The second painting in the Terrarium Series, measuring 24” x 34”, was inspired by Olivia’s sister, Sophia.
A quick sketch for placement. My original thought for this piece was to show a young girl that was perhaps too sheltered and protected and had almost outgrown her space. I wanted the tree to echo this idea with cramped roots and large branches.
Originally, I thought she might be standing in the jar, buried to her waist in the dirt. Then I realized that that seemed kinda gloomy, plus there wasn’t enough space, so I brought her legs out. In general, there are two basic themes to the Terrariums pieces: human children in pleasant environments surrounded by negative environmental issues and doll children in unpleasant situations surrounded by beauty.
Blocking in some color. I tend to start with the darker medium hue colors and build the lighter and darker colors from there. I wanted this piece to be a completely different palette from the first piece, “Blind Faith”.
My first thought for the clouds was to make them white and wispy. I knew I wanted the tree to work as a lid, but I didn’t know what shape I wanted, so I just started adding bunches of leaves.
I liked the idea of playing with pattern in the form of cast shadows on her skin and the tree, but I wasn’t sure how to make this work. At this point it just feels blotchy.
Bringing the pinks over the blue base in the sky is a nice way to make some variations of color that bounce between blue, pink and purple. The pink blobs inside the container were going to be lollypops. I kinda liked the idea of filling the jar with candy to echo the sugar sweet paint palette that was developing in the sky.
Layering up the leaves, still debating on the shape of the tree. The arched shape seemed to make sense, but... Changed my mind on the shadows on her skin, at least for now. It is easier to see the cocoon shape hanging from the tree. In the past, I have worked a lot with insect imagery and thought the cocoon might be a useful metaphor in this piece, but changed my mind. You will notice that only the doll terrariums have insects. I will talk more about that once I analyzed the next piece.
Candy canes and sugar drops started and I brought more personality to the figure. I also didn’t like the blah grass and thought a ring of rocks around the base would help convey the idea that she is trapped.
Some really nasty patterns added to the rocks. I think it was somewhere around this phase that I was starting to freak out that this piece was getting out of control. The elements were not working.
At this point, I also realized that the piece needed more depth and decided to bring some of the branches in front of the jar. I thought maybe it was the grass that was messing things up since it was supposed to be unpleasant outside of the jar, so I got rid of it and changed the pattern on the rocks. I also wanted to add something weaving in and out of the tree limbs to add some motion.
I am much happier with the rocks now and I realized that the candy was truly the problem. With all the terrarium pieces, I have debated what should go inside and outside and if it should always be natural elements. At this point, I am leaning towards sticking to the natural elements, but that may change. I also added the cool, drooping vines. I saw something like those a while ago, not sure where, but I liked the shapes they made and the strange pod forms dangling from them. Don’t worry, the ghastly yellow skin is just the underpainting.
As you can see here, I like to use lots of layers when making skin. I start with darker colors and layer on lighter ones, leaving some of the darker exposed for shadows. The objects in the trees are becoming more snake-like, which I like, but the tree still isn’t quite right.
More plants inside and I started to bring back the shadows on her skin. When this piece returns from the Indianapolis Art Center on April 20, 2008, I may add more plan life to the inside of the jar. At least more color. I also started stippling (using tiny dots) for the moss in the bottom of the jar.
The piece was getting close to being done, but the heavy, static tree was fighting for attention. I decided to Bonsai it with some blue. Ah, much better!
After the Bonsai surgery, I had to paint new swirls into the sky and unify it with the existing space. It is hard to tell with the digital image, but the sky has a glaze of Interference Blue paint that gives it a toxic glow. I love working with interference, metallic and now neon colors. I want to use them in a way that isn’t crafty or too psychedelic. In a recent critique, my style of painting was dubbed Psychedelic Art Nouveau, or as I have begun to called it, Nouveaudelia.
Details from the finished piece.
The finished painting. Check out items inspired by this painting in the STORE.