Mountains and Dreams

This is a small piece (finished painting 10x15cm) for a colleague-friend, who I have now known for a couple of years but who only recently asked for a painting. Since I used his expertise to find out interesting information about my mitochondrial DNA at no cost, I figured it’s a fair trade.

Now before anyone comments on the fact that this scene is astronomically impossible, I would like to say that this scene is astronomically impossible. The mountain is a real mountain, but in real life its orientation is such that the constellation Orion would probably not appear above it at that angle. I think the same about the full moon.

The main reason for drawing a scientifically inaccurate scene, however, is because the original sketch idea is based on Mount St Helens, where this astronomical alignment is perfectly possible.  At least, possible enough for my artistic license (except for the full moon again, I think – not both together like that). But since Friend is from some other mountains, it would not do, so I had to substitute in something from the Alps.

First, a teaser – a by-product of the process, the process below the fold.

©rq, all rights reserved


This is a rather poor-quality photo of the finalized pencil sketch – there were several ideas, but this worked out best in the end. I’m no good at being too realistic, so the more geometric angles seemed more pleasing to my imagination than trying to do a faithful portrait of the mountain. ©rq, all rights reserved

Second step, in no particular order: photocopying, marker outline. I usually make one marker version and then several photocopies, in case anything goes wrong – it’s good to have a spare template. ©rq, all rights reserved

This is not something I usually do, but I decided to scan the image and try some colour experimentation. Usually I have this figured out in my head, more or less, but I was having some issues of indecisiveness, so wanted to try out colours next to each other. This was done in Paint, and it shows, but all I needed was approximations, not fine art, and currently I am not looking for advice on the use of software for graphic design. ©rq, all rights reserved


I also had some major issues deciding on the background paper – choices included deep red, orange, purple, white, silver, but I finally settled on blue. Another issue then became outline ink – sometimes I paint without outlining, because I overlay the template and ’emboss’ the image onto the carton below, but I got the idea of using gold ink as a foil to the white paint I would use for the mountain. Longer story short, I completed this drawing and stopped because it was too large (15x21cm) and something about the gold on blue felt already finished. So I left it as is and made a smaller template. I keep thinking I might come back and add some white highlights to this, but everytime I do, I decide against it. ©rq, all rights reserved


Here is the final product. One unexpected side effect of using old masking tape was its imperfect de-sticking process, which actually created a nice effect on the paper border. The sky took some doing, while the gold ink of the mountain outline blended nicely with the paint to create some shadowing, with the darker paper beneath also shading through a bit. The piece has no decent title, but Friend has expressed his delight. It was meant to be hand-delivered during a conference in May, but unfortunately will be either mailed or delivered in September (current time of postponement). Such is the pandemic life. ©rq, all rights reserved


  1. publicola says

    I like it. The mountains look good. How about “Orion Rising” for a title? Art doesn’t have to be accurate-- it’s interpretive by definition.

  2. says

    I remember you posting these on Twitter. The whole process is wonderful and I also agree with your decision to leave the gold on blue. That’s always such a fitting combination, same with silver and blue.

    As to “astronomically impossible”: always remember that one of the world’s most famous frescos is anatomically impossible and nobody gives a fuck.
    (seriously, try positioning yourself like that, but don’t break a hip)

  3. kestrel says

    Your painting is lovely. That’s a very interesting process and I love the way the edges of the painting look due to the masking tape.

  4. says

    I love the gold on blue. It definitively has a “finished” feel to it and I think any further embellishments are unnecessary.
    About whether it is possible or not, I cannot give a fluff. To me, star constellations are invisible. I always only ever see dots in the sky and it was always a mystery to me why people felt the need to give some clusters names because I never ever can see the alleged image in them.

  5. Ice Swimmer says

    I love the face of the mountain.

    The gold-on-blue outline is like a stylish Xmas card and the color experimentation one is like straight out of a sci-fi cartoon/comic book. Their appeal is somewhat different but equally great.

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