The New Big Painting, Cont.

Sometimes having another, educated eye can really help. Since this is a big painting which will require a big time commitment, I decided to consult with another wildlife artist who I have taken a workshop with and whose judgment I trust. She knows me and knows what my goals are for my work. I sent this image to her on Friday and got her response this morning.

For reference, the first version from the previous post:


The next version. I also decided to make the sheep on the right a juvenile to provide variety for the horns, along with adding some of the body and changing the head position.

Argali 2

Here’s the critique:

“These guys remind of me of desert bighorn – horns and heads large for lightly built bodies (though desert bighorn have much thinner horns). The mouth on the rear youngster is a little uncertain (what’s he doing?). I’d like to see more suggestion of muscle in the body – particularly hindquarters – of the main ram. His front left leg feels a little stiff – I like the movement in his overall gesture, but the knee and pastern don’t flow as well. He seems a little over at the knee on his right front. I know sheep aren’t built like horses, but sometimes (to borrow from Bob Kuhn) the artist has to make changes that look better, even if they’re not as accurate.

The front partial ram head/horns ought to be larger to indicate perspective; his body seems larger, as it should, but head/horns don’t seem as large relative to his body as the main ram’s.

Painting all those rocks will be great fun! I love rock and snow – so graphic. Everything in the composition leads us to the right and the main ram’s head – should be striking. You might consider turning his head towards us a little to keep the viewer from zipping out to the right – but it should still work as it is too.”

This are exactly the kind of technical notes that I was hoping for from someone who only knows what I’ve showed them, not what I think I’m trying to do.

This afternoon I did the re-drawing, erasing where needed. The muzzle of the ram on the left head got a little too big. I’ll fix that tomorrow, but otherwise it’s all working. As far as the first observation of the critique- in fact, the argali are very solidly built compared to desert bighorns. The big argali rams also weigh twice as much, 200 lbs. vs. 400 lbs. But both have very slender legs in relation to the bodies.

Argali 3

Now I have some good visual variety. The three argali are all different sizes and angles. I have the directional flow that I want, but I need to make sure that the viewer’s eye doesn’t “flow” off the right hand side. The stacked rocks will be the “stopper”. I’ve minimized the horizontal planes and added some shrubs and more small trees, aspens that I saw at Baga Gazriin Chuluu.

The next step is the value study. Value is light and dark relationships, separate from color. I already know that the area of highest contrast will be the main ram’s head against the sky.

UPDATE 8-25-09:

The re-drawing is done. I ended up changing the whole head and neck of the ram on the left side and straightening the foreleg of the main ram a little more. One of the lessons I learned when I worked in the sign shop doing hand-drawn lettering was the difference that, literally, the width of a #2 pencil point was between right and wrong. When I saw it for the first time, it was like a big, bright light came on. It was so obvious. And it’s true when drawing animals or anything else. I will always be grateful to the owner of the shop for giving me the opportunity to train my eye to discern differences that fine. The acceptable tolerance was 1/64 of an inch when drawing letters a few inches high.

I still see little things in the drawing that bug me, but I’ll deal with them when I do the brush drawing on the canvas. Being bugged about something is one of the ways that I know a painting isn’t done yet. And when nothing bugs me anymore, I’m done, which really means that I’ve solved all the problems. The itch to fix what I can see isn’t right is one of the things that drives me on a painting. I Just Can’t Stand It.


I also lightly drew some more rock towers on the right for my “stopper”. They will be simple shapes in aerial perspective.


I lied. I did one more overlay this afternoon with a mechanical pencil (HB lead) to really refine the drawing and get it ready for the value study. Every version allows me to be more decisive about tricky shapes like the horns. Plus, I wanted to more thoroughly work out the background and foreground. And I still wasn’t happy with the ram on the left, so he got re-drawn. Again.

I’m using Canson tracing paper for the first time and, wow, is it nice. I used to use whatever was cheapest, but no more. All but the last drawing, which I’ll post tomorrow, was done with a Sanford Draughting Pencil. They were Eagle Draughting Pencils when I first started buying them many years ago and appear to have been owned by at least two other companies between then and now. Fortunately, they’ve never been “improved”, so they’re as good as ever.

3 thoughts on “The New Big Painting, Cont.

  1. Susan,
    I look forward to reading about your progress! Thanks for posting about this on Facebook!
    I like the composition! Because I know who gave the critique, you are correct in saying NOT everyone will do that for a fellow artist.
    For this project, I can’t, just because I do not have the wildlife expertise. =)


  2. Susan, the sublte changes that you made made all the difference! Such a nice composition! I look forward to seeing the painting process now!


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