‘Red Dahlia’

Finished version

This painting, ‘Red Dahlia,’ was largely inspired by my Wiccan belief that despite death and departing, those close to us such as pets and friends still remain in our presence. I used Golden acrylic paints on a large pre-stretched rectangular canvas.

  Gestural composition in my sketchbook at the time

I chose to incorporate red pandas into this painting/sketch since I haven’t painted them much before, and wanted their colorful, stylized fur to complement the sugar skulls and vivid colors.

After 10 minutes

Fun fact: I used a palette knife to paint the backdrop; its an opaque blend of Golden red cadinum medium & Golden cadinum yellow dark. I chose to smooth out the chunky texture so it wouldn’t take attention away from the cute critters painted later on.

Messy underpainting

The first layer is always meant to just map out the general spacing and ‘look’ of everything. I don’t usually paint specifics like the eyes or nose at this step.

Macabre second layer

The next layer resembled Annabelle from The Conjuring verse; so NOT what I had intended. Also, I disliked the color of the mask and the flower arrangements on the wrists.

Zoom in on my hand and tiny size 2 paintbrush adding little petals to the red dahlias being crushed by bone white teeth.

I adore the colors in this new layer: shades of purple blended with premixed teal and ochre.

Side by side comparison of the near final product. The model is Gia Carangi; Italian girl who was one of the first famous females to die of AIDS (at age 26).


Thanks for viewing. One with the earth, one with the night, one with the day: that is the mages’ way.

~Xi Wen Chen

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