During my week-long solo exhibition at the National Museum of Mongolia in August, I was there every afternoon except one. While there was a constant stream of people, over 100 each afternoon (I kept a tally), I was still “stuck” sitting there. So I took my MacBook Air, which is my primary image storage when I’m traveling, a sketchbook, a Sakura Micron pen and some pencils and, working from some of the photos, sketched and drew when I wasn’t chatting with visitors. It also gave them a chance to see an artist at work and many were quite interested.
So here’s a selection from that week, some of which, like the one of the baby marmots below, are intended as preliminary explorations for future paintings. Some are from previous trips, but the images haven’t yet been deleted from iPhoto.
What? You say. She’s seen them and photographed them. Surely she knows what they look like. Well, in a manner of speaking, I do, of course. I’ve got quite of bit of reference of them from previous sightings and have done a couple of small paintngs. But until this past trip I didn’t really have sharp, close-up reference of ibex in good light and also doing interesting things. Now I do.
I spent three out of my first four mornings at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve in August taking around 1000 photos of 2-3 groups of nannies, kids and young billies. I’ve done an initial sorting and 5-star rated (in Aperture, my image management software) the ones that caught my eye for possible paintings.
But…I’ve learned when I decide to paint a new species that I’ll be sorry if I just dive in and hit the easel. I first need to “learn what the animal looks like” and to do that I simplify things by doing a number of monochrome sketches and drawings to familiarize myself with their structure, proportions and anatomy, along with looking for interesting behaviors. I pick reference photos that have a strong light and shadow pattern or some kind of interesting, perhaps, challenging, pose. Sometimes I throw in a quick indication of the ground so I can start to think about that, too.
I like doing small, fairly quick pen sketches. For those I use Sakura Micron .01. and .02 pens on whatever sketchbook I have on hand. They give me a basic idea of what I need to know. Then I’ll often do some finished larger graphite drawings on vellum bristol. I also did a couple of iPad drawings using ArtRage, which makes it easy to lay in some color.