I have recently been working on the 4th mystery of the Rosary, the Presentation of the Lord. In thinking about the design of this painting, I wanted to focus on that moment that Mary actually hands over her son, Jesus, to Simeon, a complete stranger to her. Her action prefigures the sacrifice she will one day make, handing over her son to complete strangers, to the world that would torture and crucify him. It is a foreshadowing also echoed by Simeon's own prophecy delivered moments later:
"And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." Lk 2:33-35
I have continued to use the same, somewhat involved process of a) making a complete charcoal sketch of the final painting, b) doing a color study using a print-out of the charcoal drawing, c) tracing the drawing onto a canvas, d) painting a monochrome layer on the canvas, also known as the "umber layer" and then e) painting the final layer, in full color, on top of that. It is a technique that certainly has its advantages and disadvantages.
Here is the final charcoal drawing of the scene. One of the advantages of using this method is that you get a sense of what the finished painting will look like, using a medium (charcoal) that is much quicker and easier to work with than paint.
I decided to include 6 figures in addition to Christ, making him the 7th figure. The characters essential to the narrative are Joseph and May (left), as well as the prophetess, Anna, who is holding a birdcage - in those days, poorer families customarily sacrificed doves in the temple instead of lambs, upon the birth of a son - and Simeon who is directly opposite of Mary.
Working on the final painting has been relatively slow-going. Although, once all of the preliminary work has been done, it makes this last stage much quicker and smoother - which is actually a great joy. Below are some details of the final painting, still a work-in-progress.
I also have recently created an instagram account! You can follow me there to get even more regular updates on what I'm working on. @birdman.627.