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Gallery Walk: The Blessings Afar Off by Elspeth Young


The blessings afar offAn original oil painting by Elspeth Young
the blessings afar off
An original oil painting by Elspeth Young

And it came to pass that [Pharoah's] priest made an offering unto the god of Pharaoh, and also unto the god of Shagreel, even after the manner of the Egyptians.  Now the god of Shagreel was the sun.  Now, this priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, who were the daughters of Onitah, one of the royal descent directly from the loins of Ham.  These virgins were offered up because of their virtue; they would not bow down to worship gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar, and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians. — Abraham 1:8-11

the story in this painting

The Blessings Afar Off depicts one of the three faithful and courageous descendants of Ham that were martyred, steadfast in the promise that whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world (see Ether 12:4).  Assured of what the Apostle Paul described as God's promises afar off—even a better country, that is, an heavenly (see Hebrews 11).  The mood of this young woman is, as another modern martyr declared: Calm as a summer's morning [having] a conscience void of offence towards God and man " (see Doctrine and Covenants 135:4).

Having willingly sacrificed her life, rather than submit to the idolatry and corruption of her day, she and her sisters were doubtless among those to whom the Apostle Paul referred when honoring the ancient faithful who were slain with the sword . . . of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11).

The young woman is clothed in a white linen kalasiris typical of women's costuming during the Middle Kingdom Egypt, the era in which it is believed Abraham penned the story of these three sisters.  Its whiteness denotes her purity.

The setting sun behind the contemplative figure suggests not only the premature sunset of the valiant virgin's life, but the exquisite irony that while the Egyptians intended to sacrifice this young woman and her sisters to Shagreel (the temporal sun), the martyrs willingly gave their lives to stand firm in their faith in that Son who is the light and the life and truth of the world.

The white poppy in her hand is an Egyptian symbol of death.

The color scheme of the painting recalls hues found in the wall paintings in Egyptian Tombs of the Middle Kingdom.

the creation of this painting

Elpseth working on the painting at the A-frame easel in her studio at Ben Haven.
Elpseth working on the painting at the A-frame easel in her studio at Ben Haven.

The easel at which Elspeth works was designed and made by Al in 1992.  Since then, it has been modified several times.  The most recent major addition was the framework at which Elspeth is working in the foregoing photograph

For years, I have enjoyed painting Nigerians, Haitians, Ethiopians, African Americans, and a host of other races besides—Mestizo, Native American, Filipino, Oriental, Latino.  The list goes on.  To my eye, there is no single magical key to the color scheme of the races.  The only difference in the interracial skin-tone color wheel is where the highlight, mid-tone, and shadow dials express each individual.  For anyone interested in detail as well as a how-to overview, I recently published an article that sets forth the basics of my palette and techniques in meeting the demands involved not in painting the races, but capturing the life-stories written in every face, regardless of the ink color in which they appear — "Some Picture Painted" in The Storybook Home Journal , Vol. 19 No. 2 (Hearth article)

more about Studios techniques and practices

Original artworks produced by the Artists of Al Young Studios are part of themed collections because the Studios is organized after the pattern of the Renaissance workshops of the old masters.  The Artists take the long view of their work as being a lifetime journey toward mastery of artistic expression through selected techniques, reaching as far back as the 16th century.  Artists work as peers in an intensely creative community in which each artist pursues his or her own work as part of the group's philosophy.

Subject-matter research; fabrication and acquisition of such things as costuming, props, accessories; use of models; photography; framing and other in-house Studios services support the work of the Artists.  Artworks are also produced within a strong tradition of curatorial documentation.

The work of the Studios has been ongoing since 1981. The following links present some of the projects we've done and a few of the things we've invented and learned.

Behind the scenes
Creating, equipping, and operating a studio
Technical stuff

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