Rock Hoppin’ 20×36″ oil
I went to Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve last year with a plan to focus on getting good, paintable Siberian ibex reference. Boy, did that ever work out. On three out of four mornings, I shot over 1000 photos and watched ibex for at least five hours. They were a couple of groups of nannies, kids and juvenile billies who were hanging around some of the rock formations at the west end of the valley where the research camp is located, only a 30 minute walk.
I’ve got a lot to chose from, but loved the “rock hopping” that occurred when this group, who I had already been watching for over an hour as they rested, grazed and interacted, got up and started to move off when the big nanny did. So here she is, cautiously and seriously leading her group to wherever she’s decided they will go, while the youngsters goof off and play follow the leader up and down and on and off the rocks.
Here’s a step by step of “Rock Hoppin’ “:
Ibex group at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu; one of the dozens of photos I shot of this group as they moved off from left to right, the nanny leading the way and stopping at times to evaluate what’s ahead. Most of my reference showed only the rocks, but I wanted some sky also, so chose this photo for the upper left hand part of the painting, particularly that unstable formation at the top, which gives a feeling for the habitat the ibex like best. There had been a lot of rain and the reserve was as green as anyone could remember. Wildflowers were everywhere. The photos one usually sees of this species are from way up above the tree line in mountains where there is very little vegetation. I liked showing them in a different and more colorful habitat.
Preliminary graphite study
After doing a compositional drawing at the final size, I did a graphite transfer to the canvas and then re-stated the drawing with a brush. There had been a fifth ibex in the lower right, but something didn’t seem right design-wise and the solution seemed to be to remove that one, which I did. Then there was still something not right. I realized that I needed an adult ibex, the nanny who was leading the group, not a juvenal billy. This not only let me use a larger animal, which was visually more interesting, but made the painting behaviorally accurate, which is very important to me. I’ve developed a painting procedure that lets me make minor to major changes at any time in the process. I never have to put pressure on myself by “guessing right” at the beginning and then finding myself stuck when something isn’t working.
First color pass, just laying in major shapes to make sure it all works. I used three pieces of reference for the ibex and at least three for the rocks. I planned the placement of the smallest ibex so that his/her head would be against the sky, which was not the case with the reference photo.
Modeling the ibex and the rocks. I’ve defined the shapes of the shadows on the rocks and can now see the pattern those create. I made sure there were large rocks pointing in from the right so that everything wasn’t moving off the canvas.
Detail of a head in progress. From the base of the horns to the tip of the nose is 1 3/4″. I kept the shapes simple, but accurate. Detail per se is of no importance to me.
Detail of kid in progress. It was important to get the great gesture correct and show the muscles working.
Almost done. After this photo was taken, I punched up everything as needed, both ibex and the rocks and finished the grass, which has about six layers of warm/cool, light/dark colors, plus the summer flowers. I also refined the branches of the wild apricot shrubs. I basically did a repaint over the whole thing pulling up the light areas and adding color variations to the rocks, including the lichens, which give a warm touch that picks up the colors of the ibex and ties them to the landscape.
Detail; finished ibex, rocks, grass. The grass was an almost acid green since it was so fresh. I knocked it back a little in intensity since it didn’t look quite believable in a painting. I also consciously varied the colors of the ibex and the proportion of light to dark on the bodies.
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