Acrylic with glass surplus lenses and texture gels on canvas, 36 × 36 inches, 1.5 inches deep.  Ready to hang unframed

autotroph - Copy

Acrylic with glass surplus lenses and texture gels on canvas, 36 × 36 inches, 1.5 inches deep.






A modern Biology themed tree of life created using acrylic and mixed media, with subtle DNA double helical patterns used throughout the painting and retroreflective glass leaves.

From a series using tree symbols and “tree of life” ideas to convey complex ecological order in the natural and manmade world. This is a fairly literal tree, with “tree of life” references. The chaotic swirling complexity where the branches reach for the sky references the huge number of possibilities for life. The ground surrounding the tree trunk is full of glass bubbles (magnifying and demagnifying lenses), referencing all of the chemical prebiotic possibilities that were sampled, incorporated or discarded on the way to DNA based life (RNA world, anyone?). The readily recognizable symbol for the DNA double helix is subtly incorporated throughout the tree structure.

Here it is in the retroreflective condition:

autotroph retroreflective

The painting was created by washing thin acrylic over a primed canvas to create colored regions. A swirling pattern was painted onto the colored regions using a series of brushed (big and broad to small). The brushwork was concentrated near the top of the painting and was used to bring cooler tones and blues into the sky area.


The brushed paint patterns were allowed to dry until tacky, but not completely hard, and then the easel was tilted so the painting was flat like a table top. Alternating swirls of Golden soft gel, self-leveling gel, and tar gel media were applied to the canvas. Allowing the underpainting to partially dry keeps the painted pattern in place, while still allowing the media layer to lift and move some color.

Blue, white and iron oxide black were splashed across the media in thin lines. The paint was then drawn through the regions of media with various rakes loose swirled strokes. This was repeated a few times. This creates a progression of duiffusion and mixing effects as the paint contacts different combinations of media. Raking mixes the media and paint less than brushing, and a natural layering results from the different densities of paint and media.


When the paint had diffused into the media for a few minutes, the painting was tilted to roughly 15 degree from flat, to get the color and transparent media gently moving from the top towards the bottom of the painting.

When the poured and dripped layer was dry to the touch, a series of raised textured lines was applied using heavy gel (gloss) extruded through different nozzles in a pastry bag. Some color was added, but the paint to media ratio was low.
When the extruded part dried, lenses were glued into the background and onto areas of the tree trunk, Pumice gel was added to the bottom, to help cement the lenses in place. Tiny retroreflective spheres were added in leaf patterns throughout the painting, wherever appropriate. These are invisible except under certain light conditions.


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