“Meditation Upon Death”

(80” x 70”) 5,796 brushstrokes, 2018 

Question How do you create a painting capturing the moment of death and the afterlife?  How do you even begin?

Artistic Goal After the passing of his wife, Paul Kirby wanted to create a painting that had emotional depth, along with intellectual depth, and was unique with impact.  The painting is dark, the darkness of death and mystery.  He wanted the painting to be meditative and introspective, where the viewer is quietly drawn inward. 


Artistic Insight It was not until Paul decided upon an idea taken from story telling that the painting’s design and composition started to have more visual clarity in his mind.  He decided upon a three-act movement in the painting, progressing from the tragic moment of death, through the spirit wandering through realms of the afterlife, to an unresolved, unsettling ending.  The title became “Meditation Upon Death.”  It was the most challenging painting conceptually, technically and artistically that Paul and Dulcinea ever attempted.

Technical Description This robotic painting used a variety of artificial-intelligence, generative systems to create the layers of clouds and spline curves, as well as Act I in the lower-left corner.  New robotic code was needed for articulating the wrist to capture the long, graceful brushstrokes forming the curves, and the soft, feathered layers of clouds.

Developmental Process In artists’ notebooks, dozens of hand-drawn sketches were made, sometimes with ink and watercolor.  Over the course of time, these would be revised, ever evolving.  How to capture Act I - the tragic moment of death?  How do you capture the spirit wondering through realms of the after life?  And, for Act III, what do you do?  So, pages and pages of additional notes were filled, accompanied by dozens of additional drawings and sketches.

 Coding started for the initial curves, to develop a feel for the design’s visual movement. Tentative paint colors were mixed, and portions of the initial designs were painted on sections of canvas.  What about the clouds?  And, who new there were so many different colors of black.  Thus, a multi-year, developmental process commenced.

Shower Stall A shower stall, half-filled with dozens of tightly rolled canvases, will attest to the dedication, perseverance and developmental process involved.  Over the course of weeks and months, and then years, each part of the painting – each of the three acts – would emerge.  Eventually, they would all be assembled and painted together on a large canvas.  And, once again, more critique, revision, and developmental iteration would be required, evolving ultimately into the final painting. 

Conclusion Usually an artist is never satisfied with a painting.  There is always something he or she would want to change or touch up.  In this case, at the end there was quiet contentment.