Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Painting Details: I Wish I Was A Mole In the Ground


On the left is my new painting "I Wish I Was a Mole in the Ground." (Click To Enlarge).

I thought I'd go into the details of this painting. I'm focusing on my Bluegrass Series which are paintings of traditional songs. On every song painting I've included the lyrics for the song, which are hand painted black letters on a painted sheet of white paper. The lettering itself is very time consumming but can easily be read on my 12" by 16" reproductions of the painting.

I decided to do a painting of Mole in the Ground mainly because I loved the image of a mole rooting the mountain down. I spend an average of 8 hours just planning the painting and finding suitable images. Sometimes I paint the exact image but usually I change them.

So I looked at the lyrics of several versions of the song. I use authentic verses from older versions and leave off verses that won't fit in my painting or don't really contribute to the song. So I decided to use the verse about the mole then I needed to have the girl, Tempy in the song. Of the many verses involving Tempy I thought the two main ones were:

My Tempy wants a nine-dollar shawl,
When I come o'er the hill with that twenty-dollar bill,
Gonna bring her that nine-dollar shawl.

Tempy. let your hair hang down,
Let your hair hang down, let your bangs curl ‘round,
Tempy, let your hair hang down.

Since I wanted to have Tempy I needed to figure an image in the mountains with a spring where the lizard (really a salamander) could be found. I found an image of a mountain waterfall with a spring from the NC mountains near where the song really originated. By making the water a little darker I brought out the waterfall and Tempy. I also made the sky dark and gray to fit in with the darker spring.

So after finding an authentic setting I needed to figure out what Tempy should be doing. She could be singing, wading in the water, standing, sitting or as I finally decided; laying on a large rock. If she was part of the landscape the whole focus of the painting wouldn't be on her. I decided not to include a shawl. Originally I had her holding a shawl on the rock with her hands. This detracted from her and wasn't important so I opted not to include the shawl. The lyrics say he is buying her a shawl but she doesn't have to have the shawl yet.

Next to the spring and the waterfall needed to be a grassy field where the mole could be burrowing. I decided to put the lyrics between the mole and Tempy to break up the scene. By doing this I could make the mole a bit bigger and still make him seem real.

After studying moles and mole hills I decided I'd show a mole digging a mole hill with different mole hills in the background. Instead of making the mole hills very small they would be slightly larger than possible and lead up to the mountain in the background which would be a giant mole hill.

The key was to make the mountain seem like a mountain and also look like a mole hill. In the western mountain ranges of the US some the mountains typically are brown. The mountains in NC are not brown but rock and trees. I decided I'd just draw a giant mole hill and make it look like a mountain. I made the mountain the same basic shape as the mole hill in the foreground.

The mole rooting the mountain down can easily be seen in the painting (look at the base of the mountain) but in the image above it's difficult to make out the mole. This is not the mole in the foreground. I'll try and get some close-ups made to show the mole rooting the giant mountain down.

The lizard in the song was a lizard in the spring or a salamander. I decided to put the salamander in a conspicuous place; on top of the rock in the center. I didn't want him too close to Tempy but close enough to hear her sing.

Now I had all the elements found in the four verses and I had also made a mountain out of a mole hill!

The painting was done on a 30" by 40" canvas with acrylic paint. It took about 10 days to complete working several hours every day.

So now you know the rest of the story,


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