Time to start planning new projects. I am concentrating on the native for a bit!
While projects with an international wildlife theme are extremely good to do, it is important not to neglect what is local. Unfortunately people can sometimes be more familiar with the issues facing lions, tigers, giraffes, wolves and rhinos and be totally unaware of the issues that affect their local wildlife.
An example of such an issue relates to squirrels. Locally there is a very healthy population of American Grey Squirrels but unfortunately where I live in Scotland, they are not native. The native squirrel is the red squirrel. This is smaller and has been under immense pressure ever since the introduction of the bigger grey squirrel. Currently red squirrels are now only confined to a handful of areas.
While grey squirrels can be fun to watch out in the local woods, I have to confess I would rather see our native red squirrels. Therefore it is vitally important to raise awareness of how the introduction of the grey has had such a negative impact on our native red populations.
Another issue that I think is quite sad is how remarkably unobservant many people are. I remember while out walking the dog, watching people make their way along a path to get to work… just a short distance up the hill stood three roe deer quietly munching away.
The deer just seemed to know that the chances of people seeing them was very low.
I always wondered what the reaction of those people would have been if they had just turned their head to the left and saw how close the deer were!
Maybe you would argue that it is a good thing that most people are oblivious! After all, it could lead to the deer facing greater disturbance.
While that is certainly a risk… I think it is one that is worth taking. Being the optimistic person that I am, my view is that the more people who are aware of the presence of the deer the more likely they are to value and care for that area.
Going back to the point I made earlier about people not recognizing the animals that live in their own country… here is one example… this is the Pine Marten. Well Pine Marten under construction!
I wonder if people would recognize this animal as being native to Scotland.
It is a forest dweller that is unfortunately confined to the North of the Country. This gorgeous member of the weasel family has been in decline but thankfully numbers are now rising.
These new drawings of a Pine Marten and a Roe Deer once finished will be added to my gallery of local wildlife. My intention will be to make prints from the originals and use the illustrations as a means of provoking discussion about wildlife issues.
This concentration on local wildlife will not be to the neglect of international issues.
It is my view that by by raising awareness of what is happening locally on the doorstep, it can not only foster an interest… but also provoke a call to action . As people become more involved with the local… hopefully they will start to identify the connections with the global.
Migrating birds demonstrate this perfectly. People tend to like birds and welcome the return of swallows and swifts. But, for these birds to survive they need to have good habitat not only at both ends of the journey but also on the stop over areas in between. Migrating birds would be a good subject to draw in the future.
All too often people are sympathetic to international causes but their distance creates a remoteness and a feeling of powerlessness. By valuing the local hopefully they will make the connection and support the global too!
In recent times all my drawings have been around the size of an A3 piece of paper. I now very rarely draw anything smaller as I feel that details could be lost.
For many of the subjects I wished to draw, this A3 size seems to be the optimum size. Not too big and not too small.
In early January I decided that more impact was needed for a story that I wished to tell. To achieve that I not only went with drawing the piece on black paper but also scaled it up to a bigger size. The initial sketching was started and that seemed to go well… then I never touched it again.
Now I have argued that there was a clash of schedules and l had taken on more projects than I had intended and… yes there is an element of truth in this.
But, if I was being entirely honest with myself there was also an element of fear and perhaps regret at attempting something so big particularly as I regard myself as being at the start of my artistic journey.
Now I could of course have gone the other way and gone smaller. There is no doubt that small, even the miniature can have a wow factor.
I have seen some incredibly detailed pieces of artwork such as watercolor paintings only 2 inches square that are beautiful.
They are exquisite and the skill involved in getting so much detail into such a small space can only be admired.
However, putting to one side the fact that I do not have the necessary skill to achieve so much detail in such a small piece, I am not sure the subtle approach is appropriate for the type of message that I want to put across.
My purpose is to raise awareness of wildlife issues and I want to shout as loudly as possible which is why I took the decision to go big and bold with the Orangutan and baby. The message of loss of their habitat to make way for oil palm plantations is one that should not be ignored.
However what is the point of aspiring to shout a message when I am fearful of doing so!
It was time to confront the fear!
The whole of last week was spent confronting that fear
This drawing of an Orangutan and her baby measures 70 cm x 50 cm and is the biggest drawing I have ever attempted.
To overcome the fear, I ignored the subject and just took small areas at a time mapping out the different shapes. Now I am slowly building up the layers. Approaching it this way has made it less daunting. There is also the opportunity to really focus in on the details of different elements such as the hairy hand, the nose, the mouth and the the arrangement of the hair in the mother as well as striving to capture that close relationship between mother and baby.
It is important to get this right and I won’t rush it. I will do a little bit at a time and carefully work out the best way to interpret each part of the drawing as I continue to rotate between other drawings.
Unfortunately it will take some time before I am ready to shout about this but it is better to get it right!
I completed the lioness and I am very happy with the way she turned out.
Progress then turned to the other three cats. I began with the leopard that had a startled expression. Having continued to layer up the fur and refine the detail I thought the expression would soften. It hasn’t… it still has a startled look. At first, I admit I was a bit unsure. But now I am now OK with it. It is good to capture emotion within a drawing rather than always portraying a perceived perfection. The expression did provoke discussion which is always welcome.
Portrait of a Lioness
Leopard work in progress
A nearly finished Tiger
Two images showing the early stages of drawing a cheetah
After good progress, I then did some more work on the tiger.
Thankfully with the inclusion of the eyes, it is now looking a lot less ghoulish. Usually, I am building up the texture of brown, black or grey fur and therefore combining all the different oranges, yellows, and reds with cinnamon and terracotta to build a plush tiger coat has been quite a challenge.
Being so engrossed in this, I did not do my usual of rotating between drawings. I find rotating between different drawings worthwhile as it lets you figure out where to go and what to do next. Not taking that time to consider a drawing can lead to mistakes. This nearly happened with the tiger as the area around the mouth was in danger of looking like he was recovering from an anesthetic after a trip to the dentist!
As well as that near miss, the result of not rotating between drawings is that no further progress has been made on the cheetah.
I will now give the tiger some space and will continue with the cheetah and the Leopard.
I have really enjoyed doing this wolf. The drawing was an interpretation of an image supplied by Wildlife Reference Photos. It was completed using pan pastel and color pencil on pastel mat paper.
I really liked the way the Caran d’ Ache Pablo color pencils and the pan pastels blended together in the creation of this piece.
In my view, all pencils can have a part to play. Each brand has different properties and offers something different. It is up to you to get to know how your materials work.
Here are some of the work in progress shots for the wolf portrait.
As it was still the holidays, it was a nice change to be able to do just a little bit of drawing at a time and not feel pressurized to finish it within a given timescale.
Mind you, I did not have much choice as at this time of year the light levels make it nearly impossible to do any serious drawing after about 4pm in the afternoon.
However, on the plus side, it does leave plenty of time to study the reference image carefully to make sure you are capturing the details correctly.
But now the shortest day has passed and with each passing day, the available light is slowly increasing.
Comparing this wolf with the arty wolf below is difficult. I have no preference as they are both different. In the above project, the combination of pan pastel and color pencil was really good. But in the arty wolf, the inks do have a vibrancy that is worth exploring further and I will do that.
In the meantime, most of my work will continue to be done in pencil and pan pastel.
For final details, I finished the piece off with some color pencils.
It was fun to do and an interesting learning experience. There are bits about the blue wolf that I like and there are bits that I am not sure about. I definitely like the vibrancy that the inks bring and I see the potential in the arty look.
One comment I did get was that he looked as though he was thinking!
I don’t know whether you agree!
What I did struggle with, was deciding on when it was the right time to stop adding color pencil… I did not want to lose that inky look!
I will get arty again at some point!
But before I do, bigger brushes will be required to get that mixing and bleeding effect that I wanted! The brushes I was using were too small for the size of the piece and the inks were drying quickly between applying the different colors.
The inky wolf in contrast to previous pieces is certainly different!
My first drawing of a wolf was a quick graphite sketch and the other was a charcoal drawing.
Portrait of a Wolf
Portrait of a Wolf drawn with charcoal on smooth card
As all three pieces so far have been done relatively quickly, I am now going to take the time to do a more detailed drawing of a wolf. That drawing is now underway using color pencil on pastel mat. Some pan pastel will also be added to give the final piece a soft fluffy hairy look.
I have now completed my second Gorilla. In the first drawing, I used Pierre Noire pencils on Canson paper and this produced a good texture but it was a bit sketchy. Therefore I started a second drawing on Pastelmat using pan pastel and color pencils.
Sketch of Gorilla looking back
Portrait of a Gorilla looking back
The first drawing on the left, I described the Gorilla as looking mournful and this second gorilla on the right, I would describe as having a secret that he is not willing to share. It is hard to state a preference, but I guess I am going to go with the second drawing of the Gorilla. He is a bit more refined looking even if he is not willing to share his secret!
I am in awe of Gorillas ever since I watched David Attenburgh on the BBC Natural History program ‘Life on Earth’ sitting right in amongst them. They were quite tolerant of his presence and that of the accompanying film crew!
This was then followed up by reading the book ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ by Dian Fossey. I remember being inspired by her fight to focus attention on the plight of the Gorillas.
All the hardships she endured which tragically culminated in her own death was quite a powerful story. If it was not for her and the dedicated work of others, would we know as much about Gorillas as we do now and would there be any Gorillas left?
My researches have revealed that current thinking suggests that there are two species of Gorilla each with their own subspecies. The two species are the Eastern Gorilla and the Western Gorilla. Whichever species my Gorilla is, whether he inhabits East Africa or West Africa, all Gorillas are critically endangered.
In the wild Gorillas face ongoing habitat loss, a constant threat of disease, being hunted for bushmeat and body parts being sold as trophies for the wildlife trade.
Unfortunately, with their habitat in a part of the world that faces many social and environmental challenges, it does not make the conservation of Gorillas easy.