February 18, 2013


When I said, way back at the end of November, that I was afraid my latest drawing would take "forever," I  knew I was exaggerating...but I'd hoped that "forever" would actually turn out to mean just one month...not close to three. Since I haven't continued to post any additional "teasers," I'll bet most of you have been thinking I'd given up or trashed the idea...that maybe I should've stuck to my superstitious practice of refusing to show works-in-progress, lest the venture come to naught. But no, I've stuck it out. I've worked on pieces of the three-panelled drawing almost every day since I started (excluding work days at the post office, which leave my hands dry, paper-cut, and achy). My process is excruciatingly slow--three square inches of paper may take an hour or more depending on the level of detail--thank goodness for music and free podcasts! But perhaps this pace is appropriate for the subject matter: the formation of a solar system around a young star...

My first inspiration came from this image of a dust ring around Fomalhaut: the parent star of the first extrasolar planet ever to be imaged in visual wave lengths. I remember when that photo was taken too. I was in my office at Cannonball listening to Science Friday when the announcement was made, and was excited to be able to get to the public library (I didn't have a laptop then) and look it up.

From there I did a few sketches...

...revising ideas and adding details as I went.

...till at last I felt comfortable enough with how things were laid out to block it out for enlargement.

Then came all the painstaking hours, days, weeks...and yes...months of using bic pen and various sizes of sharpies to fill in around the lines. I focused on the central star first, finding inspiration from photos of the sun and its dynamic surface that I found online.

Here are a few of the "teasers" I never got around to posting.

It was a little challenging to work between each panel. My drawing board is only big enough for one at a time so I had to go back and forth between the corner table and my work space, making sure that everything lined up across the board. I made a few mistakes, but ( and remember: with sharpie there's no erasing, and no possibility of painting over--slips must be integrated), I think I dealt with most of them well enough that they make sense in the finished design.

Last night, in between trumpet practice sessions, I finished filling in the last bit of black...

...and then this morning (after forgetting about the holiday and driving down to the post office for work...which of course...I didn't have), I began adding color.

This can be the real make-or-break part. I might be totally thrilled with how the basic black-and-white turned out, only to do something with color that makes it look cheap or corny. In this case, however, I'm reasonably satisfied with the final result (pictured in the first image of this post). 

I haven't really settled on a name yet. I've tossed around a few that sound either too bland: "Young Solar System," or too froofy: "Out of the Dust." "Accretion," the title of this post, seems to be the happy medium I'm almost ready to settle on. The final unframed dimensions, including the space between panels, are 44 x 17 inches. 

I'm looking forward to continuing this artistic exploration of astronomical subjects. I've got it in my head that it would be fun to do a themed show at some point, and maybe even sell a couple pieces. 

But that's a ways off. I'll keep you posted. 


  1. Now I really want to see it in person! It's breathtaking!

  2. Very cool, celestial triptych, my talented cousin! The painstaking time & effort is apparent in every magnificent detail. Way to go!

  3. wow ~ there are no words that could really adequately describe how amazing this is!