experimenting with watercolors on a very small scale. 2.5″ x 3.5″
Tag Archives: art
An old internet friend commissioned me to do a double portrait of his sweet dogs, who have sadly passed on. Rooney, a chocolate lab and Magic, a black lab were my subjects. I’d never met the dogs, so only had pictures and my friend’s description of what the boys were like.
It is a funny thing but as I draw, I feel like I’m actually getting to know who or what ever I’m drawing (yes, if I draw a rock, I start to feel I know the rock) and it was the same with these two. Rooney seems such a hopeful, serious sort and Magic goofy and playful. Both seemed open and loving and most of all, loved.
So, here’s Rooney & Magic, approximately 16×20 in graphite. It was great getting to know you.
Many decades ago, I bought a set of pastels at a fire sale. It was a real fire at a local store where I lived at the time. The owners sold everything in stock that was not too badly damaged. Mostly, things just smelled of smoke. I scooped up a 90 color set of Rembrandt soft pastels for a song (no dance). I recently looked up the going price for the set in today’s market and it was something over $300.
(ack! I did get a deal)
Anyway, I did of few pictures with them, teaching myself as I went along and they were okay. And then my mom died, life got way busier shuffling home, work, kids, 2 jobs, and all the rest that goes with being a single mom with no money. There was really no room (or time) for art. I did a few pastels now and then for friends but nothing worth noting.
So now with my kinda-sorta project of producing works on paper of animals that are endangered, maligned, or misunderstood, I thought I’d break out the pastels and see if I remembered how to make them work. Here’s the test, on a baby robin that I snapped a picture of while he was perching on the cable wire outside my window. Even though his mom was still feeding him, he felt quite proud of himself and his new found freedom.
The Wolverine, Gulo gulo, lives in the most severe climate in the far reaches of the northern hemisphere. The largest member of the weasel family, looking more like a bear than a weasel, she lives a mostly solitary life. Fierce, stocky and strong, she can bring down prey much larger than herself but due to the harsh climate, the wolverine will partake of most anything she can come by from Elk to rabbits, mice, carrion, roots and berries. Of course, this makes her terribly misunderstood and maligned as noted by the name we’ve given her: Gulo, latin for glutton.
Wolverines need a large territory in which to hunt and mate and are not willing to share with others. A lucky male will usually form lifelong bonds with a few females, whom he will visit from time to time, mating and hanging out with the young until they are weaned. Sometimes the young will go traveling with Dad when they get older until they settle in their own territories.
Highly endangered through hunting, trapping, climate change and shrinking habitat, the numbers worldwide are not known but according to Defenders of Wildlife there are approximately 250-300 individuals in the contiguous United States.
I’ve been fascinated by this animal for many years though I’ve not attempted to draw, paint or sculpt her until recently. This newest sculpture took me a long time but then it takes time to get to know this beautiful, misunderstood creature.
Here’s a closeup of the face. Everything about the Wolverine is sort of solid and square.
Here also, the charcoal drawing I did a while ago.
For the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve been concentrating on learning to sculpt in clay. I think I’ve managed to get a handle on the medium and looking back on my sculptures, I believe I’ve progressed reasonably. I’m even rather proud of a few of my pieces, and that, for those who know me, is quite a statement.
There are issues. One is that the art center I go to has become prohibitively expensive. I would buy a kiln but there is no safe place to install it in this teeny, overpacked house. So, my plans to sculpt a series of endangered, misunderstood and maligned animals has become undoable.
Before I began sculpting, my medium was oils, but here again, I have a logistical problem with space. I am working in a tiny corner of the tiny “sunroom” which is actually just an enclosed porch with a lot of drafty windows, ugly paneling and because of its shape, is more shaded than lighted. I share this space with my parrot, Milo. The fumes from turpentine and linseed oil are not so good for parrots. Also a very steeply sloped ceiling makes setting up my easel impossible. Oils are right out.
I decided that I need to develop my ideas using not-toxic materials that can be done in a small setting without spending a fortune. My solution was to learn how to use watercolors and colored pencils. I’m already quite adept with graphite — drawing with graphite is like breathing for me. I used to use charcoal all the time when I was younger, so despite being hideously rusty with charcoal, that’s in the new mix of preferred media.
The first animal I chose to research was the wood stork. By all accounts a most ungainly bird. Ungainly appeals to me. I did some preliminaries and then a graphite portait and a small watercolor. I am proud of the portrait and not too displeased with the watercolor. Here’s the portrait… what an impressive bird!
After I worked on this guy, I decided to look for other ungainly birds (I will return to the Wood Stork, I promise). As a lark, I started sketching flamingoes without giving them any serious thought. Suddenly, while trying to figure out that incredible beak, I realized that I needed to research this magnificent bird who has become not much more than a tacky lawn ornament to most in this country.
so here’s some stuff about flamingoes
- Their name means flame.
- As far as anyone can tell, they may or may not be related to grebes, storks, ibises, spoonbills, pigeons, doves.
- There are 6 species, 4 in the new world, 2 in the old.
- For the grebe-flamingo clade, the taxon Mirandornithes (miraculous birds) has been proposed.
- Their color comes from the caretenoids in their diet, they filter feed on brine shrimp and blue-green algae.
as i was drawing their beaks during research, it occurred to me that their beaks reminded me of baleen whales.
- The Ancient Egyptians believed them to be the living representation of the god, Ra.
- Ancient Romans considered their tongues a delicacy.
- They were worshipped by the ancient people of Peru.
- They are the nationals bird of the Bahamas.
and in the United States, we have turned them into cheap, pink plastic lawn ornaments.
Wiki entry for flamingoes is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamingo for more info.
So, this is the work I started with the flamingo. The flamingo (who was once a god) is teaching me watercolor (slowly and painfully), colored pencil (slowly but not so painfully), and a revisit with my old friend, charcoal. I hope you enjoy the flamingoes, and I hope you notice that this magnificent bird is anything but tacky.
One other thing I learned…I’m not very good at taking photographs of art. I also like wolverines.
But more about her later.