View My Process Step by Step

Research

Research

Here is the reference material I used to create this painting.  The surrounding pictures represent the neighborhood and location with an olive tree on the right for Greece and were pulled and taken from various sources.  The center picture was the most important and had to be just right.  I felt a traditional portrait of Father Bakas, with him in a formal pose in front of a dark background would't do him justice.  It might look like him but it would say nothing about the passion he has for Saint Sophia Cathedral and the community.  It was much more appropriate to have him located at the opening of the iconostasis (the wall of icons that is in front of the alter) where parishioners see him every week during the liturgy. We put a standing light upstage of the doorway  to create a strong light source coming from the holiest place in the Church to give the piece a strong value structure and appropriate symbolism.

Initial Drawing

Initial Drawing

Because I was working from so many sources I needed to do a detailed drawing to pull all the elements together.  This is my initial drawing, I drew pretty much what I saw in the photo without a lot of embellishment.  

Drawing in middle stages

Drawing in middle stages

At this point I added side pieces and began working in the other elements.  I gave up my idea of the tiles at the sides because the front of the iconostasis opened up so naturally to the skyline of Los Angeles that it seemed a much better solution.  You can see I am really struggling with the olive tree on the left (it looks like the attack of an octopus).  It was too heavy on this side which lead me to take drastic action in the next step.

Finished Drawing

Finished Drawing

Once I edited out a big portion of the tree I found I had room for the lighthouse.  This worked out perfectly because not only did it balance the picture compositionally, it reflects what father John is always saying: that the cathedral should be to the neighborhood, like a "lighthouse on rocky shores."

Warm Under Painting

Warm Under Painting

Next I started the underpainting with Burnt Sienna.  It is a gorgeous color for this purpose because when very thin it has a yellow cast and when built up in layers it goes from orange to a deep red-brown.  so it is not like I am working with just one color at all.  I like to take the painting as far as I can in the underpainting stage because it helps establish a value structure while I figure out a composition, in this case it is a very complex one that the warm color will ultimately unify.  All this work makes the latter steps go much more effectively.

The Painting in Process

The Painting in Process

Here the painting is about 70% finished.  Adding the colors changes it drastically and cools it off but the idea is to let that warm red show through in places.  The trees are more apparent now in their juxtaposition.  One for the old country (the olive tree) and two (the palm trees) for the new.  Saint Sophia Cathedral actually has a cornerstone from the U.S. that is black bedrock from los Angeles as well as one from Greece, the very same quarry as the marble the Parthenon was built from.  This latter was a gift from the King of Greece to the people of Los Angeles in 1948.  The trees make a nice parallel to the cornerstones.

Finished!

Finished!

Here it is finished and now, more noticeable, are the Angels in the sky from the mural across the street with the quote that reads:

"We are like angels with one wing and can only fly by embracing each other."

An on the top of the building is the sign for the Byzantine-Latino Quarter an endeavor Father Bakas was instrumental in realizing, to give the neighborhood a sense of identity and pride.