Revolving Singularity: Inspiration and Journey in Acrylics

This article will introduce and explain a new piece I’ve been working on for the past several week and is now finished. It’s another one of the “galactic” like abstractions I like. This one is my first 4 canvas paintings kind of inspired by John Beckley’s art (@johnbeckleyart). It also was designed to combine palette knife, brush blend and finally a Dutch pour blown in four directions. I really like the effects achieved by Sandra Durr ( with the palette knife techniques, and by several fluid artists (e.g., @rinskedouna and @mollysartistry6). So this project was going to explore several new things in combinations I hadn't yet tried.

I'm in the process of compiling 21 different videos of the journey from beginning to end, and I'll share that soon. This is the final result - I named it "Revolving Singularity" - and here's a bit of its story.....

RS is quadriptych acrylic painting featuring textured heavy acrylic colors on palette knife; blending brush, sponge application and Dutch pour fluid art. It measures 52 x 28 inches overall. It also features ALOT of metallic paints, and my special combinations of metallic powders emulsified with acrylic medium.

What's Behind It?

I’ve had a couple of enquiries about this four panel piece - Revolving Singularity…… What does it mean? and What inspired it?

The first question - and this will be pretty “left side of the brain”!! A singularity is often synonymous with a black hole - something that blows up all the math when it comes relating size, mass and density. It has no size and it has infinite mass so that means density has no meaning. Very “ABSTRACT” right? But we have (actually not me - but scientists have) observed these things with space telescopes.

So another case of “REALISM” we struggle to understand. And… being infinitely massive, these singularities swallow everything that comes too close to their pull of gravity. All kinds of matter swirl “down the drain”. When you look at the drain from aside, some is heading toward you and some away form you.

To the folks that observe the universe, it's the doppler effect. Think of the sound of a train’s horn as it passes you while you stand still. With the light seen in space - blue is running toward you, and red is running from you.

Now what inspired it. Actually, as I mentioned in a couple of recent posts referring to @ellenbrennemanstudio video on painting in series - this work is actually in one of four series I’m currently working on simultaneously. This is from the “Galactic Series” - the others at this time are “Rainbow Pride”, “Zodiac” and “Bookshelf Art”. I was letting my imagination explore possibilities that I could try to attempt a piece inspired by the four panel formats often created by @johnbeckleyart. My idea for my first large scale four canvas work was going to be this doppler red and doppler blue shift notion. So an inspiration was crystallized.

Now how to make this vision happen? Well - I wanted this to be a learning experience that would combine a variety of materials and techniques to create something unique. To me that meant taking the time to assess what was appearing before my eyes each step of the way. If it was looking good, then keep going. But if something wasn't exactly what I thought it would be - then step back and think about what to do next.....This painting is all about patience, and lots and lots of layers!

First Layers

The first layers wanted to capture the impression of something very high-energy happening in the voids of space. I also wanted to start the whole theme of doppler red and blue shifts of the intense revolving motion about the center of the piece. And for some reason I thought I could enhance that effect by masking off continuous lines across all the panels (this was a failure that led to a feature in the end!!).

Here is RS after the first painting session -

I felt like it was a fairly good start toward what I was after, but I had two things on my mind 1) what to do about the unpainted portions of the canvas beyond the masking tape?; and, 2) what to do to add depth and interest to what was pretty "flat" in the first layer?

To be honest - I had quite a case of artist's block caused by these two questions. It went on for more than several days. One morning it just seemed like going to alot more texture and richer colors would move it in the right directions.

Here is the piece after the first part of the second layer -

I went much deeper in both value and hue on both sides compared to the first layer. And at this stage the plan looked like I would basically preserve the brush strokes at the edges, and blend toward them from the palette knife texture near the center.

I decided to keep the left side of this all warm. So the reds were a variation from primary red, brilliant red out to a 50/50 blend of red and violet, and then finally a more violet shade. There are several golds at work in here including a fair amount of bright gold metallic powder mixed with acrylic gloss medium. The brand of paint I'm using are mostly Arteza, but there are a few tubes of liquitex, and artists loft in it. The metallics also include some Golden paints in gold, copper and bronze.

On the right side I've really grown fond of some colors in the Arteza acrylic line including a sapphire blue, phthalocyanine blue and prussian blue. I used these colors in combination with Artist loft metallic blue, and two metallic silver paints. I used some aluminum powder emulsified in acrylic medium to get some additional shimmer in the center of the blue sections.

You'll notice that in both sides and the upper and lower limit of the canvas that everything transitions to black - deep space.

Third Layer Work

That was the approach I took with the third layer. I was pretty satisfied with the colors and the feel of how it moved from center to edges. I was able to visualize where and how to add the Dutch pour layers to the foundation layers, and it was starting to come together.

But I was also beginning to feel a little apprehensive about what this would look like when I pulled up the tape. I could leave the tape in place, but that really isn't an option obviously! Nevertheless, I was pretty happy with the overall look of the layering so far - I just wasn't sure laying down the masking tape was a smart decision. But it was part of the process, so I stuck with what I had in mind from the beginning, and if I needed to evolve the plan, then I would!

Tale of the Tape

Well when I did pull the tape up I had options about what to do with the unpainted areas. I could make these all contrast solid color (say all black), or lay in some form of contrasting pattern, or just continue the pattern I had achieved with the layers so far. And I spent some more time in artist's block mode trying to sort that question out.

At first I was leaning toward the option of laying in solid black color top and bottom. I re-taped the surface to give a clean line. But honestly I wasn't all that happy with any of the options, nor was I happy with the decision I made in the beginning to mask off those areas to begin with. But the journey continued...

I gave up on the idea of laying in two solid lines of black for the simple reason that I was pretty pleased with the look and feel of the layers I had already added to this piece. I just felt that two stark black lines would break up that look and feel. In the end I decided mimic the existing layers within the taped areas - this is shown here.

And this is how that looked after two very thick coats of paint. I wasn't happy at all with the look of those lines that were left behind by the differing levels between the original canvas surface and the surface of the paint after three or more layers added. At this point I had the choice of adding much more paint or something else - I went the latter route...

A "Model" Experiment

This project was getting more fun as challenge after challenge waited around each corner. It seemed to me like a wasted opportunity if I just kept adding paint until the stripes were covered. I tried increasing the "body" of the paint with some gel medium, but honestly that was just going to reduce the number of coats needed to smooth out the lines.

I thought that adding heavy gel medium to the paint would have done the job of obscuring the tape lines. I went to buy some and it turned out that my local art supply store had their supply of heavy modeling paste on deep discount clearance sale. So I had another idea....I wanted to experiment with modeling paste for a while and this was my chance.

Unlike gel medium, the acrylic paste dries opaque white. So what you see me doing here is laying down a foundation of the textured effect I was trying to achieve. I applied the paste with the palette knife using strokes that mimicked the knife and brush strokes of the paint layers.

After the paste was dried I went back over the red and blue "star field" portions with paint that followed the patterns and colors of the original layers. It was a mistake and a lesson learned all at once. When I "replayed" all the layers and work up to this point it was pretty clear that masking the canvas from the outset was always going to cause those stripes if I built up textures in the paint.

If I was going to try something similar in the future I would mask the piece after the lower layers were complete. And if the lecture was uneven enough to ensure that paint over the masking might "bleed" under the tape - I learned a neat technique to prevent that. After apply the tape, I go over the edges with transparent gel medium to create a good seal. Then the paint will not bleed under the tape.

Dutch Pour Layers

Now - finally - I was at the point where my original vision for this work would either come to fruition, or failure. This is a fun part of the creative process - trying something untried. In this case I was going to create a dutch pour using transparent pouring medium instead of acrylic pouring paint for the "pillow" beneath the contrast colors. In this image, the pour has been blown out on the blue side, and I'm ready to do the same on th