For the second of my ashes drawings I chose a larger piece of canvas in hopes of communicating a sense of a landscape with an old building. Anselm Kieffer’s empty buildings done with straw and mud continued to intrigue me and I wanted to see if I could capture that evocative mood of emptiness within time. Kieffer’s work conveys the idea that temporal things, things of value to the human race, are ephemeral. ( Recall the poem, The Vanity of Human Wishes, by Samuel Johnson). I wanted to capture that same attention to temporarily in my piece.
My materials again were ashes, tobacco, string, and plaster of Paris. I began by sketching the three cathedral-shaped buildings with a mixture of Plaster of Paris and matte medium and water. To create a sense of depth I used the tincture I had made from soaking tobacco in water, which was of a warm tone, to create the foreground. I planned to layer the tobacco juice to create deepening tones of brown across the middle of the canvas and over the bottoms of the arches. I added a thicker layer of plaster of Paris to the pilasters of the central, taller archway. This created space for an entrance. I embedded three pieces of thick string down the middle of the plaster enforcing the idea of a doorway.
I painted the middle of the archways with cigarette ashes. The ashes are pale, conducive of a look into the distance. When the first coat of tobacco juice was dry, I added another which darkened areas of the first layer.
I wanted a darkish background to make the white of the tops of my buildings stand out. I used ashes from a wood fire to cover the area. I painted the ashes on and ground them into the canvas with a stainless steel brush used for cleaning cooking grills. The pattern of the brickwork under the canvas showed through.
To get enough pale cigarette ashes to paint the interior of my buildings, I set a large packet of tobacco on fire and let it turn to ashes which were a cooler color than the wood ashes . When the ashes were cool, I spread them into the space s between the columns bringing the ashes down into the brown tobacco area.
The tobacco water wasn’t a deep enough color to make a convincing foreground so I cooked some onion skins to make a yellow dye. I was hoping that overlapping the yellow dye onto the brown tobacco areas would make the space advance more.