here are photos that I took of the interior of a market've heard of the color Pompeii red? This is the earth color that adorns a large number wall frescoes... and of course, the exquisite tiled floors...
And this one...
     When I got back to the states, I decided to use these reference photos for a painting, and had made up my mind to paint the Dog of Pompeii as I had imagined him, with his animal sixth sense, conveying to the viewer that you were witnessing the moments before the eruption. I had the references, and after years of watercolor painting, felt I had the language and skill to attempt to tell his story. Here is part of the painting:
     You will notice that the frescoes are re-imagined by this artist as to what they might have looked like. I painted decorative urns and other pleasing objects that I thought might have adorned a stately room. This is where the egg design comes in and part of the image is revisited. So, thank you for your patience, here we go...
     The goose egg is dyed with PUSA Asparagus green, and then licorice. This gives me a nice, dense black. I draw with a silver quilter's pencil and divide the egg in eighths. I draw a middle vertical border that is 1/2" wide. It is flanked by two 1/8" smaller borders (I use a measuring tape), and draw to 1/4" borders beyond that, and one more set of 1/8 borders again. I use the cross or bulls eye in the middle of the oval medallion and snap down a 1/4" square grid. This helps me center my urn design and keep the drawing symmetrical. I use a good light source, as the black wax is harder to see on the black background of the egg. I use a medium tip and outline the border in wax. I switch to a fine kitska and wax over the outline and decorations on the urn. I do this front and back. I also fill in the large areas that will remain black.
     After I check all my line work, I acid etch back to the white of the egg with a weak solution of hydrochloric acid, in this case, "Acid Magic" (using proper protective gear and ventilation). I gently scrub off the color and part of the shell that has been etched away with a Mr. Clean Magic eraser. I rinse and neutralize the acid by brushing on a slurry of baking soda and water and gently polishing the egg. I rinse again, and a quick 5-10 second dip in vinegar. I let the egg rest for 30 minutes.
     I start hand painting in the dyes with a paint brush. I use UGS scarlet for the middle border and wax over it. The smaller border gets brushed with the scarlet, and shaded on one side of each of those sections with UGS red. Those sections are then waxed over. I also do parts of the urn as well with the addition of UGS pumpkin.

     Here is the side banding...
     Another view of the shading...
     After all is waxed, now comes the fun part... I wanted to convey the antiquity of the image by creating cracks over the surface of the egg and the design, as if it had survived the eruption in it's fragile, quiet state. Next, the egg gets a quick dip in PUSA coal.
     Look at how bright that red is glowing...another part of the image that I wanted to convey, hot and ashen, as if the urn and egg would disintegrate at the slightest touch of the hand. Now to wax in the "crackle" lines.
     I use my extra fine kitska and start drawing in jagged, angular lines. This is actually harder than it may seem. It was important to have the crack lines look as random as possible, without having a clear repeating pattern.
     Next, I lightly etch back with vinegar to the white of the egg again, and then rinse and pat dry. I let the egg rest for another 30 minutes. I then shade the urn with PUSA dolphin gray, charcoal, and UGS scarlet and pumpkin. I then wax over the entire urn and do the same thing for the other side of the egg.
     I then brush PUSA dolphin gray and charcoal around the rim of the oval, and while still wet, run a very small brush around the very edge with UGS scarlet. This gives the illusion of glowing cinders.
     I wax over the entire surface of the egg, and it is ready to be unwaxed.
     The front view of the egg.

     A view of the side banding. Simple, but bold. Glowing, hot red and ashen at the same time.
     A quarter turn of the egg to see both front and side...I love how the shading around the rim came out.
     And here is the egg with a small conceptual painting of the design worked up prior to the actual creation of the egg. The painting was also done in a resist style, but that my friends, is another story for another blog...thank you for letting me share this creation with you. I don't think that I've seen the last of this inspiration...

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