"Fall Forager" 11" x 14" Holiday Miniature Show - Legacy Gallery
A couple of posts ago I mentioned I had put aside a couple of miniature paintings. Reworked, a couple of answers later and this is the result. Each painting really is a journey and I enjoyed where this black bear lead me.
"Tadai" 10" x 15" Holiday Miniature Show - Legacy Gallery
Transitioning from the miniatures to a 60" x 45" painting is stimulating! Just right outside of my studio window, the whitetail are in all-out rut. Our frequent red fox is in full coat. I harness my enthusiasm and settle in to paint; I have a long list and time is always too short. Cooler temps and fall colors. Opportunities are endless, stay tuned!
I received the nicest of emails from Southwest Gallery concerning a recently completed commission for one of their clients. It was of typical size, format, etc, but it was of the collector's prized alpacas. I had never painted alpacas and jumped at the opportunity to spend time learning about what sets one apart from the next.
It was a blustery cold day when we traveled to the ranch. The collectors already owned a large painting of mine and after viewing it hung over the fireplace of their main home, we set out to view the alpacas. I found them living up to their star status. These are prized show animals, traveling about in comfort matching Kentucky thoroughbreds.
I gathered reference of the animals and the desired view of the ranch and set to work. I admit, it was something I never expected to paint.
I always wanted to paint but growing up on a farm in Central Texas, I thought my subjects would be cowboys. I started painting in watercolor because it was gifted to my class by my high school art teacher, Dr. John C. Oliver. The art department at Elgin High School had few resources in 1987 except for one valuable asset, Dr. Oliver. He traveled from Austin each day to gift us with a better understanding of life and art.
Dr. Oliver made a difference! Our 1987 senior project was something along the theme of "Race of Life". While we worked on the project, Dr. Oliver brought in watercolors and I'll never forget, Arches Watercolor Paper. Nice stuff! We knew it was expensive and seemed like a luxury beyond reach for us. He had purchased this for the class from his own modest salary. He stressed that it was expensive and to MAKE IT COUNT!
My project was something of a skeleton falling down and a body going through a ribbon at a finish line. It probably can be viewed as very 1980's today, but I don't know for sure as Dr. Oliver bought it from me. I can't remember what he paid, maybe $15, maybe as much as $40, but it was my first fine art sale and a catalyst in my life.
This month's trial is micro-formatted. I'm now on my third painting of two for an upcoming miniature show! The first two were simply not good enough. In fact I seriously pondered taking my ax to relentlessly hack them into sawdust. As they say, third time is a charm. I have put aside the other two for a later time. They have redeeming value, but to be honest, I let my head get in the way. Good design, but something else went awry. This is the good fight...to remain positive.
I can get jacked up when I come across a great looking animal just doing its thing. This happened last year while on a reference gathering trip in Montana. I returned from a hike and was driving down a gravel forest road towards town when I spotted a great looking grizzly across a ravine. He was digging through timber looking for insects. What an opportunity! I stayed well after the light dimmed just enjoying. I must have spent over an hour with that guy, snapping pictures and sketching. It was just me and the bear. Golden moment. The ravine was deep but the distance across to him was incredibly close. What a great end to a beautiful day!
I later worked this oil sketch using photos from my encounter with this fine grizzly. I have always counted myself fortunate to encounter animals in their natural habitat. Although there is nothing wrong with using animal handlers, I prefer to paint animals I have experienced in the wild.
And so back in the studio, this is the challenge for a wildlife artist! I think most of us would simply prefer to be out there in this awesome beauty that's a rare privilege to view and paint! Wildlife artists have some add-on requirements that make our job, I think, a little harder. We are required to remember all the fundamentals of great art, but in addition, we must have anatomy, gesture and scientific environmental facts correct. Unfortunately, our live models do not hold a pose for us. We must know what animals forage on and when, what they look like during different seasons, their habitats and seasonal foliage. The list is long and it's rather easy for something to go amiss.
I have been told art is a life endeavor. I believe so and that makes two small paintings not coming together as effortlessly as I envisioned a little more tolerable.
In the studio and attempting to not get distracted by the whitetail fending off deer flies outside the window and the marvelous hot day we are experiencing. I like the heat, but this day I'm going through ideas based on cooler climates.
Now back to the work at hand, I flip through rough sketches I did at that time and instantly sparks fly. Ideas that were doodled out form much clearer. Direction is a powerful tool. Proof is always in the painting. Legendary wildlife art dealer, Bubba Wood stressed to me, "You're only as good as your last painting." I guess you could take that as a compliment or an insult, but I always took that as a challenge.
Time to let go without letting go and let the art fly.
On occasion I remember to keep it simple. I have an old paint box that I use for plein air studies. Back when I began in earnest around 2000 I crafted it to fit my needs. It is simple, nothing fancy. It connects to a tripod, is lightweight, sturdy and frankly not the best looking.
I could get a new one, not retrofitted, more adjustable maybe with more options for convenience. My wife wants to get me a new one each Christmas. But I can't part with this "old box". This companion has traveled many miles with me. We have memories, a history together creating many souvenirs of experiences in nature. But more importantly it is an important reminder that it really is about the art, the paint and the artist's vision. My vision.
Western artist and fellow resident Texan, Roy Anderson once said, there are no art police. Not an exact quote, but the fact stuck with me. The easel is not going to make your idea any worse or better. It won't improve the quality of the painting. My trusty old box reminds me of these truths. Although I do a lot of studio work these days, I always look forward to weekly dates with my old friend.
It all went well. I was satisfied where these pronghorn were leading me. At the design stage, I was toying with the idea of placing this solidly in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. I decided to save that for another painting. The mood fixed itself straight away. No sense cluttering the message.
Behind the bison, perhaps no animal quite represents the lore of the West like the pronghorn. A true American original, this amazing creature became a favorite subject matter of mine early on. This painting will be @ InSight Gallery for their Fall Show, September 1st.www.insightgallery.com/searchresults.php?artistId=5646&artist=Brian%20Grimm&start=1
This is day two but reflects days of reference gathering, pléin air painting, research, and designing. The sketch may appear fairly vague. I'm working out some of the finer details on the board.
I resisted from going too far on this sketch. This can be a tricky decision, at least for me it can be. If I'm too eager, I could miss a crucial aspect, revealing a flaw in the end, wasting days if not the painting entirely. But, if I go too in depth, churning endlessly on a design, the painting can have a calculated and non-atmospheric edge. This is just as unsuccessful. Here's the sketch...
I've taken thousands of pronghorn photographs in the field and have great reference. The numbers you see indicate my photo files. I tweaked gestures, eliminating some and checking those I'll use. I have a thorough understanding of the mood I want the painting to convey, atmosphere, palette. I am leaving room for happy discoveries, nuances that happen when you quit thinking. I use a similar process in each painting. I tend to continue to sketch and design until I fully grasp in my head what the painting will look like. I'll update once completed. Thanks, for reading!
Can't believe how fast time is passing. After focusing spring on paintings for Legacy Gallery in Jackson Hole, I am back in Texas getting inspired for the next painting, a whitetail piece for Insight Gallery. Like many of my paintings, I've tinkered with this design in my mind for a while.
I have a faint grid drawing, have the general design sketched in charcoal and refined it. After the initial drawing, I decided I didn't like the buck's back legs stretched quite so far out and moved them in slightly. Also, initially the closest doe was in a different position. At this point, I have my color wash down but found a couple of things I wanted to tweak. I left it overnight to come back with fresh eyes this morning. (note: coffee cup on easel.) Overall satisfied, I wanted to take a look at it in a frame I was considering. I will review it after finished and decide if a new frame is in order. Behind me are small plein air studies and my sketch that will work as a guide throughout painting.
Painter of western wildlife and landscapes, constantly seeking to balance impressionism and realism sans trickery. Brian works as a full time artist in Central Texas. Exhibited at Rockwell Museum, Briscoe Museum, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, and National Museum of Wildlife Art.
September 7, 2018