Friday, December 4, 2015

The Passing of Oddysseus and the Fate of the Sirens

Been a long time since I posted here. But I thought I would get back into it by sharing a recent oil painting I did for a show I participated in called "Taking Sail" down in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood a couple months ago. I love landscape painting and I also love figure painting. So I wanted to create something which incorporated that in a nautical setting.

(click image for larger view)
Painting of the Sirens dying on the rocks

A classical style mythological painting came to mind as a great way to work in all that I wanted to do. There was a lot of planning and research that went into this. First, I decided that that the story of the Sirens might have some potential since it involved the ocean. As you may remember from Homer's The Oddyssey, the Sirens were beautiful women/bird chimeras whose song drove sailors mad and made them steer their ships into the rocky shore. Many depictions of the Sirens throughout history show them as fully human women too, so I thought that would work best for my needs. After some reading, I discovered that, according to some of the myths, if a Siren ever let a ship pass them by, without killing the sailors, they themselves were cursed to die. It struck me as a particularly emotive subject to show the moment when the Sirens realize Odysseus and his men have successfully avoided them. Most artwork throughout history that show this famous passage from The Oddyssey, generally stage it from hero Odysseus' perspective tied to the mast of his ship, and beset on all sides by the malevolent Sirens. After I discovered that the Sirens had their own reasons for doing what they did in the stories, I wanted to flip the traditional perspective and show what the consequences were for these sad creatures.

After deciding on a subject and general composition, I scouted all over my local coastal areas for just the right shape of rocks. Then I did three different plein air studies at the beach location at different times of day to figure out the lighting I wanted (a stormy overcast sky seemed more fitting to the tragic subject). And finally, I got a model to pose for the Sirens themselves. I worked mostly from photos I took while referring to my plein air color studies.

I wouldn't mind continuing to dig through old myths for new inspirations on paintings in the future.

The finished piece is 18 x 24" on stretched linen.

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