Back in June (has it been that long?) , I began a portrait of one of the sources of my artistic inspiration as an adult, Richard Dawkins.
I did not pick Prof. Dawkins because of The God Delusion, although I do think that is a tremendously important and well-written book. I picked Richard Dawkins mainly because of River Out of Eden, The Ancestor's Tale, and Unweaving the Rainbow.
River Out of Eden, as I've mentioned before, was the first book by Dawkins that I read. I was struck by how intelligently the armchair logic strung together, and how much sense it all made. The world could make sense, with the right mindset and tools to investigate. Even the mistakes along the way could be valuable. It is a beautifully written book, and there is more of the sublime in wondering about 'Mitochondrial Eve' than the Biblical Eve, in my opinion. It's a short but nourishing read, and if you are wondering about Dawkins' "voice" in his books and are feeling trepidation about The God Delusion, start here, and you will quickly find that there is nothing 'shrill' or 'strident' about his writing.
Back to the portrait. It has stalled somewhat for me at the moment. A while ago, I reported that is was in its Ugly Phase, which most of my paintings go through. I was trying out a new material to draw and paint on, and I am not happy with the result. Oil paints sometimes suffer from what is known as "sinking", when they absorb into the surface enough that the normally glossy oil becomes dull in some places, giving it a patchy look. There are retouching varnishes on the market that can fix this problem, but I feel I may have to abandon that painting and print out another copy of the drawing above to carry on from.
After reading an article in Art Scene International, featuring the stellar Donato Giancola, I tried a few tips. Drew out the portrait as you see above, and then painted a clear gesso primer over top so that if I felt it was not going well, or I accidentally gave Richard Dawkins a huge handlebar moustache, I could use a small bit of solvent and scrape back the painting to see the original drawing underneath.
Scraping it back to the see the drawing underneath didn't really work. *sigh*
So, at least I have the scan. I am currently working on another piece that is occupying a lot of my attention (I'll be sure to crow about it if it works out), and I am trying something new. I drew the piece out on my favourite Strathmore Bristol vellum finish, scanned it, and printed the piece (with heightened contrast) onto canvasette paper (aka canvas paper). Now if I mess it up, the drawing still exists. Much better.
Richard Dawkins' books on evolution contain so much beauty and wonder in them that I know I will attempt this portrait again very soon. Besides, there are other scientists and sources of inspiration I'd like to paint as my own little egotistical tributes. Hmm, I can already think of a diptych companion to Dawkins...perhaps Sagan...