Thursday, November 12, 2009

Starting, but not at the beginning

So I've been puzzling over where to start with my posts. I've been doing art (not good art.. but art) for years, but to start this blog with years-old-art seems a bit silly. I should start fresh... or, if not entirely fresh, I should start with the beginnings of my current pursuits. Right? Sure, we'll say that it sounds good.

I have been long into wildlife art; beyond my daydreaming of dragons and kin when I was barely able to write or count to 10, I dreamed of being a wildlife artist. At around age 8 or so I discovered that the folks that paint and draw animals were wildlife artists, and so I came home from the library with two precious Bateman books and poured over every page. My wonderful aunt got me a few 'how to draw animals' books and a set of pencils for my birthday when I turned 9 (I think it was 9). Thus began a lifelong affliction with Wildlife Art- especially birds.

This year, after floundering for so long without a real direction, I decided to really concentrate on improving my wildlife paintings. My theory is that if I can get better with real critters, I can then translate my new knowledge into fantasy to produce really believable stuff. Or you know, in theory. It works in my head. Let's see if I can actually do it!

So, I suppose the beginnings were when I painted two images for the Endangered Ark playing card decks, which is a cool deck of cards, each featuring all new artwork of endangered or otherwise at risk species (and sadly in a few cases, species thought to be extinct). This was a great project because much of the proceeds are donated to animal charity groups, and I've sent off a good bit of the proceeds to the World Parrot Trust.

And so were the Resplendent Quetzal and Northern Spotted Owl done. These two pieces are painted digitally, but in traditional paint techniques... with no use of computer rendering tools, layers, etc.

They were a great appetite whetter. I don't think whetter is a real word but we'll go with it.
I had been drawing the odd wildlife piece here and there, but mostly it was fantasy work and whatever I was being commissioned to do.

Then, in June I was preparing for a show, and I decided that I really needed to take my wildlife stuff back to traditional media. As much as I love digital paint, people need to be able to touch a tangible painting, see the brush strokes. Not to mention traditional paintings sell better than digital ones, where there is an inferred loss of value when there is no true original. All debate on that aside (because I have some strong thoughts but they are unpopular ones), I just wanted to do traditional again anyhow. And so, I did.

I still had the bitey teeth of fantasy nipping at me, so I went with a whimsical silly theme of Rockhopper Penguins eating sushi. Why not? Penguins do enjoy raw seafood after all, and I always felt that they were very expressive critters.

Sushi with the 'Hoppers

This piece was done in acrylic and measures 12" x 8" on illustration board. This group has it all... the messy eater, the sushi-tosser, the uptight chopsticks-guy... and don't you know it, there's always one in the group that thinks sushi is gross. You know how it is. 
Interestingly, this was the first time since I was 12 or 13 years old that I had attempted an acrylic painting, and I learned a lot. I use acrylics often for Windstone Editions when I paint for them, but applying color to a fantasy sculpture is considerably different than rendering a painting. Or, it is for me at least, in my inexperience.

Despite my problems and mistakes, I found I was having a really good time of it. So, within a week, I had done another painting... 

A Silence in the Hemlocks

 7" x 15" Acrylic on illustration board.

I was really inspired by all the spring runs with hemlocks growing in them in the area I live, and I've always loved pumas. I found that while I really was enjoying painting, the Golden Fluid Acrylics I had been using didn't lend themselves to big expressive brushstrokes like I was hoping for, and I was having trouble blending. I knew that my next goal would be to purchase a set of nice buttery tube acrylics....
And that is a story for another entry.


  1. I have to admit that I have the same innate feeling about digital vs physical media. There are some amazing works out there in the digital world, but I can only buy a copy. Supply and demand is a real world rule, like it or not.

    I'm enjoying your blog, hope you are too! :)

  2. When you paint with acrylic on illustration board, Do you first prime the board with gesso, or work directly on the surface?