Animal Expression, Part 5: Eyes

There’s a saying, referrring to humans,  that “the eyes are the windows to the soul”. I believe this is every bit as true for animals. Now, whether or not, in the religious sense, animals literally have something that could be called a soul, is a question I’ll leave to others. But in the sense of consciousness, sentience, “isness”, I believe that absolutely. Animals experience emotions such as happiness, grief, depression, hopefulness and silliness, feel pain, form a wide variety of relationships, communicate with each other within and across species, teach and acquire wisdom and culture, use tools and, in some cases, clearly demonstrate self-awareness in the human sense. They have as much right to a safe and decent life on this planet as we do.

Whatever it is that vanishes from an animal’s eyes when it dies, before that point, there was an individual someone at home in there.

That is my starting point for drawing and painting animals. And so, in a sense, the “eyes” have it. I often do the eyes first and, not infrequently, there is my subject looking back at me. I’ve even been known to say out loud “Well, hello there.”

Here are five drawings of eyes, using the Wolff Carbon pencils on vellum bristol. I did a little something different with a simple border, an idea that I picked up from fellow student when I was in art school. It lets simple designed compositions occur instead of just having the drawing randomly trail off.giraffe-eye

A reticulated giraffe that I photographed in the Samburu, 2004

cosimo-eyeA Holsteiner stallion, who I did a portrait commission of year before last.

bighorn-eyeA bighorn sheep ewe from the Denver Zoo.

serval-eyeA serval, also from the Denver Zoo.

cat-eyesAnd our own dear tabby girl, Persephone, aka The Princess.

New Year, New Painting and… A New Cat!

NEW PAINTING!

I was able to take many good pictures of Mongol horses on my trip there in September. This was a stallion who showed up with his harem very near the ger camp at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu late one afternoon. Due to lack of rain, all the herder families had left the area, along with their livestock, but a few groups of horses had been left behind to shift for themselves until their owners returned.

I wanted to really work on understanding horse structure so this is a bigger painting than what I’ve recently been doing – 24″x 36″. The horse is almost 19″ at the withers. I really loved the rhythm of the movement. It was almost like he was showing off. I don’t know horse behavior nearly as well yet as dog or cat, so I’d love to hear from anyone who can interpret what he’s doing and why.

Since the horse was what I cared about , I left the background as a field of mostly warm color with some cool color showing from underneath.

mongol-horses-ikh-nart-stallion

NEWS FROM THE FELINE FRONT

Meet our new family member, Alexander! We brought him home yesterday from the Humboldt County Shelter, where I volunteer. He’s four months old and extremely friendly. He likes other cats (although our three girls aren’t too thrilled at the moment). He’s done a nose touch greeting with Niki the collie. We’ve set him up in a crate in my husband’s office since Alex is supposed to be  mainly his cat.

new-tom-cat

The vet was just here (she does housecalls only; how cool is that?) and she thinks that he may be part rag doll because of how easy he is to handle, kind of like, well, a rag doll. She pronounced him in good health and recommended a bath at the groomer’s to get rid of the whiff of shelter odor and get him all nice and fluffy. We all want to get him the best start on the rest of his life that we can.

FYI: never bring home a new animal, either a cat or a dog,  plop them down in the living room and turn them  loose. New introductions need to be taken slowly with consideration for everyone. The new animal should be in a crate or behind a baby gate or in a room like the bathroom to ease in gently and avoid conflict. He’ll stay in the office at least until Sunday.

Friday Features

IN OUR OWN BACKYARD

Last night my husband and I were sitting in our spa at dusk and what should we see ambling along the edge of one of the flower borders but a mom skunk with one baby. Niki the collie, who got thoroughly skunked a month or so ago, immediately went to the other side of the spa and gazed with great interest toward the pond. Good dog.

The skunks went right onto the patio and then under the engawa (Japanese style veranda), at which point we called it a night.

BACKYARD BIRD LIST

Same as last week, except one of the first hummingbirds, an Allen’s I think, found the verbascum and lavender, which are starting to bloom. There was an article in the news today here about the songbird die-off. Pretty depressing. The only local bird named that we have seen here is the Rufous Hummingbird. Time to plant more hummingbird friendly plants.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

You think you know your pets, but sometimes………..

Niki and Eowyn, en flagrante something or other. Got another one that I’m going to upload to www.icanhascheezburger.com. If you haven’t been there and you have a sense of the ridiculous, highly recommended.

ART THOUGHT(S) FOR THE DAY

Two Views on Art:

Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.

Jules Pfeiffer, famous artist

Anyone who sees and paints the sky green and pastures blue ought to be sterilized.

Adolf Hitler, failed artist