Jul 28, 2014

Miniature Painting - No 57 - Whitetail Buck

Wow, I just realized I have not painted a single deer painting this year. My last painting that included a member of the deer family was an elk painting from Nov of last year! Since deer are my favorite animals, I decided I was long overdue to paint a deer. This is just a small one, painted in a day. But it scratched that itch I had to get a deer painting done! Here it is.


7"x5" oil on Multimedia Artboard
Available here.

Jul 27, 2014

Art Show Rejection - Don't Take It Personally

Most artists have been told they should enter lots of juried shows and competitions to build up their resumes while building their art career. Since I have never, ever been asked to show my resume before selling a painting, or being accepted into a gallery, I have some disagreement with this idea. But that's a topic for another post. Whether or not you think you need to enter shows, or just want to, it's' never fun when you don't win anything. What's even worse is when you don't get into a show at all. You get that dreaded "sorry, your work was not accepted in..." letter. To add insult to injury, you later attend the show and see artworks that were accepted that make you scratch your head. Sometimes it's even worse and you are literally shocked. You're thinking, "OMG .... THAT amateurish piece of junk got into the show while mine was rejected?"

Usually if you go complain to someone about how some piece of junk art got accepted and yours didn't, you get that look ... that look that the person you're telling thinks you just have an ego problem and you are bitter and jealous. Of course, they didn't actually see the junk that got in so they don't really know. Either that or they're thinking art is subjective, so all art is good in some way, and you just can't accept that some people may like that "crappy" art better than yours. I beg to differ. I know a stylized piece of art from a beginner's finger painting. (Read my post on Why Can't I Say Some Art Is Bad? for my opinion on that). My point is, you usually get no sympathy from anyone. They think the jurors surely picked the best art and you're just being a baby about it because your art was not considered the best. You know that feeling.

But you know you're not just jealous. You're sometimes shocked by what was selected and what was rejected in an art show you didn't even enter. You're sometimes surprised that what you think is a wonderful piece of art by another artist is sitting in the rejection room while another painting was accepted that looks like a dog wiped its bum across the carpet. Your personal art aside, you're baffled.

Regardless of what others think of your rejection, or the reason for the rejection, getting rejected from an art show sucks. I'm writing this post because there's one very important thing I've learned about being rejected from art shows: Don't take it personally.

The first thing we artists tend to do when we get rejected from a show is think that our art was not good enough. Our art sucks. We failed. Maybe we really aren't as good as we think we are and should just throw in the towel.

I'm here to say ... Stop! It's not about you. You weren't necessarily rejected because you're art sucked.

One thing I've learned over the past few years is this is not about my art. It not even about the best art. We are led to believe that jurors are objective, they have some totally objective rule book they use to select art, so only the actual best art gets in a show. We believe art shows are all about selecting the best art and that's it.

I'm here to say I don't think that's true.

I should now make my disclaimer. I have no inside knowledge whatsoever into how juried shows work. But I have talked with a several artists who have far more experience with them than I do. Whether they have the actual facts or not, I don't know. But what they say about how juried shows work makes a lot more sense to me than thinking jurors actually prefer crap art over good art sometimes. Here's what I've learned. The "rule book" for selecting art is not just to select the best art. Shows are a business. So sometimes it's about:

1. What attracts visitors. Art shows want to attract the most visitors possible, especially if visitors have to pay to get in. Variety matters. If a hundred artists submit landscapes and 10 artists submit florals, the jurors may reject 10 beautiful landscapes in order to include 10 crappy florals so they don't have all landscapes. They want landscapes and florals to make sure the show has variety to attract all sorts of visitors. This is somewhat related to #2.

2.  What sells. Let's face it. Most of these shows are not out there for the sole purpose of helping artists get exposure. They're out there to make money. They want art that sells. You may have the most beautifully rendered painting of a dugong the world has ever seen. But there really isn't a huge market for dugongs. If wolves are the "hot" item then the juror may very well select a poorly crafted wolf painting over your excellently painted dugong painting simply because they know the wolf painting is more likely to sell.

3. Personal preference. We'd like to think jurors are objective. And I'm sure many try their best to be objective. But, they are human, and their opinions and tastes are going to influence their choices no matter what. People are usually surprised when I tell them I barely scraped by with a 'C' grade in one of my college art classes. The reason? My teacher did not believe realism was art. His opinion was, if you want it to look realistic just go take a photo. So I got a poor grade for making my paintings and drawings too realistic. It didn't matter to my teacher whether I did a good job or not. He just really believed my renderings were not "art" in the true sense of the term. I was a human photo-copy machine in his opinion. No style. No creativity. I sucked to him. OK, so here is this college professor, supposedly trying to teach art objectively, and could not separate his personal opinions from his judgment of my craftsmanship. So it is with jurors. Try as they might, if they love colorful abstracts and you submit a monochrome realism, they won't be able to entirely detach their personal dislike for monochrome realism. They are going to favor the colorful abstract.

4. Space. This is one I was actually surprised to learn about. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes it's just about space.The prospectus may say they accept paintings up to 5'x6', and you submit work that's 3'x4', but it gets rejected simply because it's too big. Technically it's within the legal limits. But the fact of the matter is they have a limited amount of space to hang artwork. They decided they want to hang 200 pieces of artwork and if they accept 3'x4' paintings then they'll only have room for 150 paintings. So they select some lesser quality 9"x12" paintings over yours so they can squeeze more paintings into the space available.

Really, it could be that simple. Your art is wonderful. They love it. But they simply don't have room for it. They don't tell you this though. I have never seen a show actually tell artists why their art was rejected. It would be nice if they did. But I think they don't because they don't want to tell anyone it's not always about picking the best art. That's what everyone believes, that art shows exhibit only the best art submitted. But it's an illusion. They don't want to admit it's sometimes about stupid stuff, like space. So I'm here to tell you that. Sometimes it is just about stupid stuff. Sometimes it's about wall space, or money, not about the quality of your art. So I hope after you read this you'll feel a little better next time you get that rejection letter.




Jul 26, 2014

Wolf and Fox iPhone Cases

As some of you may know, I have prints and notecards available through Fine Art America. A while back FAA opened up a new site, Pixels.com, which offers cell phone cases as well as prints and notecards. It uses images already available on FAA. Unfortunately, many of them do not fit phone cases very well as they are. So, I am going through my images and editing them in Photoshop to make them better fit phone cases. They are specifically edited to fit iPhone 5 cases but many of them still work well for iPhone 4, or Samsung Galaxy cases.

At this time I have mainly gone through my images of wild dogs, namely wolves and red foxes, and fitted them to iPhone dimensions. Here are the wolf and fox images currently made to fit iPhones. Click an image for more information.





















Jul 25, 2014

How To Draw Animals - Horse Legs - Part 2

In Part 1 of my tutorial on drawing horse legs I focused mainly on the back legs, problems with getting the angle right, and some ways to correct it. In Part 2 I'll be going over a few other things to keep in mind about horse legs such as the slope of the pastern and how the back legs line up with the front legs.

If you forgot your horse anatomy, here's a drawing with some body parts labeled again.


Besides having trouble with the angles of the back legs, many beginning artists tend to have trouble with the slope of the pastern (the area just above the hoof) and the angle of the hoof. Usually they are drawn too straight, as in the image below.


You may actually see a horse like this occasionally in real life but, if you do, that horse has a problem. It is not a normal, healthy leg and horses with this problem usually end up with lameness at some point in their lives. These horses are also not fun to ride. The slope of a normal horse's pastern acts as a shock absorber and softens your ride, so if the horse's pastern lacks that slope, it's a rough ride. 

A healthy pastern slope should be at about a 60ยบ angle, and the hoof should be close to the same angle, as shown below.


A beginner artist may also make the mistake of putting too much slope in the pastern, but I don't see that issue so often. My tutorials so far are referring to a horse that is just standing. You could very well see more, or less, slope in the pastern if the horse is in motion. As mentioned, the pastern acts as a shock absorber, so if the horse is in motion the angle can change quite a bit depending on the where the horse is in its stride. If the horse is in a full gallop the pastern can be nearly horizontal to the ground at times, as you can see in the hind leg in my running horse painting here.


It's best to keep things simple when learning. Draw lots of horses just standing for a while. When you get comfortable with that then move on to tackling different leg angles for motion.

Now lets move on to leg length and alignment. The underside of the horse's body tends to slope up toward the rear (unless the horse is fat!) which makes the rear legs look longer. This can lead to drawing different parts of the legs at incorrect lengths. Certain parts are actually longer but not as much as we tend to think. Notice in the image below that the fetlock joints are pretty much all in line, the same height off the ground all around. After that the joints start to vary some in height, the rear joints getting progressively higher than the front. The knee joint, you can see, is slightly below the hock joint. Not a lot, though, so keep them close to the same height. The next joints up, the elbow and the stifle, are more noticeably at different heights off the ground. For these joints, position them close to the body line. Drawing a series of horizontal lines can help you get an idea of how things line up.


The guidelines in this and the previous tutorial can be used for most ungulates (hoofed animals) such as cows, deers, and even giraffes. They're not as different as you might think. Let's take a look at the giraffe, for example. Because it has such a sloped back and long neck we tend to think the giraffe's front legs are much longer than its back legs. But, as you can see in the drawing below, the joints of the front and back legs actually line up in a similar way to the horse's legs. It's mainly the giraffe's back that has all the slope.


So, when in doubt, get out the ruler and draw lines and angles across and up and down the body. Compare the lines and angles to the ground as well as other parts of the body. Keep reference images handy. Feel free to print out these images and have them at your drawing table while you learn.

In my next tutorial we'll take a look at the legs of other, non-hoofed animals, such as wild cats, or wolves, and see how they compare to what we've learned so far about horses. Stay tuned.





Jul 22, 2014

Chickadee & Deer Garden Flags

I'm happy to say my painting of black-capped chickadees in an apple tree, as well as my whitetail doe and fawn, are now available on garden flags. They were actually licensed for use on garden flags by Carson Home Accents last year but it takes a while for the ball to get rolling and some time before the products actually hit the stores. But they are finally out there, available now to purchase from all sorts of retail stores, as well as sites like amazon.




Jul 18, 2014

How To Draw Animals - Horse Legs - Part 1

This won't be a comprehensive tutorial on how to draw all animals from head to toe. There are plenty of how-to-draw books and articles out there already. If you're interested in learning how to draw animals I'm sure you've already seen tutorials that show you how to start drawing a series of circles around the major sections of the body, then connecting them with outlines and finally adding detail. This isn't going to be that type of tutorial. Instead, I want to focus on some specific things artists tend to struggle with when first learning to draw animals, things too specific to be covered in a general how-to-draw-animals books. For example, legs can be a challenge so today I'm going to talk about legs.

Since most people have seen horses in real life, and they're considered a favorite animal and art subject by many, I'm going to use the horse as my subject for the topic of drawing legs today.

If you want to draw horses the first thing you should do is learn their basic anatomy. I recommend you go do an image search for horse anatomy before continuing. Look at some pictures that have all the body parts named. Study some pictures of muscles and skeletons. And you really should keep an anatomy book like Animal Anatomy for Artists on your bookshelf. So I won't be giving you an anatomy lesson today. I will, however, add an image with the names of a few major leg joints here just for handy reference so you'll know what I'm talking about when I name joints.


Today I'm not only going to focus on legs but specifically the hind legs. The front legs are straight so they're relatively easy. We all recognize that most animal's back legs are not perfectly straight but have at least one bend in them, and a portion of the leg is at an angle and not perpendicular to the ground. The problem with beginning animal artists is knowing exactly where that bend goes and how much of an angle to give it. The leg does indeed bend at the hock joint even when the horse is standing squarely. The upper part of the leg slopes at an angle toward the rear of the animal. The lower part of the leg, however, does not have much of an angle when the horse is standing squarely. It is usually close to being perpendicular to the ground, as shown in the image below.



One mistake I see with beginners is putting too much slope in the lower part of the leg. This puts the hind feet too far forward under the body so the animal looks like it might rock back on its hind legs and sit down. I've drawn an image here, exaggerating a bit to highlight what I'm talking about. I've drawn colored lines representing the correct and incorrect angles next to each other for easier comparison.



So, to avoid this mistake, remember that the upper part of the leg slopes at a clear angle relative to the ground but the lower part is relatively perpendicular. Another thing to keep in mind is that the lower leg lines up vertically with the horse's buttocks. If you were to draw a straight line down from the buttocks to the ground, the line would pass through the hock and fetlock joints.


Another mistake I see with the hind legs is going the opposite direction. By putting too much slope in the upper part of the leg (rather than the lower part) the hind feet are pushed out behind the animal.


With this mistake the artist often also puts too much of a curve in the upper leg as well as too much slope. Because the rear contour of the leg is rather curvy we tend to think of the whole leg as curvy. But if you look at the front contour of the hind leg it's relatively straight with just a few undulations where muscles and joints bulge slightly. But the entire upper leg is not one big curve.

So keep these tips in mind:

  • The upper and lower sections of the horse's leg are each rather straight. The main bend, or angle, in the leg is only at the hock joint.
  • When the horse is standing squarely, the lower section of the leg is nearly perpendicular to the ground. It should only be angled if the horse has shifted its foot forward, or is walking or running. In that case the entire leg should be rotated forward or back, not just the lower part.
  • Remember the buttocks. Drop a line from the buttocks to the ground and see where your leg is relative to that line. If it's too far forward or backward it should be because your horse is in motion, walking, running, or trotting.

Well, that's it for this tutorial. I'll talk more about legs in part 2 next time.



Jul 16, 2014

Native American War Horse

I recently decided to paint a portrait of an "Indian Pony" as something different from my usual modern day western or English style horse portraits. Just like many of us today, the Native Americans of the old west prized the colorful spotted horses such as pintos and appaloosas. The pinto has sort of become an iconic symbol of the Native American horse. So I decided to use the pinto as my subject for the Indian Pony painting. I had planned on leaving it simple with just some feathers in the mane and a simple bridle. But when I was nearly finished I started wondering how it would look with war paint. I did a few mock-ups in Photoshop with a few different color variations of war paint to see how it would look. Here are my Photoshop images of war paint on the not-quite-finished painting:



I still couldn't decide if I wanted war paint or not. I shared this image on some social media sites and forums and asked people what they thought. It seemed to be pretty evenly split for and against war paint. That didn't help me decide. Haha!

The decision was finally made when someone told me they wanted to buy the painting and they liked it with war paint. Since it hadn't actually been painted yet, I let the buyer choose which color combination to go with. They chose the blue eye ring. I'm not sure if that's an authentic Native American war paint color for the eye ring or not, but I like that choice because there is blue in the background but no other blue in the picture. So adding that touch of blue to the horse ties it in nicely with the background. Here's the actual finished (not Photoshopped) version of the war-painted horse.


The original is (obviously) sold but Fine Art Prints of the painting are available here.

I also took a photo of the painting before the war paint was added, so if you prefer a the Indian Pony without war paint that version is also available as a Fine Art Print, here.



By the way, many people refer to the old west spotted horses as "paint horse" but they were actually pintos. Yes, both "pinto" and "paint" horses have the same type of markings. The difference is that "pinto" refers to coloring alone while a Paint Horse must also be of certain breed bloodlines and body type as defined by the American Paint Horse Association. So a Paint Horse is also a pinto, but a pinto isn't necessarily a Paint Horse. Since it's unlikely the Native Americans had registered their horses with the APHA, they were mostly riding pintos. :)

Anyway, that's all technicalities. If you'd like to read more about the color and breeds you can find a lot of interesting information on the APHA website.

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