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Wayland's Principia

© Copyright Alessandra Kelley

In the upper left quadrant the Earth, specifically Indonesia and Australia, are seen from about 4000 km away.  Floating in black space, harshly lit, are a shape like a twisted tuncated volcano or tree stump in the upper right, a small pearly smooth sphere below it, an a mass of red crystalline spikes at lower right.  In front of them all flies a violet four-limbed creature with umbrella-like wings, the sun shining through the wings as though they were parchment.  A distant stream of tiny multicolored objects snakes up from the planet Earth, whose horizon is distorted in one spot by a minuscule black hole acting as a lens to produce a miniature of the scene, reversed and distorted into hyperbolic perspective.
The painting above, rotated ninety degrees anti-clockwise as the cover of Wayland's Principia, by Richard Garfinkle

Wayland's Principia is a large egg tempera painting on panel. It illustrates a hard science fiction story in which aliens use a small black hole to power their ship (or rather, community of environments). The black hole is between our viewpoint and the horizon of the Earth, thus the lensing effect.

The other objects are the space habitats of several very different alien races. The stream of tiny multicolored ships rising from the Earth are based on the shapes of electron orbitals.

This painting required a good deal of research, plus some enjoyable anatomical working-out of aliens.

Egg tempera is an ancient technique, used at least as far back as the classical Greeks and Romans (Pliny mentions it, and there are surviving egg tempera Egyptian portraits dating from the Greek Ptolemys). It's a simple medium, of pigments, egg yolk (which, contrary to common belief, does not color the paint yellow), and water. Complete instructions can be found elsewhere on this site.