Archive for category Subject: Animals

Curious Creatures – Frans Post and Brazil

Between 1637 and 1644, the Dutch artist Frans Post travelled to Dutch territories in what is now part of Brazil to record the exotic flora and fauna found there. The paintings he made after his return to Europe became celebrated and were the first time many had seen creatures so far from their personal experience. These finished works are now in galleries around the world.

The original drawings on which the paintings were based were presumed to have been lost, but were recently discovered in an archive in Haarlem. It is these that form the basis for this exhibition, on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. For those unable to visit, the reproduction in this slim volume that accompanies it gives an excellent indication of the closeness and accuracy of Post’s observation as well as the opportunity to compare the drawings with the conventionality – in European terms – of the full paintings.

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5-minute Sketching: Animals & Pets || Gary Geraths

Animals are prime candidates for quick working. Rarely still and often found in less than ideal places, the ability to grab a quick sketch while they’re visible, or at least reasonably still, is a useful skill.

This new series carries great promise and the ideas and techniques here do it full justice. There’s plenty of information and variety, with something for everyone. If I have a reservation, it’s that the execution perhaps leaves a little to be desired, but there’s nothing wrong with the ideas and you’ll find plenty to keep you occupied.

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Drawing and Painting Animals with Expression || Marjolein Kruijt

There are two things that need to be said about this from the outset. First, it’s not a book for the beginner and second, most of the illustrations are in pastel or oil. Neither of these counts against it, of course, but they do define its market.

There is a lot more to what is in fact a comprehensive guide – just about every species and many breeds are here, from domestic to wild animals and even birds. As becomes clear, expression is as important with animals as with people and this is much more than anthropomorphism – there are no cute portraits here. It is perhaps as important as form, structure and perspective, aspects at which Marjolein Kruijt is equally adept.

Most of the illustration is by example and the few lessons are at the end of the book. The bulk of the text discusses the structure and form of both the subject and the resulting painting. Although there is a very useful introduction to materials and media, Marjolein tends to assume that you will know about methods of application. If you do, you’ll be thankful not to find 50% of the book taken up with things you don’t need to be told. If you don’t, well, to be honest, capturing character in such detail is probably not the skill you most need to learn. Think of it as a masterclass.

This is a serious book that takes its subject and its readership seriously and is all the better for that.

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Wild Animals || Giovanni Civardi

There is, it seems, no end to the talents of this popular and capable artist and author. Best known for his books on the human figure, this isn’t his first foray into the animal world, but it continues his tradition of sensitive pencil work combined with simple, concise captions that explain exactly what he’s doing. There really is nothing not to like!

The book covers exactly what you’d expect, as is confirmed by the subtitle “How to draw elephants, tigers, lions and other animals”. Each of these is given its own section and there is also a very handy introduction that explains the basic techniques you’ll need in this particular field. The results are lifelike and characterful and definitely encourage by example.

Compared to Giovanni’s other books, there is perhaps broader coverage, meaning that each section goes into slightly less detail, which in turn means that you, the reader, have to do more of the analysis and deconstruction than is otherwise the case. For this reason, it’s a book perhaps better suited to someone with a little more experience than is usual with this author. It’s a delight and a triumph for all that, though.

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We Think the World of You || David Remfry

I’d better explain that the subtitle to this tells you what it’s about: People and Dogs Drawn Together. And, yes, that wins my personal prize for the most bizarre idea of the year. Maybe even decade. No, millennium. In fact, what in all that’s crazy did a body as august as the RA think they were doing putting their name to this?

I thought we’d better get all that out of the way right at the start, let off steam, because this is a fantastic idea that’s beautifully executed and reproduced. The title and subtitle, of course, are ambiguous. Who thinks the most of who? Both, of course, because the relationship between an owner and their dog is a very special one – I can see that and I’m not even a dog person, by the way. Even if I didn’t, David’s sensitive portraits would convince me.

So, how do you go about presenting a book of drawings of people and dogs? Well, the answer is that you devote a chapter to each session. You get to know the people – some are in the public eye and some aren’t – and then you start sketching to get the basic character. Finally, you put them together and that’s where the alchemy takes place. You know that old adage about people getting to look like their dogs? Well, it’s true, especially when an artist as sensitive as David (try telling me he’s not a dog person) gets under their skin, as a good portraitist should, and exposes their character and inner being. And what’s so brilliant is that he can do this for both humans and animals; it’s a rare artist who’s good at both.

I love this. It’s charming, it has a warm heart and it will make you smile, both from affection and amusement. Of course the RA should be the publisher. Who else has the gravitas?

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Drawing & Painting Cats || Vic Bearcroft

I had my doubts about Vic’s previous book. I felt that, excellent as his wildlife paintings were, some of his backgrounds were a bit flat. I couldn’t decide if this was deliberate – to push the main subject forward or not, but I felt a lack of impact. There are no such worries here. All the works in this volume are complete and the subjects are either set properly in context or isolated against a plain wash that’s entirely suitable for a portrait.

There’s no doubt that Vic loves cats – it’s apparent on every page, both in the way he depicts them and a hundred small details I’ll leave you to find for yourself. His dedication indicates that he’s lived with them and it shows. There are plenty of domestic moggies here, both young and old, alert and at rest and Vic captures perfectly both their physical and mental attitudes. My favourite is of a black Tom sitting on a roof in moonlight. Its posture and expression say both “I’m lord of all I survey” and “What am I doing here?”. And that’s pure cat.

This understanding extends to the larger cats, too, and Vic has some excellent demonstrations of a prowling black leopard and of lions and tigers. He works in watercolour, acrylic, pastel, pencil and ink, so there’s something for everyone. As long as you like cats, of course.

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A Kurt Jackson Bestiary || Kurt Jackson

I seem to have reviewed a lot of Kurt Jackson books lately and it’s always a pleasure. This is not only because I like Kurt’s work, but because they’ve all been beautifully produced and so varied that quantity has not brought repetition. Kurt is an artist who likes to try new subjects and what we might call his voyage of discovery is always as fascinating as the final result. There haven’t been any obvious failures yet, but I can’t help thinking I’d even be enthusing if there were one!

The term “bestiary” implies not a collection of animal portraits but rather the fabulous creatures of mediaeval legend. While you won’t find such things as the Cockatrice here, you will notice that the subjects themselves are artistic interpretations rather than faithful portraits. The cock on the front cover is a good example, capturing as it does the many colours of the feathers and a sense of life and movement rather than a static and unrealistic pose. Looking inside, you’ll find the grey washes that depict the murmurations of Starlings over Marazion and the enigmatic Song Thrush Song, Porthbean, where the subject is invisible and merely contributes to the experience of the scene; the title teases the viewer with the anticipation of what only the artist can hear.

Other subjects are more lifelike: shellfish, butterflies, birds, but they all exist within their surrounds and you quite often have to look for them. Wildlife in the field does its best to camouflage rather than reveal itself.

As a piece of production, this book is a delight to handle. Weighty without being heavy, large enough to hold as well as see and printed on good quality paper, it’s an artefact rather than a product and a joy in its own right.

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