Mining a Creative Vein

January 16th, 2014 / No Comments »

A while ago I began working on a painting of an immense open pit mine.  My idea was to portray a deep gorge terraced with roadways leading to the bottom.  This pit would be alive with activity. Mining equipment would be shown drilling, blasting, and fracking into the rock.  Cranes would hoist supplies along the cliff face.  Pipelines would snake their way to the upper rim, leading to a thicket of smokestacks and refineries.  I wanted the scene to feel so vast that it would resemble a bunch of ants scurrying around.

I began blocking in the composition as I saw it in my mind . . .


Unfortunately my initial attempt felt too cartoonish.  It didn’t have the sense of scale I was after.


At this point I began to recognize the need to clarify things  before going too much further.

I did a large preparatory drawing to figure out an arrangement of roads & machinery, as well as the overall lighting.

Study for Fool's Gold

The resulting drawing made me wish I had started this as a MUCH larger painting.  I figured it would need to be over 10 feet high in order to convey the amount of detail I envisioned.  I wanted the viewer to become enveloped by the scale of the scene.

I decided to stop working on the painting and began working on something else for a while.  After a few months, however, I decided to take a look at my unfinished painting.  I figured that, since I was already invested this far with the piece, I should at least try to finish it.  I could always attempt a larger version later on.


I  reworked the scene to emulate my preparatory drawing . . .


As reference I had been looking at the work of the artist Thomas Moran.   I liked how he could create drama in his work by varying the light & shadow in his landscapes.  I wished to do this as well, so I attempted to paint areas of sunlight along the walls of the gorge.


Here’s a detailed view . . .


I call this painting “Fool’s Gold”.  The term derives from a natural mineral called pyrite.  It is an iron sulfide, and superficially, it resembles gold.  People would sometimes find a deposit of pyrite and mistakenly think they had struck it rich.

My painting portrays the folly of man.  Our society consumes raw materials at an alarming rate.  Left unchecked, I feel this will come to an unwelcome conclusion. We seem to be in an orgiastic race, digging ever deeper, without awareness of how this unsustainable rate of consumption is, in effect, digging our own grave.

Fool's Gold

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