Friday, April 8, 2011

BURNING BRIGHTLY, PT.1



For me, there is almost nothing on earth so utterly complete and so absolutely
what it simply IS than a tiger. Poaching and habitat loss have brought the species
near the brink.
This inexcusable for a species that considers itself lords of the earth or at the very least
an "evolved" race of beings. No, tiger bones will not give you an erection. Ever.
No, they really don't need human meat and would much rather they did not see us at all. Ever.
Sometimes, I can't say I blame them.
So.
This is a special blog about my personal efforts to raise funds for an organization
in southern Wisconsin that does near miraculous things with love, hope and a kind of
iron determination to give tigers,( and a myriad of other animals.) a decent, humane
life after falling foul to the profound stupidity of my fellow human beings.
The Valley of the Kings.

Okay, before any technical stuff I need to give you my two cents worth on the specialized field of "wildlife art".
First of all, I did that almost exclusively for a few years and I have a very great respect for
the best of them. It is a very demanding practice that takes real dedication and skill.
After immersing myself in the field for some time I've formed a few opinions of my own, and while they may,(and probably are.) off base in the big picture, they make sense to me.
This is my blog so fuck it, my opinion matters.
Here goes: wildlife art falls into two basic category's. The first I call the "Bateman school"
and the second, the "Schatz school". The difference being not so much in excellence but rather in approach to the subject. Robert Bateman is a superb technician, painting with honesty and attention to detail that can be staggering. That's the problem.
Somewhere in all that detail, he loses the creatures essence. The thing he's painting is the VERY THING but it's quite often just an empty image to my eye. The spirit of the thing
gets buried under so many feathers, fur, leaves, pine needles etc etc that the subject goes missing.
Then, there is the "Schatz school". Manfred Schatz is an astonishing painter with an entirely different approach to subject matter. His beasts and birds soar, gallop, leap, all energy and motion, as if his eye captures the whole scene in one huge gulp of paint. That's often the problem. In all the swirling heat of the moment, the soul of the creature seems secondary.
I tend towards a kind of middle ground. Now I would never profess to be as accomplished in the discipline of wildlife art as thee two masters, I simply haven't spent the requisite time to master it. But I know wildlife.
The piece I am working on, "burning brightly", is at best a humble effort to capture on paper a Siberian Tiger.
This is how I did it.
Paper, pencil and pastel. Some ink and acrylic paint.
I ruled out the image size, then using a mixture of Dr. Martins dyes I toned the paper to a desired color to act as a base on which to draw my initial image in graphite. I use graphite as an under drawing because I love the silvery gray base to help keep things tonally even.
It would be the second photo at the top. It's supposed to be here, but it showed up at the top. Go figure.

Anyway, under that one, or above it, I don't fucking know, is a close up.
Anyway, as you can obviously see, I keep it rather loose at this point. If I was just going to use pencil and a dash of white chalk I would have started out much tighter. But, this is only a base for color later and I can improvise over the gray tones freely without worry. Oh, I should mention I "fix" the graphite at this point because I do not want to have my colors actually mix with it, just rest sweetly under it.
My intention is to focus on the magnificent head and shoulders of the tiger, Bateman.) so I didn't spend a lot of time,(Schatz.) with the rest of him. I intend to fade or let the rest of the picture fall back away from my point of focus to retain interest on the, ( in my opinion only.) on the one feature that defines "tigerness", the face. The huge, striped head.
This beginning stage took me about an average work day. whatever that is.

More soon.... and yup,...OOOOH, Color!

M.Z.

1 comment:

John Platt said...

Wonderful piece.

I write about endangered species for Scientific American and other publishers, so seeing this (and your passion on the subject) means a lot to me.