Portrait of a Crater, Second Effort

10-m crater at the foot of an 80-m fault scarp

Painting Completed 1993
9 x 18 inches, Acrylic on Aircraft Plywood

A year or so ago a collector friend of mine, who also happens to be a planetary scientist and accomplished artist, wanted me to paint my impression of a typical lunar crater with mountains in the distance.

The Moon is mostly neutral gray rocks and dust, and there is no atmosphere at all to soften the brilliant sun or lighten the resulting dark shadows. From the artist's perspective, it is an intense, contrasting world.

To exactly reproduce this neutrally hued world in paint is more science than art, so I always 'key' the lunar surface color off neutral gray. That is I paint the lunar soil slightly greenish gray, or slightly yellowish gray, or slightly orangish gray, and so forth. This technique opens up possibilities for beautiful hues that do not exist if a neutral gray is selected. For this painting I selected a warm greenish gray because one of the most beautiful lunar surfaces I'd painted in the past was keyed in the same hue.

Well, I completed the painting. It was beautiful and I sent it to my friend. But as the days passed I found I couldn't get the painting off my mind. I don't know exactly why but I called my friend and asked him to send the painting back. I studied it for two or three weeks and began to feel it should be keyed in a lighter and warmer hue.

The painting seems just right to me now. It was difficult, however, to make myself paint a sunny, colorful, beautiful, slightly yellow orange world over a sunny, colorful, beautiful, slightly warm green world.