The process of painting a Jellyfish

I usually don’t have a plan for my acrylic paintings. I file away vague subjects in my brain for later use and just play with a canvas until starts to feel right. These are my backgrounds. I just let it go wherever it wants. At some point one of my ideas will match up with a background and at that point I’ll start the main subject matter. This style is not highly prolific, but it works for me.

Jellyfish - 1st PassThis Jellyfish painting did not start out as a Jellyfish painting. I think it was a quick Easy-E black and white portrait I did just to cover the canvas with some texture. While I was covering that painting these patterns started appearing that reminded me of Jellyfish. I should mention that I use a lot of Liquitex Gel Medium. I use it for transparent tinting layers, texture, depth and getting strange color effects. It’s very handy. I’ve been going through a red phase, so I coated it in a transparent red layer to smooth it out a bit and then sketched up a white Jellyfish with a Sharpie water-based paint pen. I did a quick Google image search on my phone, but ended up just drawing something out of my head. I think of them as mushroom shaped (or mushroom cloud) with ruffles and dangly things.

Jellyfish-02I then wanted to give it some dimension and I could visualize it’s weird little brain and nerve center. But first I coated it in a transparent mix of gel medium and red paint to tint the previous white sketch and send it to the back. This is a technique I use often. After about 4 or 5 layers it adds a visible depth. I added a couple vertical florescent yellow streaks in an attempt to hint at sunlight penetrating the red sea. The Liquitex brand does shrink as it dries, so unless you want bumps and cracks keep the coat pretty thin. Once that had dried I used yellow and white paint pens to sketch out a “brain”, ruffles and tendrils.

Jellyfish - 3rd PassIt was then time for another transparent coat to tone down the last sketch. This time I mixed the gel medium with a florescent orange to mix it up. Even though I used generic yellow and white paint pens, the tinted layer gives me a multitude of colors. I tried to make a circular nerve center, but I’m not very pleased with the way it turned out. It looks like the Death Star. But I decided to deal with it later (wrong choice). I also wanted my ruffles to be defined better. I wasn’t that happy with the way they turned out either, but I had planned on sanding this white layer down to give it antique look, so I wasn’t to concerned yet. I then added the bulk of the main tendrils in white.

Jellyfish-04Before starting the next layer I sanded the white sketch pretty heavily. I then coated the painting in a yellow transparent layer. This got me to a point where I can start to see an ending. But the Death Star brain is still annoying me and is its buried beneath two clear coats. The only way to get rid of it is to cover it with something or sand it down. Deciding to still not deal with it I added some more tendrils, dots, spots, glitter and silver spirals. I feel like it’s close, but something is off. It’s not electric enough. Maybe some lens flares would help. So I put it aside for a few days and worked on other art. Usually if I try to force a solution when I’m not feeling it, it comes out crappy. Nobody wants that.

Jelly FishAfter a few days I got tired of staring at the Death Star brain and covered it with red and orange paint pens and some transparent red ink. That looked good enough for me, it’s now time to wrap painting up. I painted one more tinted clear coat with some glitter added to simulate ocean particles and let it dry. I then painted a thicker totally clear coat with strokes following the shape of the “dome” to catch light. Being underwater there is only one direction of light, from above, with variations on the angle depending on what time of day it is.  I’m going with high noon to keep it simple. There is also a general luminosity that diminishes with depth. While my painting is nowhere near accurate, it helps me to visualize real world properties while creating. So if I place a light above the painting the strokes will pick it up. With the addition of some yellow and white highlights on the top surface it should give it the feeling of being lit from above. Next I painted the sides, a couple more silver spirals, my Z signature and finally a thin clear coat over everything. Finished. Well, almost. I’ll probably spray the back black, add the hanging hardware and write something profound on it, like “Red Sea Jelly”.

So here it is, the finished product. This original is for sale, you can click here for details. And if you are looking for a signed archival quality print of this piece, click here. They come in matted 8″ x 10″ or 5″ x 7″ sizes.