Inktober 2018: Bactrian Camel

Inktober 6- Bactrian camel

Inktober 6- “Bactrian Camel” I’m on the hunt for the “perfect” sketch journal for my Mongolia trips. I used Moleskines for years until the new owners ruined the once-excellent sketch journal paper by making it too thin. I’ve worked my way through almost all of the Stillman & Birn line and may have found two finalists. So here’s the first drawing I’ve done in my Gamma hardbound, a white domestic bactrian camel I saw in Mongolia. I’ve actually seen her a number of times over the years and have done a painting of her. I used a Pilot EF fountain pen. I like the combination so far.

Mongolia Monday- “From the Top of a Camel the Sun Seems so Near” by Zhanchvyn Shagdar

Today’s post is a poem about the Gobi and a “sandalwood brown camel”, but I also want to remind you that the deadline for the Mongolphile Quiz is this Friday at 5pm, Pacific time. Twenty questions here and here.

“From the Top of a Camel the Sun Seems so Near” by Zhanchyvn Shagdar

Bactrian camel, Arburd Sands, Sept. 2008

Gobi of exquisite mirage
Has the seven colors of the rainbow.
And my brown camel with graceful legs
Can travel for a month without rest.

Gobi bactrian camels, July 2010

When I ride my sure-footed brown camel
The sun in the sky seems so near,
Oh, I’m on my way, my sweetheart,
And I’ll be with you at sunset.

Saxaul forest with the Flaming Cliffs in the distance, Sept. 2006

Gobi, with its bushes of saksaul,
You are renowned in this wide world,
And my sandalwood brown camel
Can jog faster the longer the road.

Arburd Sands, Sept. 2008

When I ride my sandalwood brown camel
The moon in the sky seems so near,
Oh, my love, linked to me by fate,
I’ll be meeting you when the moon rises at night.

Moonrise over the Flaming Cliffs, Sept. 2006

Gobi in the radiance of pure gold
Is beautiful like a new family tent,
And the jogging of my straight humped brown camel
Can reach the distant horizon.

Saxaul forest near Orog Nuur, July 2010

My Gobi with its bushes of saxaul,
You are renowned in this wide world,
And my sandalwood brown camel
Can jog faster the longer the road.

Arburd Sands, Sept. 2008

Some Of My Latest Drawings

I’m in the middle of a rather large painting (no, not the argali one; a subject for another post; short, short version: got stuck, needed to let it sit for awhile), so I thought I would post a few drawings that I’ve done recently and then get back to the easel. It’s juried show painting season, so I’m trying out different reference images to see if I think they’ll make a painting. These were all done with Wolff’s carbon pencils on Canson Universal Recycled Sketch paper, which turns out to be quite a nice combination.

Ibex billy; from Baga Gazriin Chuluu, July 2009
Bactrian camel, Arburd Sands, Sept. 2008
Bactrian camel, Arburd Sands, Sept. 2009
Takhi stallion "Temujin", Hustai National Park, Sept. 2008
Takhi mare, Hustai National Park, Sept. 2008
Takhi foal, Hustai National Park, Sept. 2008
Takhi foal, Hustai National Park, Sept. 2008

Animal Expression, The Finale (at least for now)

This has been a fun, and instructive, series for me and I’ll definitely be doing more of this kind of thing for my own study work.

Most of the drawings I’ve done for the previous posts were done fairly quickly, generally 30 minutes or less. For today, I’ve done more finished drawings, once again using the Wolff Carbon pencil on vellum bristol.

The idea for these was to use all the features of the subject, including gesture for the full body drawings, to capture its character and essence.

camel-headFor a Bactrian camel head study, I looked for reference with a 3/4 view, but most of what I have didn’t seem like it would draw well because the position of the features is so odd. Time was limited, so I stayed with a classic profile that shows his calm, unexcitable nature. My husband and I got to sit with a large group of camels at Arburd Sands when we were in Mongolia and I could practically feel my blood pressure drop as I sat and sketched them.

hyena-headThe body of this spotted hyena got too big, so I cropped her at the shoulders, which gives a different look than the camel above, in which the drawing trails off in value, number of lines and amount of detail. I find hyenas interesting and compelling on a number of levels. They live in a matriarchal clan structure, will go to war with lions and move a lot faster than you think they can with their gallumping, awkward gait. The African night wouldn’t be the same without their crazy whooping and insane giggling.

coyote-runningI love the flow of the pose I captured at Yellowstone as this coyote ran parallel to the road in nice morning light. The head demonstrates that you can get a lot of character without a lot of detail if you make your marks carefully, see the shapes correctly and don’t get hung up in drawing individual hairs.

gorilla-headThis drawing and the next one ended up too big to scan, so they were photographed and then processed in Photoshop. They were done on white paper, but I kind of like the toned effect. In any case, I’ve rarely done primates, but I got some incredible reference of the gorillas the last time I was at the San Francisco zoo and have been looking forward to seeing what I could do with it. The big silverback male was on morning patrol and he didn’t miss a thing.

warthog1Sometimes a subject serves itself up on a silver platter and is so compelling that the artist’s job is to simply not mess it up. I found warthogs to be, pound for pound, THE most entertaining animal I saw in Kenya. This one was at Lewa Downs, grazing near the lodge we stayed at. He’s got it all: great ears, that remarkable face and the solid body carried by relatively delicate-looking legs and feet.

Mongolia Monday- Camel Drawings

Here’s a few bactrian camel drawings I did in about an hour this morning. They were done on vellum bristol with a Wolff’s carbon pencil. The head drawing is a little more finished. The full body study was really just to capture the pose and lay in the shadow areas. You can see how I corrected one of the hind legs. The small hind leg study was to learn more about the structure. So, one subject, three different goals. As usual, do try this at home.

Bactrian camel head study
Bactrian camel head study
Bactrian camel studies
Bactrian camel studies

New Painting, New Brushes, New Paint Colors!

One among many of the great things about our visit to Arburd Sands ger camp in Mongolia was the herd of domestic bactrian camels that lived at the camp. They tended to wander off during the day, but were around in the mornings and late afternoons when the light was at its best (how did they know?) I had fun sketching them and here is my first painting of one.

Bactrian Camel, Arburd Sands, Mongolia
Bactrian Camel, Arburd Sands, Mongolia

I really enjoyed trying to get the feel of the wooly coat and painting the pattern of light and shadow.

I’m always looking for ways to live more sustainably and responsibly. More and more it involves conscious choices, which means remembering to think about what one is buying or whether or not to buy at all. There is no way to live on the planet without using resources and, currently, the deck is stacked in favor of certain ways of doing things. But it’s been changing and I’ll bet the rate of change is going to increase Real Soon Now.

And, as anyone who has read this blog for awhile knows, I’m very interested in animal welfare issues.

With that in mind, I needed to get some new brushes. I’ve been using Silver Brush Limited Grand Prix Bristles for quite a few years now. Generally speaking, real hog bristle brushes for oil painting are the superior choice. Then I got one of my regular promotional emails from Jerry’s Artarama, who I have ordered art supplies from for twenty years. They were having a sale on Silver Brush brushes and this caught my eye: “How can you save the life of animals and actually help yourself at the same time?”

On offer was a synthetic brush Silver Brush calls “Silverwhite”. And that got me thinking about the use of animal products. I have no idea where the hog bristles in my current brushes come from. Probably China. What kind of conditions are the pigs kept in? No clue. My husband and I already don’t eat meat that we can’t source to a humane producer. What about something like painting brushes?

So, I ordered the synthetics and used a couple for the first time today and I like them a lot. I plan to switch to them. But then the question becomes “What are the Silverwhites made from?” Some kind of petroleum-based material most likely. Sigh. See what I mean? Choices. Synthetic brushes have been around for years, but I’ve never seen them marketed as “animal friendly” and had never thought of it that way before. The idea is kind of “buzzy” in that, assuming the bristles come from hogs raised for meat, it’s not clear how not buying brushes made from their bristles “saves” their lives, but, as I said, I did find it thought provoking.

I’m not going to get doctrinaire about it, but at this point I’m choosing the synthetic. Thoughts, anyone?

On the color front, I want to start pushing more toward a colorist approach. Camille Przewodek is a great contemporary example. She pushes color waaay out there. I looked at the supply list for her workshops (hope to take one sometime when I have the money) and decided to buy these, for me, exciting new colors: Permanent Green Light, Permanent Magenta and Manganese Bue Hue, all Winsor-Newton. Experimentation begins next week.


Everyone has talent at 25. The difficulty is to have it at 50.
Edgar Degas

Every good painter paints who he is.
Jackson Pollock

I realized that all the good ideas I’d ever had came to me while milking a cow. So I went back to Iowa.
Grant Wood

Mongolia Monday

I started some fun paintings from my new Mongolian reference last week and thought I’d share a couple of them in progress. I’m experimenting with a new way of starting, based on something I learned from John Seerey-Lester. Up till now I’ve begun by drawing directly with the brush, using line. It’s a default from being a “drawer” as a child. One of the major things I learned in art school was to see shape instead of, or in addition to, line.

Since I don’t use a projector, I draw directly from images on my monitor or a preliminary drawing. I sometimes get in trouble and spend a lot of time correcting. What to do?

Something must have been purcolating while I was away from the easel, because it suddenly occurred to me to do a light lay-in of the shapes with a big brush for size, proportion and location, wipe it out so that it is a ghost shape and then start the “real” drawing. It’s already made a difference.

So, here’s two in progress:

A Mongolian stallion 24″x36″

Mongol Horse stallion
Mongol Horse stallion

And a bactrian camel 20″x28″

Bactrian camel
Bactrian camel

Also, here’s one of the paintings that was accepted and will be available for purchase at the Society of Animal Artists show “Small Works, Big Impressions” at The Wildlife Experience near Denver, Colorado.

It’s called “Breakfast for Two” and is a takhi mare and foal that I saw at Hustai National Park.

Breakfast for Two
Breakfast for Two

Equipment reviews on Friday and more paintings!