This is one of my favorite pieces I did this summer working on my Research Grant through St. Norbert College. After carefully reviewing images of my family and scanning them in to enhance details that weren’t as visible on the photo itself, I was very happy with the end result of this piece.
I chose a photo of my grandma as a baby being held by her father (who is my great-grandpa). I was intrigued by the highlights of his shirt in contrast with the intense folds in the clothes of both figures. I really wanted to make those stand out within the piece so that it would compliment the simplistic backgrounds which I use throughout most of my pieces.
My final piece was another mini series of illustrative animals. Since my family recently adopted two bunnies, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make some more cartoon-like pieces. Here I was thinking about grass rather than leaves, so I used a lot of water and acrylic paint to make the drips for the background to represent the grass. After applying the paint and water I hung it on the wall while still wet to get them to run down one side. Then I waited a little while, flipped it over, and repeated with the water and paint. They turned out really interesting after being dried completely. Since the bunnies were originally grown up together and very noticeably have a strong relationship with one another I wanted them to face each other when hanging on the wall to sort of give this sense of connection between the two of them. Since they naturally are both mostly white with little bits of color, I think they turned out contrasting very well with the background.
My fifth piece was really a collaboration of multiple pieces. This was really an experimental mini series which I used to just play around with oil paint. I played with thick paint, thin paint, using a palette knife versus a paintbrush, different contrasting colors, etc. There were definitely some I wasn’t very happy with, but I was really glad I did this short series to get some more experience in the medium and using it in a variety of different ways.
My fourth piece came to mind while I was drawing my geckos in a more cartoon-like way. I really liked the sketch I came up with so I decided to draw all three of my geckos in the same style. Afterwards I wanted to paint them as a mini series. My geckos already have some pretty unique colors so I wanted to keep them the same for the painting. This piece was meant to be much different in that I would continue to use the drips, but rather than continue going extremely detailed, I wanted to draw my animals as a cartoon as a way to break from the hyperrealism. The most difficult part for me in this series was trying to really make these solid black lines clean and neat. I think for the most part I was successful in that area, but would have liked it to be even cleaner. The drips became more of an abstract application of greens and yellows using my palette knife. It gave the same, similar effect of the drips, with a slightly different approach. As I finished one of them, I also had some 4 by 4 inch canvases I wanted to put some paint on so I used my palette knife again to create a unique abstraction using the leaf colors as well as the backgrounds colors for each piece. I was super happy with how those turned out in contrast to the gecko paintings and I loved the solid background colors so I decided to do another set of smaller ones. These ones were the colors of each of their skin. All together I was very pleased with the final presentation. This was a very exciting way to still be able to create a high contrast without such detail.
I decided to title this piece, The Beauties in Nature. I thought deeply about this piece and its meaning to me. I was really focused on painting these animals/insects that I would contrast with an abstract painting of nature. I think a lot of times people will take these beautiful pictures of landscapes and nature without thinking about some of the beautiful creatures within it. That being said I made these creatures more detailed than the background to emphasize on them. I threw in a couple detailed things like the dandelion, the flower, and the log which I felt helped to give the viewer the assumption that the animals are part of this landscape without actually being attached to the canvas. I really wanted them to float freely and be able to twist and turn as if interacting with the background. The final presentation was really what I had imagined. Deciding to drill several holes into the white wood panel so that I could really play around with the animals positions was super helpful to completing it the way I wanted. As I had wanted to continue in each piece, I had added a lot of drips into the background and the strong contrast between that and the animals, in my opinion, turned out to be very successful.
The second piece to my series is based off an image I took at the Milwaukee Zoo in Wisconsin. This was probably my favorite and least favorite piece of the entire series. It was my favorite because I was extremely happy with the small details I was able to create within the whole piece and the contrast between the drips, the details, and the dark shadows. It was also my least favorite because of the heavy repetition of those details and amount of time the piece took all together.
All in all I was very happy with it in the end. I feel like the amount of detail and contrast in the piece was fully achieved the way I wanted it to. The drips were a great part of the piece that helped to really push the contrast which I was pleased about because I wanted to continue the drips on every piece of the series. I had a lot of enjoyment watching this piece slowly but surely become completed.
After finishing up my canvas pillows I decided to get the background painted. I decided to continue my drip technique used in my other pieces. This time I wanted a slightly less abstract background so that when the pillows would be hung in front of it, it would look as though the ones on the ground were actually on the ground. The process of hanging them efficiently is still in the works to be more permanent. Other than that I am just going to go in and make some other outdoor things to add to the background to help it from looking too abstract. These will include some detailed rocks, leaves, and flowers. Not too many, but enough so the ground animals will look more in their environment. Afterwards I will sew them to the background and get this piece completely wrapped up.
Inspiration from Rafael Salas’ canvas dolls brought me to start creating some of my own. So far, with a little difficulties, I was able to make a hedgehog pillow. The difficulties consisted of figuring out how to make the oil paint thin enough so it would become more flexible and easier to maneuver when flipping it inside out after sewing. Another challenge was sewing through gesso, which was needed in order to keep the oil from eating through the canvas as it ages. This first trial really helped me (hopefully) to get the right process in making these pillows more successful. To make the paint extremely thin but still vibrant, I am using a lot of linseed oil. This helps make it more flexible and dry a lot faster than oil paint normally would. I also decided to only gesso the shape of the animal/insect I am doing, this way I don’t have to try and sew through the gesso again. Hopefully this next round of pillows will have less cracks , and sewn more efficiently. The direction this part of the series is going involves a lot of more common insects and animals found out in the woods. When I have all the ones I would like to have for this piece (insects, birds, rodents, etc.) then I will create something in which I will be able to hang the pillows from. I am really excited to see how this piece turns out at the end!
In my love for painting pets, I decided to do a series of more exotic animals for my Advanced Painting Series. Here I will be experimenting with texture, color, and drips/washes with oil colors. The first piece I started working on is from a photo I took of a white tiger. I think it was a good choice in terms of texture and value. It had more blacks and whites which was a great way to get me back into using oil paints, and had all the beautiful fur I got to paint. I want to go back into it and add some more leaves and details in those leaves, but for the most part it is complete.
In the process of creating the underpainting for this piece, I really loved how the drips of greens, blacks, and some yellows ran down the canvas. When I left it and kept painting, I felt like it was something that really gave a strong contrast between that and the realistic tiger. I plan to continue using those drips for the rest of the series.
The painting became a series of layers. White after black, after white. I just continued using layers to make the fur have more depth and value. I started with a larger brush and then just got smaller and smaller in size to get to those super fine details.
In the end I am very pleased with how it looks. I think after adding just a couple more details it will really be the way I had envisioned. Going back to oils was a great way for me to work more on my realistic artwork which I have definitely come to include in art as a whole.
As summer rolled in I have been working on more and more pet paintings for a lot of family and friends. This project/series has really become something much more than a college art assignment, but the start to a business. Here are the continued paintings that I have been working on so far.