Fairy Fellers Master-stroke Step by Step

Exhibitions, Painting

A few months ago I was invited to submit work for a show at the Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra California. The show’s theme was Rock n’ Roll. One of the options was to illustrate a song or a lyric. I chose to do The Fairy Feller’s Master-stroke by Queen, which was itself a riff on the great painting by Victorian artist Richard Dadd. While working on the painting I snapped some work in progress shots with my iPad. For this blog post I’ve collected some of them to show you how this piece came together and share some of my thoughts at each stage.


I started by carefully drawing the image on a sheet of 300lb Arches coldpress paper. After that I contoured all of the forms using a brush and carbon black acrylic ink. This piece was intended as a fun take on the theme and while I didn’t want to copy Richard Dadd’s unfinished masterpiece, I did want to reference it. I borrowed the main figure and made him my own with the addition of wings and some other accoutrements. There are other references to Dadd’s work such as the daisies and the nuts.


I began painting with Liquitex acrylic ink, which has a particular vividness all its own. It handles somewhat like watercolour and blends well. I found that some of my watercolour technique was not usable with these inks but I really wanted to use just the inks, so I persisted. Why did I start here? I am left handed and this was the most comfortable place rest my brush. I decided at the outset that I would not approach this like a painting, by developing the whole surface. Instead I used the technique that I normally use for my ink drawings, fully developing one area before moving on.


At this stage I moved up because I wanted to paint the bird. I needed something “real” to set up the weirder subject matter. It also established a scale in an image where scale is otherwise almost impossible to determine. I remember feeling really good about the paint on the paper at this point and started working in some darker values. I wasn’t initially sure about the green gown but I knew it would take its proper place in the composition as I went along.


And then downward. With the side developing nicely I knew I had to work along the bottom to establish the foreground plane. It was around this point that I decided on a strategy of working around the border/ frame.

fairy_feller_5Painting this area was a lot of fun because I got to work on the fungus and introduce some different values. I liked the way the rust of the fungus picked up some of the colour in the fairy wing.


When working on a piece like this with a lot of moving parts I think it is important to create zones of interest. Each area of this composition has something for the viewer to look at. It also gave me the opportunity to work on something different, which is highly motivating; there was always another bit to push me on. Motivation was key on this piece because the timeline for production was very tight. Deadlines! About this time I realized that I needed some red. It was like tasting a soup and knowing it needed salt. Originally the feather was to be a crow feather, but I intuitively realized that it belonged to a cardinal. The red worked nicely against the green tree man.


Now I moved to the upper register. Spatially, the two upper figures are closer than the figures at the side. To stand out, the figures needed to be larger than the others. I emphasized the difference by introducing bolder colours, particularly the blue, which I feared was going to drip down the entire painting as I worked it very quickly.


At this point I was beginning to see the finished piece. I ordered the frame! I wanted to carefully preserve the luminosity in the clearing. It meant that I had to restrain my usual proclivity to go subatomic on the detail.

fairy_feller_9Nearly there.


All images © Richard A. Kirk. Any reuse is strictly prohibited without permission of Richard A. Kirk

And finished. The Fairy Feller’s Master-stroke ready for the framer.

– Richard

Like a Rolling Stone: A Rock & Roll Reflection


Like a Rolling Stone: A Rock & Roll Reflection

My painting, The Fairy Feller’s Master-stroke is in this show that opens at Gallery Nucleus tomorrow night. If you are in the area, check it out. Here is the blurb: ” Rock and roll has influenced generations of the world’s music-inclined youth, from its rockabilly and Doo-wop roots in the 1950’s to the emergence of surf music, Motown and heavy metal in the 1960’s. Icons of rock and roll—such as Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and the euphoric Beatles—made way for newer names including The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin and the late Jimi Hendrix. The frenzied genre would evolve during the 1970’s, spurring punk rock archetypes like The Ramones, Sex Pistols and The Clash. Rock and roll’s next three decades would see rise to even more sub-genres and historic acts like U2, Guns & Roses and Pearl Jam. To say that rock and roll is a global phenomenon would be a true understatement! Nucleus presents an international roster of creative talent, bringing the wild history of rock and roll’s worldwide influence into our gallery space. The exhibition will feature artwork from a variety of artists reflecting upon rock and roll’s richly exciting timeline, so rock enthusiasts will want to mark their calendars!




I am excited to be part of this upcoming show at Gallery Nucleus.

“From the forces that gift us with sunshine and curse us with storms, to the countless creatures that roam sky, earth and sea, to the plants that provide us with breath and life, to even the tiniest of organisms yet to be discovered, we are surrounded by Mother Nature at every moment. Nucleus presents an exciting group of diversely skilled artists that have come together to create a compelling collection of work that celebrates the harmonious existence of all things that live, breathe, and even photosynthesize. This visually stunning exhibition features a variety of mediums from a global roster of inspiring talent and urges to connect us to the beauty, power, and balance within the natural world.”

Exhibiting Artists:

Alex Louisa
Brooks Shane Salzwedel
Corinne Reid
Edward Kinsella
Frank Gonzales
Hannah Yata
Jan Huling
Joshua Harker
Katherine Brannock
Laura Bifano
Mab Graves
Michael Brown
Natasha Durley
Richard Kirk
Sean Avery
Teagan White


Exhibitions, Painting

acrylic ink
13″ x 10″

This is an acrylic ink piece I did as a study for something larger that I am working on for Gallery Nucleus (more on that later). The acrylic inks perform beautifully on this really heavy Arches watercolor paper (300lb coldpress). I kept this piece to very limited palette. It felt good to loosen up after a couple of weeks working on silverpoint and cross hatching.



Going to California


Field of Poppies

My assistant holds Field of Poppies in the UPS office as it prepares to make its journey from Ontario, Canada to Alhambra, California. I am, um, uneasy with the transportation part of the equation and usually don’t draw breath again until I hear the work has landed in one piece.

Check out the Gallery Nucleus site for “Not in Kansas Anymore.”