watercolor on wood

Work in Progress - Ethan Hawk the Rooster

This weekend I FINALLY started the follow up piece to Hannah the Cow. It’s another watercolour on wood painting – this time featuring a rooster. Unlike the previous painting, this guy is a real-life animal named Ethan Hawk! He is a resident of a local animal sanctuary that a friend of mine volunteers at. I just love his feather colouring, and as soon as I saw his photo, I knew he would be the perfect model for my painting!To get the ball rolling on this piece, I started with several rough drafts. My main concern was drawing him big enough to see the detail in his face, but small enough so his entire body fits on the wood board. I probably went through five or six drafts before I got it right. I typically start with the face, but when I did that I repeatedly kept drawing him too big. To help me get the sizing just right, I drew him as a stick figure and then drew and outline around that before adding details. This is my go to method for composition, positioning, and proportions when I work on difficult pieces or limited spaces.I used tracing paper to draw the final rough draft. The transparency aids in figuring out how it will look on the wood since you can see through it.I admit, the grid method would have been prefect for this, however, I don’t like to use it. It’s not a bad technique at all, and professionals use it too, it’s just a matter of personal preference. If you find yourself struggling with the same issues I did, I totally recommend giving the grid method a try.Since I didn’t trust myself to redraw him again, onto the wood, I cheated and used some carbon transfer paper to transfer the draft I drew on paper onto the wood. Carbon transfer paper is great for when you have a solid draft and do not feel confident in recreating it a second time. It’s also great for surfaces that are hard to sketch on like canvas or wood.It was mega-important for me to get his face perfect and for his personality to live with in the art. Since I had placed such intense pressure on myself to do so (kind of a bad habit, to be honest), I went ahead and started with that part first. I figured that way, if I messed up beyond repair, I wouldn’t have invested too much time into it until that point. There have been times when I’ve put several hours into a piece only to hit the point of no return – ultimately having to completely scrap a failed artwork that I had already spent hours working on.Getting his face to feel alive was my #1 goal with depicting him in this painting.Thankfully, Mr. Ethan Hawk’s face came out great! It was a little rough going at times though. An especially textured part of the wood runs right through his face, so getting those fine hair thin lines was not easy. I think I spent about four or five hours just working on his face. I built up layers of different reds, oranges, and yellow to create the crest and area around his eye with thick consistency white to create highlights.Having success with his face was a total boost of confidence going forward with the rest of the piece. I felt like I could breathe easy…and I did for a minute before getting into the yellow feathers of this neck, lol. Wowzers, I mega-struggled with those! I hate to say it, but I had no clue on how to go about them. The process was totally trial-and-error. Yellow watercolour is so completely transparent, and I struggled with depicting the definition of each feather without the whole area just being grey mess. I internally freaked out a number of times while working on them, but I kept at it until I was able to get it right! I’m still not too sure how I achieved that, but I guess that’s just the magic of art, lol.I did a lot of on canvas blending with white and yellow ochre paint.After his neck, I moved onto his wing. Basically, I’m working my way down and around to his tail feathers. The brown feathers were a little easier to paint than the yellow ones, but not by much! I mostly faced the same challenges of figuring out how to create definition and shading with feathers stacked on top of each other. I find the dark colour of the wood makes creating subtle shading difficult.Currently this bird is paused at the half way mark, though I do hope to complete him this week. I would like to keep a flower motif going, as I did with Hannah the Cow. I’ve thought about adding small flowers around his neck and in this tail feathers, but we’ll see. I may only use flowers on the ground with some green clover around his feet.Mornings, with a cup of coffee and a window of sunshine are my best time to paint.I love artwork that has me stretching out my artist chops and seeing how far I can push my talent. I hope you guys enjoy it too! Enjoyment is the gold coin of an artist’s heart. :)Honestly,Sam :]

National Animal Rights day! Raising Awareness for Cows in the Meat and Dairy Industry

Disclaimer: I am not vegan, but I am against the inhumane practices found in today's agricultural and livestock industries .Did you know that June 3rd is National Animal Rights day? I only found out about a week or so ago, however, the timing works out well with my most recent piece, a watercolour portrait of a cow decorated with a crown and collar of bold flowers.It’s only been recently that I have learned about how cows (and all other farm animals for that matter) are raised for consumption, both here in America and the rest of the world. What I’ve come to know as a sad truth, is that most animals live and die horrific lives on factory farms every day. Even though I am not morally opposed to the consumption of living things – as all creatures great and small consume each other in one way or another – I do not believe in the unethical and inhumane practices of factory and large-scale farms. Since I love to make art with heart, I decided to use my cow painting to help raise awareness about the meat and dairy industry in hopes that improvements will be made as consumers become more aware and educated about the products they consume and the lives they affect - both humans and non-humans.Why are factory farms so terrible for cows and animal rights? They operate on a quantity over quality production model. Cows on factory farms are raised with little to no care for their health and wellbeing. Any animal deemed unhealthy or sickly is literally tossed aside to die as caring for them would cut into profits. Those who can mature, are made to live in in dirty, cramped quarters. Unsurprising, their final moments are even more brutal, as cows are packed into cramped trucks with no water for hours on end in confusion of what is happening to them.Even dairy cows get the short end of the stick in the agricultural world. It is easy to assume cows just give milk and live happy lives in green pastures. However, to produce milk, they must be pregnant. They are continually impregnated and once they give birth their calf is taken away. It’s so upsetting for these cows that removing the calf can be extremely dangerous for the farmer. For about five years or so, this process is repeated. Once a dairy cow has become to old to give milk, she is usually sent to become cheap canned meat.These practices are abusive, greedy, and evil to say the least by most moral standards. Large corporations view these creatures as a commodity that cannot think or feel. However, research has shown that bovines are quite intelligent.Some may scoff at that notion to be concerned over the abhorrent treatment of cows, but I believe that most people are simply unware of what goes on behind closed barn doors. Just as I did, I encourage everyone to do a little research themselves to see how terrible the meat industry and factory farms are. Educate yourself on the products/brands you buy and use.For the record, I am not a vegan. My own personal belief is that in the law of nature. Things - all things - eat and are eaten. When we die are bodies feed the worms, who feed the birds, and so on and so forth. However, nature doesn’t hold a candle to how cruel factory farms can be to cows. Even now, with GMO products falling under constant scrutiny, many cows are purposely bred to be larger and produce more milk despite the negative effects hormones have on humans and selective breeding has had on the cows themselves.It should also be noted that not all farms are bad. There are farmers that do care about their cows and do not compromise their wellbeing for greed or lack of compassion. They raise them responsibly and do not take more from the cow than what they can give. There are dairy cows who do not have their calves snatched away only to be milked several times a day. There are even farms in which cattle is not seen as food until their very last breath is given in the same pasture in which they were born and lived in.As I worked on my cow portrait, I did my best to inject feeling and personality into her eyes. I hope that when you view this piece, you can make a personal connection to it and consider for a least a moment that real life cows are sentient beings much like ourselves. They feel pain, they feel happiness, they are worthy of compassion, and that our current practices in the meat and dairy industry are fundamentally and morally wrong.I ask you not to be vegan (unless you wish to do so), but to at least consider limiting your consumption of animal-based products. Try to choose and support brands and farms that do not compromise animal rights for dollars, and boycott brands and factory farms who know nothing of respect and dignitary for the very cows that make up their livelihood.