I’ve been playing with a few more ideas the past week – so far the best is a ghostly phoenix rising up from a giant black hole. Here’s the photo that inspired the sketch (made by the federal government (NASA) and thus not subject to copyright):
This offered some wonderful possibilities. The phoenix could rise out of the blue cone of light above the black hole, and thematically it would be perfect, since a black hole is the ultimate symbol of death. (A black hole exerts such a strong gravitational pull that nothing escapes it – not even light.) The black hole could also be a symbol of rebirth – some people have speculated that it might be an entry-point to another universe. Of course, since nothing survives the trip into/out of a black hole, we’ll never know.
So I tried some rough sketches, of which this is my favorite:
Here the phoenix rises out of the cone of light around the black hole, and stretches its ghostly wings towards a galaxy just visible in the top right corner. A small space probe observes it from the bottom right corner.
What I like about the composition:
- The lines of the phoenix have tremendous drama – I can practically feel it rising up out of the void.
- The black hole (once it’s rendered more completely) provides a great launching pad for the phoenix but is tucked back enough into the bottom left corner that the phoenix still dominates.
- Having something in the foreground (in this case, the space probe) gives a sense of depth and scale that would otherwise be missing. This phoenix is the size of a solar system (at least); having a small man-made object in the foreground gives a sense of just how tiny we are in a vast universe.
Things I don’t like:
- Focal point in this version is the black hole, as it’s the area of highest contrast. I’ll need to fix that by adding interest to the phoenix head. I think the black hole should be an important element, but not dominate.
- Something about the proportions and cropping of the photo feels wrong, though I haven’t yet put my finger on what.
- Still not certain what goes in the bottom right. I want something in the foreground to create depth and give a sense of scale; the space probe is the best so far. I tried a planet, and found that it was difficult to render the planet at the scale I wanted without creating unpleasant tangents (places where two elements are just barely touching) with the black hole. I tried a person, but people are way too interesting; it drew attention away from the rest of the composition. Spaceship didn’t work because it’s really hard to make just the front third of a spaceship look like a spaceship. Space probe seemed to work best, but I welcome more ideas!
This piece still has composition problems, but conceptually I like it, so I’ll be developing it further in the next week or so. Plan is to weave it with highlights of real gold thread in the phoenix, and maybe even add some fiber optic cable to make parts of the composition glow.
I might also add some beads. In which case, I’d surely need help. Thankfully, Fritz is ever available to assist….here is a photo of him helping my mom with her beading project, while she was visiting.