Featured Etsy Listings- Wisent, Horse and Lioness

Most Wednesdays I’ll be sharing original drawings and paintings available through my Etsy shop. They will all be one-of-a-kind originals and are subject to prior sale.

Just listed:

Yawning Lioness 14x11" sanguine pencil on paper

 Click to purchase here

Wisent approx. 11x14" charcoal pencil on paper

Click to purchase here

Horse Head Study 7x5.5" charcoal pencil on paper

Click to purchase here

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.

Latest news!

I have been a member of Artists for Conservation (formerly The Worldwide Nature Artists Group) for quite a few years now. Two years ago, they instituted a recognition program called “The Conservation Artist Award”. One artist a month is chosen, which qualifies one for the Simon Combes Award at the end of the year. And (drum roll!) I’ve been chosen as the artist for March! Go to http://www.natureartists.com and you’ll see a box on the right hand side with my picture. It’s really an honor since the organization is now approaching 500 members.

Also, today I got my acceptance letter for the Marin Art Festival, so I’ll be at The Civic Center Lagoon, Mill Valley, June 14-15. I’m really excited to have gotten in on my first try. I’ll be publishing my full festival and show schedule as soon as all the info rolls in.


I recently had the privilege of doing a portrait of Cosimo, a Holsteiner imported from Germany for Grand Prix jumping events. He had some leg and foot problems, as it turned out, but with time and care it looks like he is back on track. His owner said that she would probably only really be seeing him in the arena, so she wanted a painting of him relaxing during his “down” time. Knowing that she grew up on a ranch in Ventura county, I couldn’t resist letting inspiration from the early California landscape painters take over. For Cosimo himself, I spent 90 minutes sketching and photographing him in an exercise paddock last spring.


The interesting parts of painting Cosimo were the getting the shape around his eye right, since it really gave him a distinctive expression, and the top of his shoulders (withers, I guess, to be technically accurate), which were huge in comparison to other horses I have seen. I’ve never done a horse portrait before and spent a lot of time doing preliminary drawings and even a small study in oil to make sure that I captured an accurate likeness of a head that, in the finished painting, is less than 2″ long. I enjoyed getting that glossy sheen on his coat, too.

He isn’t what I would consider a pretty or beautiful horse, like an arabian, but even during the short time I had with him, I got a sense of a horse with quiet dignity and strength of mind. Not someone you’d joke around with. He apparently has a solid competitive drive too, which he’ll need.

The background elements include an oak tree, a sycamore, California poppies and a sprinkling of lupine, which are all plants the client grew up with. The quail were added for fun and to provide a narrative element.

The original is a 16″x20″ oil on canvas on board. My client is very pleased, which, of course, makes me very happy!