Expressive (or impatient) Realism

If I’m asked to described the artistic style of my wildlife and pet portraits, I guess they are Realist, but obviously not photo-realistic or scientific-illustration material. They’re quite loose and expressive, and I have to say that the initial reason for that was because I have the patience of a very impatient gnat! I aspired to do photo realistic animal art because it’s so clever, skilful  and fascinating. Even those who don’t usually appreciate art can appreciate realism.

Once I had achieved a good level of realism in some small practice pieces, I found that I just couldn’t do it for a whole animal Portrait. I found it required more precision and patience than I could sustain. More importantly, my creativity and self-expression felt like it was suffocating. I greatly admire the skill and perseverance of realist artists and natural history illustrators – but it just wasn’t me.

On my first portrait pieces, every time I worked on the fur I lapsed into quicker, looser and more expressive strokes. I felt as though I was stroking or even ruffling the animal’s fur with my brush or pastel. I enjoyed “patting” my creatures to life and I actually liked the visual effect it created. You might not see “real” fur in my art, but you can certainly feel it. In fact, people who see my work often tell me that they just want to reach out and pat the animals. And that’s the best compliment I could ever receive!

I become very attached to my “critters” when I paint or draw them. They come alive for me and even seem to develop personalities once I get their eyes just right. That’s why I give them all names at that point: Vegemite, Siegfried, Tim Tam etc. I know I’m weird, but I just have to call them something when I “pat” them. They might not be very realistic, but they’re very real to me.

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