This is yet another pastel drawing of Chandra, one of my favourite subject animals, he's the male Asiatic lion at Bristol Zoo Gardens. This drawing is special though. Special from the point of view of for whom it was done.
I was commissioned to do this piece for Mike, who has been Chandra and Moti’s keeper since they first arrived at the zoo some 11 years ago. Mike has just retired and this was his leaving present from the staff; he also received a gold watch for over 30 years of devoted work at the zoo, especially with his greatest love… the big cats. Mike will be sadly missed; he was a great character and much loved by all. But I doubt our sadness at losing him barely touches the sense of loss he feels, now that he can no longer look after his beloved lions.
I finished this piece several weeks ago but obviously could not post it until after the presentation. I used Carbothello pastel pencils and a variety of stick pastels on an A3 pastel board. First, after tracing the drawing I spent a few days mulling over in an effort to get right, I put a thin gouache wash in a mid brown colour over the board. This was to 'knock back' the stark whiteness of the surface. I used the sticks to build up the deep smooth colours of the background first and then the pencils for the lion, where detail work was needed.
Being right-handed I worked left to right on the lion to avoid any mishaps with smudging by my hand. I had applied the background colours thickly, which gave a smooth velvet finish after much blending with my fingertips. This was easy to 'brush up' again at the end to ake away any residue dust from where I had worked on the lion.
Finally I put in some rough strokes to imply his usual bedding material of straw. I made no attempt to put Chandra into a natural background, as I wanted him to look as Mike knew him, without having the walls and features of his enclosure to distract the viewer.