What if alchemy actually worked, and you could scale up the process to make gold on an industrial level? This piece is about that idea. It depicts an "athanor," an alchemical furnace, built not for a Renaissance-era underground studio but a tall, industrial-size mill. I borrowed shapes and images from 20th century steel mills to build this, and added the alchemical upgrades. The golden sphere at the upper right is filled with particles of gold, which become "seeds" in the gold-making process and transform the base material into gold, multiplying the amount. The little green flare at the top is where a tiny bit of Philosopher's Stone is located, catalyzing the whole process. The birds flying about the furnace symbolize volatile gases given off by the apparatus. Even alchemical industry can cause pollution.
The style of this piece is imitated from two of my favorite science fiction artists, the obscure and seriously under-rated Paul Alexander, and John Berkey, whose influence still dominates in illustrations of spaceships and "megastructures."
"The Athanor" is acrylic on illustration board, 9" x 12", February 1993. Click for larger view.