- This is my finished 'Jaguar' Oil Painting which is my first animal portrait, and my best oil painting so far. Next I'll show you the steps I took to reach this point.
My introduction to landscape and animal oil painting;
In 2016 when I was living in Queenstown, New Zealand, I began to experiment a little bit more with oil painting. I first discovered an Art Gallery/Studio in the Center of Queenstown, after sitting on a bench, under a tree in the Queenstown Gardens. I was reading a book, pausing, reflecting and sometimes daydreaming, and then responding to a sudden thought, flash of inspiration, or intuition, which brought the word “gallery” very clearly to my mind. When this happened I felt that I should act straight away. So I got up, picked up my bag and decided to go and visit the local galleries. I walked into the closest gallery, looked around, and didn’t feel any real reason why I should be there. So I moved on and went on to another gallery a couple of streets away. I walked in, spoke to the receptionist, and then a senior artist/teacher called Marion. I introduced myself as an artist who had recently arrived in town, and within a minute or two, I was discussing borrowing/renting out a shared space there (at the time there wasn’t anything available).
Within a couple of weeks, I started to rent a desk/small area in this shared studio space in the Arts Center for the first time. I started off drawing and then learning to paint landscapes, and thanks to the help and advice from Artist Samuel Earp, I was quickly discovering how to mix the oil paints together to create specific colours and tones. I combined both studio and en plein air (painting outside) practice during the 7 months I spent living there and sharing a studio room with Sam, and also going with him to paint the surrounding lakes and mountains. The plein air painting was very challenging at first, but the incredible views of nature that surrounded me, along with watching the great work being created by Sam, inspired me to keep practicing with this medium.
After some months experimenting with landscapes, I decided to try an animal portrait. I have always enjoyed drawing animals in the past. I guessed it would be a good idea to experiment with an animal portrait before a human one. So I decided to go for the 'Wild Cat', or 'Big Cat' family, and I chose a black Jaguar, as this animal had previously appeared in a few of my dreams some years ago. Either that or I am mistaking the Jaguar for a black Leopard. It wasn't easy to remember the exact details in my dreams and distinguish the difference between them, so I settled for the majestic and mysterious black Jaguar.
And so I began...
I started off with covering my originally white canvas with a paint layer of burnt sienna, as advised by my artist friend Sam, to help add a level of vibrancy which would come through the painting. This technique also helps to reduce or eliminate any level of fear or apprehension the artist might have when faced with the glaring white canvas before making their first few marks!
After the first layer was dry, I then created a darker burnt sienna mixture, and sketched in my Jaguar with a body shot against a tropical South American jungle/rainforest background with a flat brush. I liked how this initial step looked, however, something didn't seem right, I felt like I wanted to show more up close detail which I wouldn't have been able to achieve with this pose. I decided to change my idea early on, and go for a head shot portrait of the Jaguar instead.
I found a beautiful photo of a black Jaguar by a Deviant Art Photographer called 'Xandau', and I decided to use this as reference. I have never seen a black Jaguar in real life, especially in the wild (yet?), only online on video, and in my dreams. I scraped my original Jaguar off the canvas, and took on the challenge of portraying this incredible animal as well as I could on canvas from a new point of view. This was my first step of my new painting. I sketched in the head and background leaves with a darker mixture, and once it was dry, I mixed the rainforest greens, and painted them in first.
From this photo you can also see my first rented studio space! At the same time, I was living in a tiny cupboard under the stairs, as people would say “Harry Potter style” in a shared house in Fern Hill, so I could also afford to rent this space and keep costs down. Maybe one day this part of my story will prove to be a funny and important part of my artistic journey, and I will repeat it many times with a smile on my face!
My second step, completing the background rainforest leaves in simply, so that the detail and hard edges of the Jaguar would come forward more.
My third step was painting the fur of the Jaguar using a combination of Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Raw Umber, and Burnt Sienna. I 'blocked in' the larger shapes and forms first before any level of detailing, leaving the eye as focal point, until the end.
My fourth step I continued painting in the fur, and filled in the main colour shapes of the Jaguars eyes. I took many hours working up the layers, and experimenting with blending in the fur. I made sure to aim to keep a fine balance of both hard and soft edges throughout the process.
And finally after many days and nights of persistent practice, deep focus, hard work and effort, I arrived at this finished painting. I was very happy with the result and initially I did want to try to sell it. But I decided to give it away as a gift to the Brazilian family who had been supporting my artwork on social media every time I posted. I packaged an oil painting for the first time, and sent it to Brazil. It now hangs on the wall of a warm, loving family house in Porto Alegre, Brazil.