It’s probably a bit presumptuous for me to call anything I’m doing at this point in my recently revived art career, a project. At this point, it’s a bit silly to call what I’m doing a career, but whatever.
Just around the time I was finishing up Outside Lilooet, I woke up from a dream, with a clear idea of what my next painting would be. This was pretty much a first for me. In the past, I’ve always started with very little plan about where I was going with a painting. Even if I was painting to a specific landscape, I simply began with a horizon line or a bit of sky and let the clouds, colours and remembered feeling of the place take me somewhere. My older mountain landscapes are all basically a result of me painting my experiences of backpacking the the Canadian Rockies. I didn’t intend that they be themed, they were just all that inspired me at the time. The trip through Lilooet, had a similar impact and the resulting painting came about in the same way.
The dream I had was of a solar flare and an accompanying CME (coronal mass ejection) I woke up and knew that painting the Sun would fit exactly with what my style was developing into. But I’m not talking painting a round Sun that’s in the sky above some pastoral landscape. I’m talking about painting the Sun inspired by views that weren’t even possible 25 years ago.
A Little Background
NASA has 4 satellites staring at the Sun 24 hours a day, taking pictures and monitoring space weather. Images from the older satellite, SOHO (SOlar Heliospheric Observatory launched in 1995) were my first introduction to the unbelievable beauty, complexity and power of our star.
11 years after SOHO was launched, NASA launched a pair of satellites collectively known as STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) that orbit on opposite sides of the Sun from each other to monitor CME’s and how they interact with the Earth.
And finally, SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) which launched in 2010. The images from SDO provide the most detailed images of the surface of the Sun seen to date.
Thanks to these images, we now know that the Sun is incredibly dynamic. Dark sunspots the size of planets form and disappear. Granules the size of countries boil constantly like the devils teapot. Knots of super heated plasma are twisted by intense magnetic fields, occasionally snapping and throwing billions of tons of star stuff in to space. Keeping tabs on, and trying to understand these CMEs is the primary work of SOHO, STEREO & SDO. They also act as early warning systems to let us know when we are in a CME’s way.
The first work which I’ve called CME #1, is, in some ways very similar to my earlier mountain works. I didn’t have any specific idea of what I would paint, except that I knew it would be a CME. Of course, painting a CME isn’t like painting a mountain. They’re ephemeral except when captured by our telescopes and cameras.
The reaction I’ve been getting from it has been very positive. Interestingly, several people who have seen it have thought it to be inspired by Aboriginal art, and several people (including myself after a period away from it) see it as bird-like. This wasn’t intentional, but Sun-flame, bird-Phoenix has a nice symmetry, so I’m ok with that interpretation.
I didn’t plan to do a series of Sun paintings but as I was finishing up CME #1 in early March 2014, I had another idea which really excited me. I’ll write about that in part two