Jay and I spent one very excited morning designing her painting as we sat at table dwarfed by my sketchbook at one of my favorite coffee shops in downtown Asheville, the World Coffee Cafe on Battery Park road. Right across the street from Zapow!. It had been well over a month since she had first told me her vision and I had restrained from sketching anything about it. It was very important to me that Jay be part of the process and we see the painting form together. Nevertheless I did spend hours just thinking about how the vision would become a single frame on 2 dimensions.
When she had first told me the story and the path of the vision I almost immediately saw this layout, the bridge dead center, the mountain behind it, fire to the left, tree to the right. I didn’t know the name of the guide at the time but since there were 3 distinct spots I wanted to bring attention to I figured I could put her in all 3 places at once. The story of fire, with fires and embers rising up I could see them easily turn to clouds, and wouldn’t it be neat to have a cloud covered mountain and the cycle of water where the waterfall would appear as if it were coming from the clouds? From there there was a river created by the waterfall and a river running under a bridge.
I described to Jay my idea, a landscape with fire like a sunrise on one side bring in the new day on the other side of a Chinese inspired mountain. That’s when she told me the guide’s name was 3 Moons, It was perfect to put a moon above her head to illustrate her name and to have the moon in phases to represent the cycle of the vision. I asked Jay to tell me what part of the painting she wanted to highlight, she chose the moment at the tree and I was happy to take a figure that was dead center and make it the non-focal point. I love the subtlety of 3 Moons as if she is emerging from the mountain itself. Jay also helped me determine that the New Moon would be the greeting moon as the journey begins and the Full Moon would be at the completion of the journey.
Once I was allowed to sketch things out I could see the river from the waterfall flowing through the root of the tree like a filter and then flow under the bridge. To me it added more symbolism to the act of washing away negativity till it’s literally water under the bridge.
Jay loved the idea of the 3 moons and the sparkles of waterfall spray easily transformed into stars under the canopy of the tree. This also made an easy focal point and a sacred haven for the two characters to be under. I love trying to subtly connect things, 3 Moons braid into the river, the waterfall like it could pour into her hands, the sparks to clouds, etc. The sketching helped make all the details more clear.
As we admired our handywork we talked about the cycle of things and the elements. I drew out the composition of the painting in a vertical circle to see how closely they might feed each other, fire, the mountain representing earth, tree, but what was the water? The clouds? The waterfall? We almost had a perfect cycle of water, from evaporation to condensation to flowing through the river but I didn’t have a way to connect it to the fire. “A culvert!” I said as I drew one little curve to go beneath the fire so that the water flows beneath it. And with that the water element flowed through the other elements. All we were missing was metal and with one more excited scribble I added iron trusses to the bridge and we had a complete painting with the moons orbiting through the center.
During the painting process I found a beautiful arched bridge which the refection made a circle, and as extra surprises Jay and her boyfriend both picked out a face peaking out beside the waterfall. Jay lovingly attributed this to a shyer guide that she hadn’t told me about and Jay also loves to stand on the root of trees with her bare feet. When she had talked about sitting at the base of a tree she had always seen a grassier area. I am so happy Jay invited me to paint this vision. It was so beautiful and wonderful to bring it to life. I hope you like it.
Do you have any thoughts on the elements and the cycle of things? I haven’t tried drawing any connections or making any shapes.