After many layers of ink and scratches, this behemoth is finally complete. And none to soon since it’s expected at my co-operative at the start of the week.
Information on this work should have been forthcoming some time ago as this piece is nearly halfway to completion. I had in mind a portrait of a tiger that would be very confrontational and predatory, with raking light and strong chiaroscuro. Wildlife art is flush with romantic portrayals of apex predators and I wanted something a little more sinister. This is ambitious for me as I don’t have any images in my reference collection that would fit that description. This composition is largely a conglomerate of at least a half dozen images; none of which featured precisely the type of lighting I was seeking; zoos tend not to be good locations for dramatic lighting. From studying multiple images, I hope to accurately model the bone structure of this animal so the shadows falling across it’s face will be convincing. The side to the viewer’s right should be lost in shadow compared to the lit half on the left.
Again, this is a scratchboard, 14X11. Unfortunately I can’t positively I.D. the subspecies since I’ve sampled from multiple images, but it closely resembles a Bengal. Click on the image for viewing at a higher resolution.
This is my largest and most ambitious scratchboard thus far. I seriously underestimated how much work would be necessary to nearly cover such a large board and it became far more involved than I had anticipated. However, I am quite pleased with the results and this piece is now framed and ready for the coming show at my gallery. The title makes this a little politicized, especially for someone living near Yellowstone where these animals have been reintroduced. Perhaps they are responsible for taking the occasional animal from a rancher’s herd, but they are not the sinister villains that popular sentiment would have them be. Wolves are sorely misunderstood animals, with stories like Red Riding Hood and some primeval fear we have elicited by their chilling howl. Yet, in their social structure, they are not unlike ourselves, more so than any other major predator. We don’t need to wipe out our apex predators in order to live in peace with them.
We Must Not Be Enemies
After more work on the macaw pair I finished the first layer of scratching and washed ink over the entire board. The ink I’m using is Ampersand’s brand of scratchboard inks which are thin out of the bottle; like caligraphy inks. Allegedly they are specially formulated to blend seamlessly over the black india ink once varnish is sprayed on the board. For now, any overpainting is very obvious, especially in the third photo, but that will be invisible by the time the piece is done. They do blend well, but I’ve never compared them to how any other paint would perform for the same task. Some scratchboard artists have been using acrylic paint of colored pencils and I hope to try those myself sometime.
These pictures show the board after the first layer of ink, second scratching, and finally second layer of ink, which was a lighter green/yellow than the previous color. The third picture suffered from a lot of glare and the black looks washed out.
I decided for my next scratchboard that the subject would be avian. I had seen other scratchboard artists do work with birds as the subject and really liked the effect. I certainly underestimated how time consuming this would be. Feathers have thus far been the most difficult thing I’ve attempted to render in either oil or scratchboard. This is on Ampersand Scratchboard, and the size is 14X11. It will be a pair of Millitary Macaws, which are native to Central America
This first image is from several days ago and is a crop of the first bird’s face, the color cast here is very blue, but it’s a good closeup of the detail.
This image is where I am currently at in the process for this piece and shows the entire board. Although this does appear to be nearly finished, this is just the first layer of scratching. I am planning to color this piece so after this stage is complete I will ink most of it with a dark green that will be the middle tone/shadow colors and then will go over it again several times to give it more definition. It looks really flat now because almost everything has been scratched without paying much attention to the shadows and highlights that would indicate what is called “turning form”, or the way color and shadows change as light falls on a three dimensional object. It is very difficult in scratchboard to create areas that are simultaenously detailed and also in shadow. Middle tones can be achieved by reducing the density of scratches, but that reduces the clarity of the image and it tends to make the light appear very harsh. That can be effective for some subjects with dramatic lighting but I want the light have a softer, more natural feel in this one. Once I ink it for the first time the areas that should be in shadow will appear much darker. For the finished peice it will help create the illusion of areas that are dimly lit, but that still have discernable detail, much like the eye can pick out detail in shadows in real life.