Making Choices with Second Star to the Right

Many of my posts regarding pictorial composition involve exploring the role of our own biology in the process. However, with this post, rather than explore composition through that portal I would like to share how the aspects of one specific genre governed many of my decisions for a particular homage.

The painting, “Second Star to the Right…,(7x5”, Oil)", was created as a fun celebration of the Sci-fi genre. The title of the work was inspired by the passage in J.M. Barrie’s The Adventures of Peter Pan J. “Second to the right, and straight on till morning. That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to the Neverland;” It was actually Walt Disney’s 1953 adaptation of the tale that added the word “star” to the passage. Years later, Gene Roddenberry’s Captain Kirk would appropriate the phrase at the close of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Nearly every aspect of the painting was inspired by iconic science fiction works from the 1930’s onward. Flash Gordon, Weird Fantasy, Space Adventures, Buck Rogers, Space Ghost, and more. Colors, shapes, and even the orientation for some objects, were taken directly from the scenes of serials and the pages of comic books. Here you can see how some of the inspirations relate to the finished work:

Two additional “easter eggs” hidden in the above graphic are the number “42” (a reference to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), and an orientation of shapes that represent our solar system.

Many of my works contain layers of meaning and symbolism. Some of this content is relatively easy to spot, while some of it requires careful investigation. In any case, I hope this glimpse into my creative process is interesting and helpful to you in your own efforts.

Happy Painting!


That thing with the solar system is total genius. I know you’ll say there’s no such thing but there’s a certain amount of majesty in being able to pull off such tricks. It might just be the icing on the cake, but, you have to be a consummate cake maker to ever get to that point of icing in the first place.

Reminds me of what someone once said about Lionel Messi (the footballer) that he seems to have more time on the ball than the other players. It just seems that you’re so far ahead of everyone else!!

In any case I think it takes genius to a) put in the hard work needed for deliberate practice and b) simply understand the concept of deliberate practice and automaticity in the first place.

I would be really interested if at some point in the future (there’s no rush) you would post about DP exercises that you tried, not so much from the point of view of what we might learn from it, but I’m simply interested in the human experience of putting yourself through it.

So how did you devise DP exercises, what was the motivation, which ones failed to elicit an improvement, did you ever get depressed, cranky, angry, rageful whilst doing them etc. I recall you once said that some of your students didn’t appreciate all the hard work, misery and pain you’d been through in order to give them the benefit of your wisdom.

Btw, given that thing with the solar system, I’m betting that in one of your other paintings you’ve ironically incorporated a pattern that traces the Golden Ratio Armature!!