On the back of having completed my largest work yet, here are some notes from my end…
Composition: I fell in love with the @bytazi photo. Both hypnotising and terrifying at once, with a hint of cool about the white fur, perfectly balancing the warm elsewhere. BUT, I still gambled on doing things my own way.
First, I wanted the eyes to really pop out. I’ve played around in the past, by leaving the eye sections incomplete for a sec (just white paper), and it looks kind of…electrifying. Even disturbing, on an off day. I always wish I could enjoy the split realities of continuing a piece with, and without, eye detail.
Omitting gorgeous spearmint green eye tones like these would never have been part of any serious brief; they’re captivating. However, I’ve settled for a happy compromise and included, along with the naturally present colours, some off-white, turquoise and purple, just to lift them out even more.
I also wanted the position of the eyes to follow the “rule of thirds”, the foliage removed to reveal a left paw, and to really lean into the cool parts of the fur.
This meant I had to make a lot of blank space towards the top, using my imagination, and two other reference images (one again by Natasja).
If you know nothing else about me, I’m a bit of a control freak. I’m proud to say I can’t do enough for my commission customers – unless they ask for advice, their wishes and preferences are always the final (and only) word…but I PRAY for the sanity of anyone who has to work WITH me on anything. It’s something I’m keeping a steady eye on. Let that run away from you and you’re unemployable!
This control freak hated having to go off-piste. The experimentation, the absence of boundaries, the “I wonder ifs”. I’ve never had the talent to navigate those waters especially well, but perhaps it’s another entry on the “keep it up until it’s a habit” side of the ledger.
Execution: 6/10. I’ll not go into what and why, but I did in 18 days what could have been done in 15, with better planning.
However, the takeaway will inform my approach to larger work for a long time, which is great news. I’ll poke holes in everything about the piece for a few months, so your average online troll won’t have to. I’m pretty much a self-contained unit at this point. 🙂
That doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with this in any way. Balanced objectivity is the goal. There’s plenty ego in the plan, much less in the task itself, but as for the result, I’d like ego to float the heck away like a helium balloon.
To the observer whose concern is nature and its environment, I submit that nature can be the ONLY focus in wildlife art, if that’s the collective wish. In spite of my edits, I didn’t do anything to make this Sri Lankan Leopard more “leopardy”, nor would anyone else realistically profess that ability with a straight face. It’s not possible. I’m just certain that photorealism is a completely valid art form, and can partner wildlife images like PB&J.
The natural world is already grand enough without too much intervention, and I’ll continue for a lifetime trying, in my own way, to half-way do it justice as it stands. Whatever I hear to the contrary, I don’t feel the need to throw too much extra sauce on top in order to beautify it. Styles seem to slide in and out of popular rotation over the years, and my established approach is as legitimate (to me, at least) as any other. Juuuuuust my wee take 🙂
Conclusion: I’ve collected my beginner’s “Winging It” chip from the front desk, ready to head to the “exhibition” section of the house. Dealer’s choice 🙂
I’m entering it into DSWF Wildlife Artist of the Year 2021, along with a few other pieces. Wish me luck!
Prints (a limited edition of 50, in varying sizes) are available to pre-order now. with 10% of all profits heading to WWF International at the end of the year.