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Light shining through coloured glass

May 13, 2012

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This is a large format painting compared to most of my work. It is 50 x 50cm,  around 20″x 20″.

After working with this theme for months  now, I realized a short while ago where the underlying fascination with light shining through coloured glass might come from. I recently remembered a phrase of Michael Ondaatje’s from the English Patient I wrote down about 20 years ago intending to do a calligraphic artwork with it. I never got further than a sketch, but the image of the ‘glass curtain’ has never left me:

The next day he heard snatches of the glassy sound as he lay once more covered in cloth. A noise out of the darkness. At twilight the felt was unwrapped and he saw a man’s head on a table moving towards him, then realized the man wore a giant yoke from which hung hundreds of small bottles on different lengths of string and wire. Moving as if part of a glass curtain, his body enveloped within that sphere.

The figure resembled most of all those drawings of archangels he had tried to copy as a schoolboy, never solving how one body could have space for the muscles of such wings. The man moved with a long, slow gait, so smoothly there was hardly a tilt in the bottles. A wave of glass, an archangel, all the ointments within the bottles warmed from the sun, so when they were rubbed onto skin they seemed to have been heated especially for a wound. Behind him was translated light – blues and other colours shivering in the haze and sand. The faint glass noise and the diverse colours and the regal walk and his face like a lean dark gun.

From The English Patient, by Micahel Ondaatje

Below is a detail-  the green glass is old and full of little bubbles,  I applied light green with drybrush to create a haze that imitates the effect of the countless little bubbles in the glass.  I love the mosaic of colours in the right half of the painting and hope to expand on that effect in the next one.

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6 Responses to “Light shining through coloured glass”


  1. Incredible! I truly admire your creative gift!

  2. decorartuk Says:

    I love the result – and the image, that shows the detail, reveals how much work has gone into this painting. There’re so many colours, yet the eyes see glass bottles that are transparent! Paradox! 🙂

    I also like the fact that some people have a gift to “paint” using words. Yet another paradox – you read, but you see clear images. Simply amazing.

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Hi K, thank you, I’m pleased with this one too. In ‘person’ it has more impact because of the scale- the green glass alone is 8 1/2″x 11″, or roughly A-4.

      Lovely comment about the gift to ‘paint’ using words. In the film, ‘The English patient’, it seems the director was sensitive to the imagery as well. That scene of the dark faced nomad coming into the tent with this rack of clinking, many-coloured bottles was exactly as I’d pictured it from the book.


  3. They say that glass is one of the hardest things to paint realistically, you have done a stunning job.


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