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.
I love to paint. I love to travel. I love animals. Put it all together with supportive husband who used to stack up the frequent flyer miles, and you get a nature artist who has been lucky enough to go to Kenya twice, Mongolia twice and North American wildlife ground zeros like Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons and Glacier to sketch, observe and photograph a mouthwatering variety of wildlife and their habitats.
The painting above is “Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Argali”, a 15″x30″ oil on canvas. The name translates as “Great Sun Rocks Sheep”. My first trip to Mongolia was in April of 2005 to participate in an Earthwatch Institute project “Mongolian Argali”, which are the world’s largest mountain sheep. A ram can weigh over 400 lbs. and have a horn curl of 65″. In this painting I felt that I was introducing a species that not many people have seen, so I wanted to show them in their environment in the reserve, which is a large area of rocky outcroppings rising up above the steppe, which you can see in the background. “Ikh Nart” is about a five to six hour drive southwest of Ulaanbaatar on a road that largely parallels the railway line to Beijing.
They blend in very well with the rocks and so I designed my composition with the idea that the viewer would see the lead ram first since its head is in high contrast against the background and the second ram, well, second.
For more on my travels, visit my website. For more on the reserve, visit the website listed to the right.