Sunday, May 8, 2016

endangered kingdom series, 1: emperor tamarin

After working on the Thirty-six Trees series, I was reminded of how much I miss a style of art-making that I began over a half decade ago, involving the use of watercolors and watered-down acrylics to create a base, and black Sakura Pigma Micron pens to draw imagery on top of the painted base. I also enjoyed working on a unified series of pieces, as it posed a real creative challenge for me and kept me on track as an artist, working on something consistently. I also love the combination of looser, abstract visual elements with tighter, representational imagery. That's how I like a lot of the music I listen to as well - that successful merging of two very opposite elements to create something unified and complete. 

As an artist, I feel as if I'm just getting started, although I've been drawing almost all of my life, with some long lulls here and there and in-between the years. I try to be as honest as possible with myself when choosing subject matter to work with, regardless of artistic trends, etc. When drawing something in particular, I find myself wanting to get to know that subject matter better - to understand it, and to empathize with it perhaps. Such is the case with the tree series, the local landscapes I painted last summer, and now this new series I call "Endangered Kingdom". How much do I really know or understand about the other inhabitants of this world I live in - this very special, unique planet we humans call Earth, and the many wonderful creatures we attempt to share it with, especially those whose lives and entire existence are on the brink of vanishing forever? I feel as both an artist and as a human being, this was something I had to ask myself - something I could not ignore. How exactly would I portray these animals? What would I choose? Who would I leave out? 

My initial approach was to simply portray the animal in a portrait-style drawing. Yet, that didn't seem like enough. Then, after a long time spent wracking my brain for something different, the idea of adding crowns to the animals' heads struck me as fun - an element of humor to balance a somewhat heavy topic, perhaps. These animals are important, special, amazing, intelligent, interesting, dynamic, survivors, fighters and kings and queens. When struggling to decide what kind of crowns to add, I decided to design my own customized crown for each animal. The crown would reflect something about the animal, of course. As for choosing images to work with, I made sure not to work from one photographic source, for many practical reasons, but from multiple sources. Much of the time, I'd look at many photographs, then after some studying of the imagery before me, I start drawing from memory, looking up occasionally, but much of the time, adding my own thing, once I got the gist of what the animal looks like. 

The Emperor Tamarin is the first, in what will be a weekly series, lasting for a year. My original intent was to draw one per day, but I soon realized how absolutely bonkers insane that would have been. A week is good - it allows wiggle room and time for things to develop organically. It allows for flexibility as well. It also can allow room for extreme procrastination - something I can be very prone to experiencing. With summer break fast approaching, I'm looking forward to exploring this, among several other artistic endeavors in the works. Stay tuned for more to come. In the meantime, HERE is the Splotch Monster Island version, featuring Emperor Tamarin!