Sunday, 21 April 2013


Work In Progress
The Greek God Dionysus

If - as I hope - you follow this blog regularly, you will know that I am currently involve in preparing for an exhibition of paintings and drawings based on an exploration of the cult of Dionysus

Dionysus (Roman name is Bacchus, god of wine) was a late addition to the ancient Greek pantheon and is thought to originate in Phoenicia (present-day Lebanon) - in other words, he is not only foreign to Greece but an Asiatic.

I have already shown you one or two early experiments. The above is an image of a Bacchante - or female follower of Dionysus.

Now I would like to share with you my progress in creating an image of the god himself

I knew I needed to work on a much larger scale than the earlier pen and ink drawings so I chose a canvas 70 x 100 cms and drew straight onto it with charcoal. The above is my first rough sketch direct onto bare canvas

As you can see, I am working in my kitchen!

You will also notice that he has breasts. This is because his actual sexuality was always a matter of debate!

In this second phase I have articulated the god's hair (frame left as you face the painting) and have started to create something of a cloak for him on his left shoulder

I often start with sketches but on this occasion I am creating straight onto the canvas - a bold, some might argue, reckless - process but I am feeling reckless!

I have decided to give him a turban - to emphasize perhaps his Asiatic origins. Note also his staring eye. Not sure that works - we shall see!

I have also removed one of his (female) breasts!

Charcoal is a marvelous medium with which to work, provided you are bold. The swerves of both hair and cloak were done very quickly - in a matter of seconds, using the long edge of a stick of willow charcoal.

Day two and big changes!

The far-too-obvious eye has vanished and has been replaced by only the highlights in a black globe - far more menacing!

I am still conscious that his hand is too large but I may leave that as we are dealing with a mythical creature rather than some human figure

I have also done much work on the hair over his right shoulder - using acrylic highlights to create some affinity to dreadlocks

I have also extended the cloak and given him pearl earrings

The above is more or less where I am at now. 

I have rounded the global elements in his turban and added a broach on his left shoulder

I have started to add elements of acrylic white to the background and hair. I have also used a flat, mat black poster paint for the decoration on the turban

I like the contrast these different media give to a flat canvas

 So, there you have it. I will show you the finished painting in a day or two when I have decided what - if anything - is still needed!

Mike Healey

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