Thursday, February 25, 2010

WIP - Elephants

African elephant herd drawing in progress
The last adult is in place. Now the hard part begins, when I try to add the last young elephant splashing and playing in the water.

Monday, February 22, 2010

WIP - Three Elephants Done...

African elephants charcoal drawing in progress
Okay, elephant number three is done, two more to go! Recently, I've been trying to do background before the animals, then foreground last. In this case, since the elephants will take up so much of the drawing, I am going to leave the background as simple as possible. And since I am working with a gray surface, I will most likely just add some simple clouds, and I'll do that before I start the foreground. Because I am right-handed, I try to work left-to-right as much as possible, although if I have to reach over a completed area it is easy to put down a clean sheet of paper to keep my sleeve off it.

I hope to have the next elephant completed by the end of the week.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

WIP - Elephants

African elephant mother and baby drawing in progressIncredibly, I was able to make significant progress on the elephant drawing this week, to the point where the first two individuals are essentially complete. I am saving the feet for later because I want to add foreground, probably some shallow water. I am guessing it took about four hours of work to reach this point, which is actually pretty fast for this size. I assume that is because I'm working with skin instead of fur.

I put down a light layer of 4B charcoal, thicker in the darker areas, then blend with the tortillon. Then I blend with the chamois to smooth out the marks, and repeat with more 4B and 6B until the right values are reached. Then I added wrinkles with a light 4B line and a highlight with the kneaded eraser.

There are three more elephants after these, and I will keep posting my progress.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Color of Dinosaurs

I have always had a fascination of dinosaurs - much like any kid, but I never grew out of it. It is also a goal of mine to hone my drawing skills to the point where I can draw extinct animals, which obviously have no reference photos. So I was ecstatic when I was pointed to this article from National Geographic (dated Feb. 4) which showed the first scientifically colored dinosaur. A feathered dino, Anchiornis was preserved so impeccably that scientists were able to extract pigment samples and compare them to modern birds. From this data, they modeled the dinosaur with its actual colors. How cool is that?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Working in a Square

My zebra drawing from a few months ago came about because I had a large piece of gray matboard floating around and didn't know what to do with it. It was square, 32"x32", and I cut an inch off each side to make sure the edges were neat (it was in the closet for a few years, after all). After completing that drawing, I decided I'd like to do a series of drawings of large African mammals in the same format. What I didn't know was how hard that would prove to be.

Working in a rectangular format is easier, or at least I'm used to it. But the square, while the same principles of composition apply, makes it much harder to emphasize one direction over the other. For the elephant drawing, I had stuck in my mind a line of the pachyderms along a river's edge, a composition that would have worked on a horizontal rectangle, but I could not get it into a square. Add to that the roundness of elephants, and I was stuck.

So finally, a few days ago I abandoned the river idea and focused on the square. How could I arrange two or more elephants interestingly in such a shape? Referring back to my copy of Design and Composition, I found my solution: the diamond. With one elephant at each vertex, I finally had the layout I was looking for.

Now all I needed were the reference photos. I went back over my stash and found one from a royalty-free, copyright-free book I have and the rest from a friend who graciously gave me his safari photos to use (thank you, Kevin!). I put the five photos (including the infant) into Gimp and played around with positioning until I came up with this collage. I was able to transfer the design to my matboard fairly easily using careful measurements, something I don't normally do with smaller drawings.

The only problem with my references is that they do not have consistent lighting. I may have to use some of my other photos to help, or I may have to do some creative guesswork. Ultimately, the final drawing will look a little different from this image, but this is the process one must go through to get a good composition.

I will certainly be posting my progress on this drawing over the next several weeks, so keep checking in to see how it's going!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Night Owl

great horned owl white charcoal drawingI do enjoy working in white charcoal on occasion. I find it a little more difficult to use than black because it only comes in one hardness and has a slightly oilier feel, but it is wonderful for drawing night scenes. For this drawing, I used a photograph I took recently of a great horned owl. The Wildlife Center, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation facility in northern New Mexico, had an evening class on raptor identification a few months ago which I attended. Several of their educational birds were available, and I was allowed to photograph them. A portion of my profit from sales of prints and the original will be donated to the Center.

Friday, February 05, 2010


snow leopard mother and cubs charcoal drawingSo finally, here they are. I took several photos of this piece in progress, and I'm hoping to get them assembled into a slideshow. I named the piece Lookout because even though the cubs are busy playing and climbing on mom, she always keeps a lookout for danger.

Snow leopards live in the mountains of Asia, and many call the Himalayas their home. They live above the tree line in summer, then move to lower altitudes when the snow forces their prey downhill.

Since I took the reference photos for this drawing at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, I will be donating a portion of sales to the Zoo for their snow leopard breeding program.

The original and limited edition prints are available.