June 24, 2011

Mark T. Smith - Chariots of Apollo

Artist Mark T. Smith was generous enough to share his process for creating one of his beautiful and complex paintings. Below is a video of the process as well Mark's thorough step by step explanation:

"After much thought I decided to go in a mythological direction in terms of the content - something that could be discussed on two separate levels. The first would be an academic/artistic/metaphorical level and the other level would be more personal. The reasoning behind this decision was that I assume that you will be entertaining in your home - when someone asks what the piece is about, you can answer according to the relationship that you have with that specific individual. As an aside, I often find that pieces of artwork with deeper content can act as a gauge for the guest you are speaking with - how much or how little they see in the piece can tell you a great deal about the person. (Or whether they even notice it at all!).

The starting point for this piece was the story of the Chariot of the Sun. This was only a starting point, but some of the imagery is rooted in that story. The myth of Apollo’s chariot is about an estranged son (Phaethon) meeting his father, the god Apollo for the first time. Apollo granted his son a wish and the son chooses to pilot Apollo’s chariot across the sky. Apollo’s chariot is the Sun and this trip across the sky is the daylight that morals depend on for everything, food, light, etc. Apollo cautions and begs the son to make another wish, the son refuses and the his son is killed trying to pilot the Chariot of Sun. Zeus steps in to save the world, Apollo’s son is killed in the process. The story is about family relations, the danger of the loss of humility, and the responsibility of great individuals. I chose the story for these reasons, but also for other reasons: which will become clearer in the description of my sketch.

Regarding the sketch, this is a first draft. The final sketch will be a very tight contour line drawing with most every detail. Although, things do change in the final painting to accommodate the composition and color balance – the changes are usually very minor.

We shall start at the center of the composition and work our way towards the edges. In the center of the composition is a figure, a bull that represents the masculine in all humanity. This figure is held in a glowing sphere of light that is floating free in the composition by long wings. This figure represents independence, and self-governance. From this figure a swath of light fires from its eyes – across the entire right side of the composition. This figure has achieved a status within the universe of the canvas and has vision that exceeds the surrounds, traveling beyond the known, into areas and worlds unknown. This represents the enlightened, thinking being and the mastery of its surroundings. In short the figure is god-like - Zeus. Below this figure is another figure, based on Atlas. This figure holds the entire composition in balance with its great strength. This figure represents all the “behind the scenes” assistance that is required to operate in the Pantheon of the god’s realm. Behind the Atlas figure is a pyramid. The pyramid represents empire  - personal or national depending on the overall context of the viewer’s frame of reference. The pyramid also represents achievement, both in science/technology and also in the evolution of society as a whole. Above these figures floating high in the composition is the Palace of the Sun. This structure represents the home. The Palace is surrounded by dense vegetation and has the Sun shining over it at all times. Starting behind the figure in the center of the composition a group of horses run across the sky heading out in both directions. These horses are the horses that power Apollo’s Chariot of the Sun – instead of moving in one direction, they move in both directions, pulling the main figure up to the Palace of the Sun. These horses will have wings and look like they are ablaze in their final form. On either side of the Atlas figure there are representations of both water and fire and four trees. (2 on each side). The four sisters mourned Phaethon’s death for so long that they became petrified right where they stood. The four trees represent them and are a reminder to remain engaged in life. Further out on each side are two tridents. These represent the god Poseidon. The remainder of the composition will be filled with patterns, and designed to create the feeling sea, earth and air. Once the concept is approved, it is my intention to include other god figures and other personifications including; Aphrodite, mermaids, et al."

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