Saturday, March 13, 2010


The lovely Melinda was asking me about this specimen today, so I thought I would take my answer a few steps further here and tell more of the story of acquiring it and the process of how I made a painting of it. 

Hessonite is a type of Garnet and this one has a bit of Asbestos on its bottom. This little specimen is one I got from a wonderful mineral shop in Bancroft, Ontario last summer. The old Chinese man who runs the shop makes these little hand written vellum tags for them, showing what they are and where they are from. A lot of the specimens in the shop are also from old collections and already have old handwritten or typewritten notes with them. I bought a few of these as well and they are so special! I love that sense of human history attached to the specimens. This shop (I don't know what it was called) is such a surreal and magical place - a mix of mineral and fossil specimens and Chinese antiques that seems like a location in an old novel or something - and I really hope to go back sometime this summer. Bancroft calls itself 'The Mineral Capital of Canada'. They have an event in the summer called the 'Rockhound Gemboree'(he he) which I really should try to get to this year.

so... here's some of my process:
 I position the specimen in a light tent and set up my DSLR on a tripod with a macro lens. There are some pictures of this part here. I usually take at least 40-60 shots of each specimen because the tiniest shift of angle or change of light reflections completely alters the look of the image. In some cases a specimen has several 'good sides' and I may end up doing more than one painting of the same specimen at some point, although I haven't yet. 

Then I pick my favourite shot (such as the image above), and use photoshop to blank out the background, since even though it is already white, there are often weird shadows and usually the putty used to hold the specimen in position is showing.

And here's the final painting. The colours are always a little off in the painting from the original digital photo, mostly because my main reference is an ink jet printout, which changes the colours somewhat from how they appear on the screen. In this case, the printout had deeper red tones and higher contrast. Also, I am not super exact about proportions, because I don't really have to be for it to still look right. It's not like a portrait, where if one eye is a fraction of a millimetre off, it doesn't quite look like the person. I don't usually like to show the painting and photo together, because I just notice every little inconsistency and assume that everyone else will too. But, I know that it isn't really important for the painting to be an exact replica of the photo, as long as I manage to capture the qualities of the specimen in an effective way. This one turned out alright, but it was one of the most challenging pieces I've done yet and I'm not entirely satisfied with it.

* oh, and the painting is close to the size you see it on the screen - 6x6 inches


  1. such beautiful work

  2. I love your paintings. Thanks for sharing the process behind your beautiful work. You are one of my favorite artists.

  3. I can't believe you're not satisfied with this painting! It's gorgeous! (But we're never completely satisfied with our own artwork, are we?)
    Thank you so much for posting all of this. It's always exciting to hear how others work their way through a piece or project. There's always a lot of problem solving and tinkering around that others wouldn't realize unless you told them. So thank you, Carly! And I hope you make it to the Rockhound Gemboree this year! xo

  4. i think you're painting is far more beautiful than the picture. you have such a great style.

  5. These are beautiful. Are they for sale anywhere? Please email me with info.

  6. OH MY GOODNESS! These are incredible! Do you mind that I posted these on my blog? Wow... really lovely work!

  7. Thank you!
    Ashley - Of course I don't mind! I love your blog!

  8. beautiful stunning paintings, I'd love a huge one.

    could I also post these on my blog?

    and please check out my crystal jewels.x

  9. wow, your work is awe inspiring. Really, breathtaking.
    came upon it through but does it float.

  10. These are just wonderful! I actually have a secret love of minerals and even have a childhood collection stored in my parents garage at home. Are any of these for sales? I'd love to own some. Can you send me more info?

  11. This is beautiful. I would like to commission some work from you. Please send contact info to


  12. Hi Carly -- these are amazing. i'm obsessed with minerals and gems. Do you sell them? Would love to purchase one -

  13. This whole series you're doing is just incredible. Like many others who've stumbled upon your work through various sites, I'd love to buy prints and support your art.

    Tell me I can!


    stuff [at]