The Final Drawing. Really.

Came back in this morning and looked at the last version with fresh eyes…..and realized that in trying to solve one problem with the ram on the left, that I’d wrecked the rhythm of the composition. The ram’s head needs to be down. Here are the two versions. I think you’ll see what I mean. What I had:

Argali 2What it got changed to:

Argali-4What I just revised it back to:


Now I have the more dynamic zig-zag line between the top line of the left and main rams. Version 2 made things too static. Better visual variety. Argali run up the rocks like water flowing uphill. And down with equal ease. I wanted to try to catch at least some of my visual impression of that movement. They are so at home in the amazing rocky outcrops they prefer.

Why I am posting all this preliminary stuff? Because people, including other artists, mostly only see the end result or pretty, finished drawings which creates an unrealistic idea of how messy and time-consuming the creation of a painting can be. I’ll flail around for as long as it takes. And that’s ok. The important thing is to get what I want, if I can.

Hot off the easel

I usually have 4-6 paintings going at any one time for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s attention span (short), sometimes I’ve gone as far as I can for the day, sometimes I’m stuck and sometimes I just feel like starting something new. One thing I have found is when I’m interested in painting a species I haven’t done before is that I like to do a head study first to start to learn what the animal looks like. So that was the rather mundane motivation for this painting of a young Thompson’s gazelle that I photographed in Kenya. The horns were the most challenging part because I don’t like to dink and dork around with tight rendering but I had to understand the structure well enough to lay in shapes in the right hue and value so that it is drawn correctly.

I often start with a charcoal or carbon pencil drawing on bristol before I do a painting or even just felt tip pen sketches in a sketchbook.


Yesterday was quite a weather day. I did my third rescue transport in the morning. Ten five week old puppies, a pit/Am. bulldog mix and a 5 mo. old border collie puppy over to Willow Creek, which is about 40 minutes east of here. It was really, really, really windy at the shelter and I have to admit I was wondering what it was going be like going over 2800+ ft. Barry Summit in a Volkswagen Eurovan. There is one short stretch where the road is out in the open on the west side of the mountain, totally exposed. I was to meet up with two guys who live in Willow Creek who were going to take all the dogs on to Redding. The transport coordinator and I decided that if I couldn’t get over the mountain safely and didn’t show up by 10 am, that the men would drive west (in their nice solid Escalade) and look for me down in the valley. As it happened, it was pretty breezy at the summit, but no problem. As soon as I was on the other side though, I was in driving rain. Made the hand-off, went back over the hill, did some grocery shopping at the coop in Arcata and was home by noon. Within an hour all hell broke loose weather-wise. Howling wind, horizontal rain for the rest of the day. Lit a fire in the fireplace, kicked back and in the evening watched Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova win the Best Song Oscar for “Falling Slowly” from the movie “Once”, one of my all-time favorites. Check it out!

Ok, Time For Some Art

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.

Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Argali

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.