Finding The Way

Statements about the painting process of Joel Fletcher.

The Black Flame

Woman seduced by the evil black flame.

The Black Flame, 2012, 16 x 20 inches.

My initial inspiration for this painting came from a song, the hauntingly beautiful 1974 piece entitled “Black Flame” by Renaissance. The lyrics, perfectly sung with conviction by Annie Haslam, concerned the inescapable evil within the soul. Visualizing that idea, I imagined a woman entranced by the black flame and holding it near and dear to her heart. I decided to make the design reminiscent of a Byzantine Icon painting, but as a dark counterpart to the sacred. With that image in my mind, I proceeded to bring it into reality.

Test painting using iridescent and interference paints.

Iridescent paint study.

Traditional Icon paintings often had a background made of gold leaf, a technique which prompted me to try a similar but more modern look using iridescent paint. Normally, I would never use such paints on serious pieces as they could result with a gimmicky look; however, iridescent paint turned out to be the right fit for this particular project! Being unfamiliar with its characteristics, I started by creating a study painting to try it out. Since the iridescent effect was only intended for radiating the background and the black flame itself, I specifically tested the paints on those elements. This provided a good opportunity to design the flame itself as well, so I went for a stylized look somewhat like hot rod flames. The test painting was successful, giving me the confidence to move forward.

My daughter, Caroline, posed for the woman in the painting, but I intentionally altered the likeness of her face. After all, the woman in the painting was supposed to be seduced by wickedness, and I did not want my young daughter to be associated with that!

My main challenge was to depict the opposite of light emitting from the black flame. Logic dictated that it would emanate shadow; therefore, I chose dark purples and violets to create that effect. The figure was painted conventionally with Open acrylics, but I used gold and pearl iridescent paints for the numinous background to make a fantastic contrast to the malevolent flame. The flame itself was treated with a more subtle technique in which I used purple and blue interference paint composed of microscopic mica flakes. To imply their connection, I also applied the interference paint to the woman's eyes.

The iridescent and interference paints added an enigmatic presence to the painting, as I had hoped. The painting’s appearance changes when viewed from various angles, due to the refractive qualities, so I was very pleased with that aspect. Unfortunately, that aura-like attribute was impossible to adequately capture with a camera; accordingly, a copy cannot truly convey the same mysterious impression that viewing the original piece does!

© 2020 Joel Fletcher

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