I'm asked by a lot of people why I paint local North Carolina landscapes (usually mountains, lakes, rivers and trees) on aluminum leaf, and I explain (at least daily) that it's because aluminum leaf reflects light. Painting on aluminum leaf, I can create a painting that is back-lit. This greatly intensifies the color. How I came up with that is, well, the fault of a French architect in 1163.
When I was twenty years old, a friend of mine backpacked through Europe with me and during those travels (every American twenty year old should do this trip by the way) we found Paris, and the highlight was Notre-Dame Cathedral.
I was quite surprised to see how large the cathedral actually was. It is hulking and awesome. Honestly, I didn’t know much about the Notre-Dame apart from the Hunchback that made the place famous.
One side of the cathedral was lined with cafes for people queuing up to go in the church. Interestingly, the chairs of the restaurants were almost all facing outside. I thought it was strange as I would probably prefer to face in towards whoever I was with. If I was alone, I would not face outside, I don’t like strangers in the queue watching me eat.
We got there during Mass ("hey, don't mind us Presbyterians --carry on, carry on"). It was magical. So utterly beautiful. And when Mass was done, I turned to leave and then I saw it: the rose window. Oh my gosh. I'd never seen color do what it was doing as the sun penetrated the colored glass. I remember thinking, "How can I get PAINT to do that?" At the time, this seemed like a ridiculous question because you paint on a canvas and how do you shine light through a canvas, right?
This idea went no where for many years until I saw the Orthodox church answer to stained glass windows: ICONS. Icons are painted on gold. P-A-I-N-T-E-D on gold. Well, I couldn't afford gold so I found aluminum leaf and a new genre of art was born, from a rose window in Paris and a Madonna and child on gold. You never know where a creative muse will lead you. You just follow it and see!