These are Vancouver’s famous Sulfur (Sulphur?) Piles. People can be bothered by the intrusion of industry on nature, but this is really a quintessential Vancouver scene caught on one of those perfect late-afternoon winter days. There were a lot of things I immediately loved about the source photo: the contrast of the mountains, the lines, and how the machinery mirrors them but is really kind of dwarfed by them. I loved the touches of extremely bright color in the freighter and the sulfur itself, and the freighter really is called “Wisdom Line” – how perfect.
I did it as a triptych because there was a lot to focus on and I wanted to get the sense of panorama in there. One thing I changed with my style was breaking away from the longer, looser brushstrokes. This one has a lot of shorter choppy Van Gogh-y brushstrokes to capture the snow on the mountains and the weird little highlights you get in winter. Also, I avoided putting on any accent clouds in the sky just because the middle plane is busy enough.
A fact I discovered about sulfur: sulfur = brimstone. I always wondered what brimstone was. It always seemed to be associated with hell and punishment, e.g. hellfire and brimstone, Revelation 20:10: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, etc.” Interesting that Vancouver is kind of a major clearing house for it. It’s also considered to be a major alchemy ingredient. I was a little concerned about the brimstone connection until I read this one: “In alchemy the names given to the three essentials are Body, Soul, and Spirit, or respectively, Salt, Sulfur, and Mercury.” So I guess in alchemy, at least, sulfur also symbolizes the soul. That’s a relief. And one more stretch o’ meaning: as a very lapsed Catholic, triangles always used to symbolize the holy trinity for me – Father, Son, HG, and all that. Okay, I’m just getting carried away now. It’s not that deep – but you’ve got to admit the sulfur bit is interesting!
Acrylic on Canvas, Triptych, 36″ x 54″ (three x 18″ wide canvases ).
Located at: Private collection (WP&CB)