Monday, April 22, 2013

Featured Artist of the Day - Artists For Conservation

Each member of this society gets to be the Featured Artist of the Day on their homepage of the website. Today is my turn; as I have only recently become a member, this is especially exciting for me. I hope you will visit the site  and have a look, not just at my work but some of the other wonderful wildlife artists on there.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The two bulls are finished

Finally got the last lick of paint applied late Sunday afternoon last week. The vegetation took a while to think out and lay on, but I'm happy with it now. I really wanted to get those lovely little spindly spikes topped with delicate purple pink flowers. I don't know the name of this plant, but I like the offset of its delicacy with the strength and bulk of the two bulls.

After contacting Dr Kate Evans of Elephants For Africa, (the charity for whom I am doing all these Botswana paintings to show in an exhibition to raise funds and awareness for their work) she was able to positively identify the lighter coloured bull as 'Napolean'. She first met him in 2002 during her field research in the Okavango Delta and named him so, as part of his left tusk was then broken.  When we saw him in 2011 he sported two good tusks again. These two guys were strolling very regally through the low scrub alongside the airstrip near the camp I stayed at. We were on our way to an evening meal out in the bush and were transporting the food, so we could not stop and watch them for long. The light was very low, it was gone 6pm and the sun had already reached the horizon, just before the finality of sunset. My camera was set to the maximum to get as much light in as possible (1600 ISO) but even so the photos were poor, blurred and held no detail. This made them perfect reference for my attempt at a looser style of painting.. I could use them and not be drawn in by detail... It has taken me a while to get this one done, I think I started the initial slapping on of paint back in May last year, but it has been put to one side on more than one occasion, first when I could not paint for 4 months due to a frozen shoulder problem and several times since as I have got on with other smaller pieces. I'm not sure what to call this piece yet but I want to have Napolean as part of the title. I shall have a little think on this.

I have already planned my next two projects.. one a sunset with silhouetted ducks and the other a more challenging piece of a triptych of zebras and lechwe. But before them I need to do some work towards a demo evening I am doing at the beginning of May to an art group in Thornbury, near Bristol.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Two steps forward, one step back

Last weekend I worked on finalising the work on the elephants themselves, adding more texturing to the left hand bull and also correcting the trunk, fore legs, underbelly and painting in the left hand tusk on the right hand bull. I then started adding in the foliage in front of them.

I had several photographs of elephants in grassy areas where a delicate pinky purple flower on extended spikes also grew. I liked the idea of this delicate flower being with the elephants adding a contrast in colour and 'weight'. There was also a bush/shrub that grew, I think it is of the genus terminalia.. it has small clusters of grey green leaves and I wanted to include some of that with a few dead stumps of the bush.

So I spent a day painting this in, it all seemed to go well... I liked the way the texture of the plant was being created and I finished quite pleased.... until I stood back. Something was wrong and I couldn't put my finger on it.. so I walked away from the painting and cooked my evening meal. When I came back after eating the meal my first dismayed thought was ' oh no! They're stood behind a hedge!' I thought I had varied the height of the top twigs and branches but... no. At a distance they all looked uniform in height and the dark and light tones were also uniform! Disaster! What was I going to do.. scrape it all off to start again another day or wait for it to dry and adjust t next week?

I had no time that evening to do anything more to it so it would have to wait until next week. I packed up my temporary studio set-up and hung the painting on the landing wall. That evening I walked by that painting a number of times and each time my consternation with it grew... something else was wrong that I couldn't quite see yet. I got ready for bed about 10pm and as I sat in bed watching a bit of TV before I turned the lights off it suddenly struck me... the scale of the bush I had painted was too big for the elephants! I got up and went to look at the painting.. yup.. sure enough that was what was wrong. I stared at it for a few moments... there was only one course of action now... it had to come off before it dried. So out came the palette knife and some white spirit soaked tissues to remove the foliage from the painting. A day's work wasted.. that was because I had wanted to get it finished and wasn't concentrating on the scale aspect of what I was painting on!

So this weekend... I do that bit again.

This is a close up of the top of the trunk on the left hand bull - it shows my looser brush work. Normally I would paint this in with a great deal more detail but I quite like the softer looser feel (for me) to this particular painting.

Friday, April 05, 2013

The two bulls painting

Over the Easter weekend I worked some more on the left hand bull in this painting... I had laid down a 'foundation' of paint giving me the form of the animal over the ears head and trunk... yesterday I put on the 'texturing' going over this foundation layer with dry brush strokes in the same colour paints as I used before... this is the technique I use to get the rough feel to the skin of animals such as elephants and rhinos. As I am attempting to keep the detailing minimal, I enjoyed daubing colour on and am finding it easier, the more I do of this style, to resist going in to tight. I want to make some alterations to the right hand bull... not quite happy with his trunk, so hoping to attack that tomorrow. If all goes well... the painting is then almost finished... just some foliage to do in the foreground and that is it!

I am already thinking of my next piece... or it could be pieces.. have an idea for a triptych.