Monday, March 25, 2013

A Work in Progress by Alison Nicholls 

The painting is titled Sun Spots (cheetahs), 29x29" acrylic on watercolor board.

I was inspired by watching and sketching 3 cheetahs in the Serengeti in the midday heat. Not only were they were overly optimistic about the size of prey they should hunt, but they were also completely unconcerned about concealing themselves. As a result they were not successful in their hunting attempts! 

My thumbnail sketches contained 3 cheetahs initially  but I wasn't finding it easy to come up with a good composition. Often this is just the way it goes, I keep on drawing until I find a composition that works. I wanted a circular design for this piece and couldn't get that to work with 3 cheetahs, so I removed 1 of them and tried again . I felt that the composition was much more successful with only 2 cheetahs - it had a flow to it.

My next step was to create a larger, more detailed drawing. It is only at this stage that I may refer to occasional photos to check the anatomy of the animals, although I do this as little as possible to avoid relying on them too heavily. As you can see, even in pencil I made some attempt to show the circular nature of the color washes I would use. The circles also imply the outline of a hot sun - very appropriate for that hot day in the Serengeti.

Finally...painting! The color study is one of my favorite stages of a painting. It gives me a chance to experiment, using paint in a very  loose manner. Often there are elements of the color study that I prefer to the finished painting. Often there is something more spontaneous about the study. Perhaps because there is no pressure. I am usually working on a scrap of paper. If it fails I just do it again. I keep my color studies, pinning them on my studio noticeboard. And one day, I hope I'll manage to consistently get the same spontaneity into my full-sized paintings. That will be a great day!

And here's the final version, Sun Spots, 29x29", acrylic on watercolor board. I was very happy with the bold color palette, and the circular composition which mirrored the loose outline of the midday sun and circular spots of the cheetahs. A far cry perhaps from images of those 3 cheetah brothers failing in their hunting attempts in the Serengeti. But, for me, this painting succeeds in showing my impression of the character and spirit of wild cheetahs, while leaving a little to the imagination of the viewer.

Alison Nicholls AFC SAA
Wildlife & Conservation Artist
Port Chester, NY 10573, USA

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