New York, USA, I Have My Eye On You, pastel, 33 x 26" (84 x 66 cm)
I have been working on a series of animal portraits in pastel for the past five years and never visit a zoo without my camera in hand. The more I study animals I realize they each have a soul as we do. They can be quite expressive as well. During a visit to the Cheyenne Zoo in Denver, Colorado, with my best friend of almost 50 years, this particular giraffe caught my eye. The giraffe was in solitary and the juxtaposition of the wall behind him/her and the rectangular shapes of the brick against the geometric shapes on the skin of the giraffe really captured my imagination. I instantly knew this would be a painting when I arrived home.
My Design Strategy
The rectangular bricks behind the giraffe and the geometric shapes on the animal created the design for me. I had taken numerous photo references with different positions of the giraffe’s head. I chose the profile reference photo, as it seemed to contribute to the strong design of the painting.
My Working Process
I work on Uart sanded paper (400 grit) when using pastels to paint animals because it can accommodate a number of layers of pastel. I like the textural effect you can get with the medium. I find having the images on my ipad to be very useful during the painting process especially if I need to enlarge a specific area for a better look. I draw my subjects freehand. I begin by using pan pastel and the pointed applicator tool. I find this keeps me looser in the beginning. I get the general shapes down and then switch to a Caran d’ache pastel pencil to draw the details. When I am satisfied with the drawing, I begin painting the darks with my Richeson hard pastels and harder of my soft pastels (Girault). I gradually move to the lighter areas still using the Giraults. Once the surface is covered I move to softer pastels (Terry Ludwigs) and continue to work up the layers. I revert back to the Caran d’ache pastel pencils to get into the fine detail work in the eye and mouth area. I tap the completed pastel over a large trashcan to release any loose pastel. I do not use spray fixative.
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