Aug 2, 2012

Research Your Subjects - White Tiger Facts

Not long ago I finished a white tiger painting. Before I painted it I did a lot of looking around online and in my wildlife books to learn about the animal. Besides just looking at lots of pictures, I read a bit about white tigers too. This is important to do. Don't rely on images you see online for accurate information on how to portray your subject. They may be inaccurate, or you may overlook some detail if it's not pointed out in a descriptions somewhere.

When looking at artwork of white tigers online and comparing the facts I'd read I noticed a few errors. Many otherwise very good artists had inaccurately painted or incorrectly described their subject. We aren't talking kids' finger paintings here. I saw some very nicely done, professional paintings of white tigers that were excellent except for the obvious fact that the artist had not researched the facts about the subject.

I won't name names or show images because this isn't about picking on any particular artist. It's just to point out that not researching your subject, and portraying it inaccurately, can diminish the feeling of realism in the work. Now, of course, if realism is not your style then do whatever you want. But most of these paintings were realistic in style and I would assume the artist intended it to be an accurate representation of the animal.

So what were these flaws? Mainly yellow eyes, and being called "Siberian" tigers. But also some more subtle things like overly stark white fur with jet black stripes.

The facts are:

White tigers are Bengal tigers. There's no such thing as a white Siberian tiger. Any accounts of a white Siberian tiger have never been proven, or have been shown to be crossed with Bengals. I see many white "Siberian" tigers in paintings. I suppose it is due to the fact that a white tiger looks good in the snowy Siberian forest. Perhaps we can call that "artistic license"?

White tigers do not have yellow eyes. Almost all white tigers have blue eyes. Occasionally, they will be greenish-blue.

White tigers are not albinos, therefore they do not typically have stark white fur. They often have a tinge of orange left in their white fur, like this cute little guy.

(Image source: A-Z Animals)

Their stripes are also often muted brownish-black to brown rather than being jet black.

White tigers are actually pretty rare in the wild. Most white tigers are in captivity, and have been inbred, resulting in all sorts of health issues and abnormalities.

Ok, so what? Most people who view a painting of a white tiger will not know these facts. So who cares? True, most won't. But chances are, if someone is a collector of wildlife art, they will know these things. You don't typically spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on art if you don't have a love of the subject. And if you have a love of the subject, you know these things.

And who I am to preach about it? I have made some mistakes in my paintings. I'm definitely not perfect. But, as artists, we should always be striving to improve ourselves and our art. It's not all about painting techniques and honing our brush skills. It's also about studying and knowing our subjects intimately. Don't forget what you're painting because you're so focused on how you're painting. Always be learning inside and outside the studio!

1 comment:

Canidae Art said...

The usual thoughtful and insightful comments Christa, a great read as usual :)

Most of my art is based on Palaeolithic and rock art, and so a great deal of my time is spent researching this subject, and getting a name wrong is a basic mistake that one should not make.

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