The last painting to be completed in the “Seven Words” series was the scene when Jesus was being placed on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” This was actually the first of the seven utterances recorded in the gospel accounts of the crucifixion. For various reasons I did not paint the seven paintings in the order of the spoken phrases. My first painting, which was completed in April 2010, depicted the final recorded words of Christ as He was dying, “Into Thy Hands I Commit My Spirit.”
I started working on the finished drawings of “Father, forgive them” (let us refer to it as painting #1) and “Woman, behold your son” (painting #3) by late October 2013. By October 2014, I was just about finished with painting #3 and was continuing my drawing on the final composition for painting #1. In mid-November I finished painting #3 and by mid December the drawing was complete for painting #1. My self imposed deadline for finishing the project and having it ready to hang in Smithfield, VA (the first venue) was Good Friday of 2015 … four months away. Little did I know the final painting would require over 240 hours at the easel.
With a full family life including our daughter and her family having just moved into the area from Colorado, it was near impossible to meet the Good Friday deadline. The Smithfield gallery owner was very flexible and allowed for a schedule shift.
As I progressed with painting #1 I found there were additional composition issues I needed to resolve. This required several breaks from painting and a return to the drawing pad to figure out the best solution. Finally, on May 11, 2015, after many hours of drawing and painting (including two weeks of painting nothing but rocks), the final painting was finished. After eight exhilarating, frustrating and exciting years of work the entire project was completed … it was finished.
As I indicated in my previous blog, I always prefer to paint from life. When we use live models, the painting process is much more challenging than when using photos but the results are far superior. Many aspects of the painting process are enhanced ~ including proper lighting and its effects, the accuracy of color in the lit areas as well as the shadows, perspective, lack of distortion and much more. However, the results are worth the hurdles you must navigate throughout the painting process. When painting “I Thirst” every effort was made to paint from life for the above stated reasons.
In order to gain the proper perspective, when painting the soldier (Greg) who was giving Christ the sour wine, I needed to physically elevate my painting platform. I stacked model platforms on top of each other (total of 3 feet) and then elevated the easel to the same level. In order to stabilize the easel, I ran a rope from the easel to an eyelet in the ceiling keeping the easel secure throughout the painting process. There were times when I had to add additional height to my perspective. For this purpose I used a step stool, which gave me an additional 2½ feet.
Greg was a great model. I would ask him to hold the illustrated pose for 20-minute sessions. He is in great shape physically enabling him to hold the pose with very little coaching. By the way, that chain mail he was wearing was not only period correct but also weighed over 30 pounds. When painting from life, having a good model is key … thanks Greg!
Once the excitement of the photo shoot wore off, it was time to get to work in the studio. Preliminary thumbnail sketches had provided a road map for the photo shoot but now I had some definite images to work from. During the entire project I would have preferred to paint using live models but that was not always possible. Soon after the photo shoot Dan, the model, and his wife relocated out of the country for a 2 year job. To all classical pureists I apologize but quite often I was forced to work from, dare I say it … photos.
Moving on, I now produced a drawing of the composition. Having completed this initial drawing, I moved to the full size drawing. Because the final painting of”It is Finished,” would measure 38″x48″, I needed large paper to work on. I used 53″ Widetone Seamless Background Photo Paper made by Savage for this job. These different steps are important in working out the compositional problems that are intrinsic to any painting.
Once the full size drawing was completed, I did a color sketch (not shown) to work out the color composition. Next I stretched and toned the canvas to be used for the final painting. Forming a grid on the drawing by stretching sewing thread and a charcoal grid on the canvas, I transferred the image to the canvas. The photos below record the painting process to the artwork’s completion.
It has been a long road but this month, May 2015, I finished a major project that started in December 2006 after hearing Handel’s “Messiah” at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. That experience and subsequent discussions with a close friend were the catalysts that inspired me to tackle my current project.
The new project is entitled “The Seven Last Words of Christ.” In this project I endeavor to communicate the pain, suffering, love and compassion Jesus displayed as he sacrificed Himself for the sins of all mankind. I believe that Jesus Christ is the most holy Son of the living God and as such, He did not have to endure the suffering and humiliation of the Roman crucifixion. He could have at any moment brought this drama to an end, called legions of angels down from heaven condemning His torturers or even destroyed them with His breath. But He chose to endure the suffering and death completing the Father’s perfect plan of redemption for all who would believe.
In the summer of 2009, after contemplating and developing numerous ideas as well as producing many sketches, I was ready to do a photo shoot. I constructed two full size crosses, produced numerous period correct outfits, did research, produced “reel blood”, secured a location and gathered many models. We did two days of shooting and after hundreds of photos and much videotaping, I was ready to start the project in earnest.