Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Weekend in the Museum

"Tribute to Glory" work in progress, oil on canvas

I spent four intense days last weekend attending two workshops at the Dennos Art Museum in Traverse City, and I couldn't be happier about it. 

As I may have mentioned, the Society of Animal Artists opened its annual show at the Dennos in September, and I looked forward to seeing that show for months ahead of time. It was not a disappointment when I saw the show for the first time. In fact, I was awed!  In fact, I went through the show a total of three times and saw new things in the work each time. 

The SAA only accepts the best of the best animal artists for membership, and their shows are outstanding. Many of the top wildlife artists are members or exhibit in their shows: artists such as Robert Bateman, Al Agnew, Guy Coheleach, Nancy Howe, Brian Jarvi, Jan Martin McGuire, Bart Rulon, Suzie Seerey-Lester and Morten Solberg were some of the big names whom I recognized.  But there were many more, including several equine artists, and Michigan was well represented by artists Anni Crouter, Kim Diment, Rod Lawrence, T. J. Lick and Rick Pas. 

The show is curated for a variety of subjects, mediums and artists from various geographic locations. Although there were quite a few African animals, there were animals from around the world, domestic animals, birds, amphibians and a few bug paintings and sculptures. Sculpture was well represented with quite a few really outstanding pieces. The one which I found particularly touching depicted a baby elephant and its mother paying their respects to an elephant skull. Their emotions are palpable as they lovingly reach out to touch a dead loved one. 

The favorite painting of many in one of the workshops was a large painting of a Mexican wolf by Flint artist, Anni Crouter. We got to meet Anni and her veterinarian husband when they stopped by the workshop. My favorites are too numerous to list individually, but I was impressed by  a couple of stupendous scratchboard works, a painting of a cape buffalo coming out of a grass fire and Kim Diment's painting of African elephants crossing a river. 

As for those workshops, I discovered on my second visit to the museum that two of the local artists in the show were each giving a two day workshop: Rod Lawrence in painting animals and Kim Diment in drawing animals. The price was too reasonable to pass up, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to work with two exceptional wildlife artists. 

Rod's workshop was first. Having taken another one from him in the past, I knew that his workshops were very unstructured, and so I planned ahead what I wanted to work on and what I wanted help with. I took the painting of Glory the palomino since I was kind of stuck as to how to proceed and how to get the palomino color I wanted. I worked on that the first day and got this far with Rod's help. (see above)

On the second day, I took the painting of our cat, Annie, and got a good start on it. I had gotten as far as the underpainting and was looking for help with doing her soft long fur. I worked on her back and some on her tail but didn't get any farther. 

"Princess Anne" oil on canvas

Rod showed us some of his work, including an unfinished painting of elk, and explained his working methods. He also gave us some insights into painting wildlife, gathering references and getting our work to be accurate. 

The second workshop with Kim Diment was more structured and I learned quite a bit, even though some of the drawing information was no more than review for me. The room where we worked contained two large mounts: one of a polar bear and the other of a musk ox. Much of the first day was lecture and us doing contour drawings of one or the other. I chose the polar bear since there wasn't much to see of the musk ox except a lot of long hair. The day ended with us doing ten minute drawings of the animal of our choice from eight different points of view around the animal. The drawing below is #7 for me. 

polar bear contour drawing from a mount

On the second day we learned about working in pen and ink, pencil and charcoal. We each worked from a reference photo, transferred the image to our paper and drew it in one of the mediums. I found a really nice photo of a red fox in my swipe file and chose to do it in pen and ink. Kim was very pleased with my drawing as am I. 

The two workshops were over much too quickly, but I do feel energized by them and am eager to finish the two paintings which are now well underway. It was a huge help to have received so much encouragement from artists as outstanding as Kim and Rod. And it was great to work with other artists and feel that creative energy flowing around the room for four whole days! I do hope the Dennos will schedule more workshops in the future. 

"Red Fox" pen and ink
This was drawn from a copyrighted photograph from an old issue of Natural History magazine and was done as a learning exercise only. I do not intend to sell or display it except possibly in my own home.