It's In the Details

Today I am sharing some images of details in my finished painting of the church I wrote about earlier.  The tall steeple is visible from all directions, and close to a state highway through town. I wrote that the ringing of the church bell sounded as if it is a real bell rather than an electronic version, and that it was likely that someone climbed part of the way into the steeple to pull a rope to ring it. I since learned that the bell is at least rung electronically, but the church member who gave me that detail didn’t know if the sound is an actual church bell or generated electronically. I’m happy not knowing, leaving me to imagine my preference of having an actual bell tolling.

I had already painted the clocks on the steeple with the clock hands at 11:50 PM when it occurred to me that perhaps Midnight Mass culminates rather than starts at midnight. Since the painting was to have people walking toward the entrance of the church for Mass, it was a detail I needed to clarify to avoid the illogic of people arriving at Mass 50 minutes late.

This painting was to include glowing light shining from the stained glass windows, reflecting color on the snow outside. I’ve done this before, but this time it proved to be a particular challenge. I am no expert on stained glass windows, but I do know that the leading in them eventually loosens and the windows sag and can even break apart. One way to halt this is to add some sort of braces on one or both sides of old windows. Sometimes another layer of glass or perhaps even plexiglass is added to support the window, protect it from weathering, as well as adding an insulating layer. When I took my camera to the church, intending to photograph the details of the windows, I found that the outside covering had clouded and I could see no details at all! I went inside, thinking I would take photographs from the inside out, and then draw and paint the details in reverse. I was hampered even in this when I found some windows had been covered on the inside as well. I took photos of the windows I could, and did my best to replicate the style and details even though I was never able to see them very clearly either in person or in the pictures I took.

When I mentioned to my client that I intended to show people walking toward the church entrances for Mass, he asked if I would dress them in vintage 1950’s clothing. The figures would be small enough in comparison to the church that few details would show. But a bit of research on the computer gave me some general ideas of the shapes of winter coats, hats, and hem lengths. All women would surely have worn dresses to church in the 1950’s. I would have liked to add seams to their stockings, but it would have been a detail too small to be effective. I liked the feeling of movement and direction of people walking toward the inviting warmth and comfort of the church, with the subtle shadows pointing toward the open doors.

I can't help but share that this painting sold at a benefit auction last weekend for a winning bid of $10,000 – an astounding figure.  I’m pleased, and especially happy this painting of the old church will ultimately find it’s way “home” and be permanently displayed in the new building when it is completed.