Art Thought for the Day

Animal Rhythm

One of the things that makes me a little crazy is animal artists who present their subject in an awkward and sometimes even ugly pose. There seem to be a number of reasons for this, among them lack of drawing skill, not knowing the anatomy of the species,  getting too caught up in copying a photograph or simply not seeing the inherent grace and rhythm of living things. Just because it “looked that way in the photograph” is NO excuse. Be intentional. Don’t be lazy and settle for what’s in front of you. Now is the time to pull out the old National Geographic or hit Google Images. Not to use someone else’s images, but to fill in the information that is missing in your reference.

It is a matter of training your eye to evaluate what’s in front of you. Someone once said that drawing is seeing. Exactly right. As an example, here are two images of a cougar. Which pose do you think has the better rhythm?

andy1andy2The only real difference is the position of the head, but the 3/4 view really changes the flow of the top line and actually stops the sense of movement.

Here’s one of two horses I photographed in Mongolia last year. If you saw them separately as paintings on a wall, which one would draw your eye and pull you over to it?

ikh-nart-horses

My own eye has been influenced by looking at the work of Alphonse Mucha, the great Art Nouveau graphic artist. Notice how the hair is designed in deliberate, rhythmic shapes.

Think about how that might apply to a horse’s tail or a lion’s mane. It could save you a lot of time, and end with a far more interesting result, by seeing and painting hair and fur as larger shapes instead of individual strands. Fur rendered in excruciating hair by hair detail is definitely another of my pet peeves. There is a better way. Really.

12975573_cycles_perfecta_1897

Finally, here are some quick drawings (2 minutes or so) that I did this morning. Notice that I didn’t worry about the spots on the cheetah or the pattern of markings on the giraffe. All I wanted was to catch the gesture and rhythm of the pose. These quick sketches are also a way to find out if a pose “draws well”. Something that looks fine it a photo can look really weird in a drawing. Odd, but true. Why notice it when you’re halfway through painting all those spots?

cheetah

giraffe

cougar

ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

“The true artist does not paint to please the public – but he holds the interest of all who think,  for a work of art expresses the mind of its workman. In it are clearly reflected his vices and his weaknesses, as well as his virtues. He may deceive men, perhaps, but not inspiration, which will not be duped by hypocrisy.”

William Wendt (1865-1946) (as recently quoted in the California Art Club newsletter)

5 replies »

  1. This is a fascinating post… Very instructive! (It came up on my Google Alert).

    I used to drool over the paintings by a Karen Fox (Fox Studios) who lived somewhere up north… I thought maybe Washington. Did landscape and animals… Fabulous work… But then I lost track. Was that you??? Hope so..

    Even if you’re not the FoxStudio I remember, I’m glad I’ve found the blog. I’ll be back.

    Like

  2. Yes. All content on any site or blog that I create or post is protected by copyright and any use is solely reserved to me. If you need reference of a cougar, I suggest that you search Google for one of the nature photographers who sell either usage rights to their images or will sell you the image outright. I would think that you would be able to find something that would work for you without too much difficulty.

    It would be safe for you to assume that all content on the web is the property of the person who posted it unless stated otherwise.

    Thank you for asking. I appreciate it.

    Like

  3. I wasn’t asking about whether anything was protected Karen.. Just commenting on the similarity of the names. I’m not an animal painter, just appreciated the commentary and good instruction, so thanks.

    I enjoyed your site and your work.

    Like

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