In this second episode of our ‘monuments in watercolor’ series, we are looking at the Khufu pyramid complex, or the great pyramid complex at Giza, Egypt. Being the last standing member of the ‘seven wonders of the ancient world,’ this monument is our only glimpse at the grandness of the projects built by our long-gone predecessors.
Because of the mutual influences the ancient Egyptians and the Sumerians exerted on each other's cultures, the Babylonian influence on the pyramid building type is quite evident. If we look at earlier prototypes of pyramids that came before the Khufu great pyramid, we notice that they were also mud-bricks structures with receding platforms just like the Sumerian ziggurats. It was only after iterations of revision (decreasing in the receding angle, change in building material,) along with technological advancements that they graduated to the elegant form we see at Giza.
Though the ziggurat and the pyramid are both giant, tall building types with considerable religious connotations, my argument is that the pyramid is the antithesis of the ziggurat. To elaborate on that, whereas the ziggurats are public architectures, built in civic centers, and are accessible to the general population for them to worship the Babylonian gods; the pyramids are royal (private) mausoleums, built in locales that removed from urban dwellings, and bar the commoners from entering, because they are the ‘residences’ of the deified Pharaohs.
In terms of painting techniques, to address the lack of a background in my previous piece on the Great Ziggurat of Ur, the ‘wash’ technique as seen in the sky, and in the visible sides of the pyramids are nice and flat. Moreover, because I had planned my palette carefully beforehand, the hue of the pyramids is very consistent throughout, with the later applied layer of shading looking very convincing.
The texture of the numerous layers of exposed stones posed a problem because it could be very difficult to paint all those details just with brushes, especially for a piece this small (the paper is measured at 6 by 4.5 inches.) As a solution to this problem, I decided to depict the stones as straight lines drawn with soluble watercolor pencil over the base coloring. Overall I’m quite satisfied with the end result and am looking forward to applying this pencil over watercolor technique to more projects.