New Painting Debut! “El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)”

El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)  oil  36×24″

I just finished my second painting, “El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)”, for the group show I’m participating in, “The Sea of Cortez”, which will be opening next March at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. The first one “Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab” can be viewed here.

This new painting came about as a result of my interest in comparing the Gobi and the Sonoran Desert. There are argali sheep in the mountain ranges that rise out of the Gobi, so I wondered if there were desert bighorn in the part of the Sonoran Desert that we visited, particularly the spectacularly beautiful Nacapuli Canyon.

I was given the contact information for a scientist who is familiar with the megafauna of the area. He more or less told me that he had bad news and good news. The former was that there is no record or evidence of desert bighorns in the canyon. The good news (and very good news it was indeed) is that there have been sightings, along with pugmarks and other evidence, of jaguars in the canyon. So I knew what one of my paintings would be.

Nacapuli Canyon is quite popular with visitors to the area for picnicking and hiking. Big cats tend to be very wary about the presence of humans, so while other wildlife like birds and coatimundis aren’t too difficult to see, the odds of seeing a jaguar are close to zero. But…as an artist I knew that I could “see” a jaguar in the canyon and show other people something very special about this place that might help conserve it for future generations.

Here’s the step by step process of the creation of “El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)”-

One of the canyon reference photos I used. There were a total of 21 photos of the canyon, vegetation, jaguars and other big cats for paw position reference in my digital “album” for this painting.
Study of the proposed painting, approved by the show curator, Dr. David Wagner
Charcoal pencil studies. The lifted paw in my main reference photo was blurry, so I went through my other big cat reference and searched Google images to find paws in a similar position that were in focus.  I also needed to understand the spot pattern before I started to paint it.

Finally it was time to start the painting:

Blocking in the drawing with a brush, adjusting the relationships of the various elements as I go. I used a fairly intense burnt sienna tint which I knew would show through in spots in the finished work and give it a nice glow. I also changed the proportions, making it wider than I had originally planned.
Close up of the star of the show. The visible part of him is 3.5″ long. His head is 1″ from ear to nose.
First color lay in, indicating the shapes of the shadows
Well into it now, working over the whole surface of the painting. I finished the canyon and made a start on the jaguar. Then I left for Mongolia for seven weeks. I tweaked the farthest mountain, lightened the sky and finished the big kitty yesterday.
Detail of the waterhole and surrounding rocks in progress
El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon) oil 36×24″

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