Dee Dee Murry
Great Gray Hunter (acrylic, 18×24)
After investing in new camera equipment, Dee Dee Murry took thousands of photos before she realized the animal she wanted to depict more than any other was the great gray owl, the one photo she didn’t have. Murry (www.deedeemurry.com) hunted for a suitable reference shot and found it in a photograph taken by noted Canadian nature photographer Ken Newcombe, who graciously gave her permission to make a painting based on his photo. Working on Ampersand Gessobord, Murry created her own background—paying special attention to the grass. “Rendering the landscape in detail is something I’ve been working on lately,” she says. About eight years ago, Murry switched from oil to acrylic in what she describes as “a hard transition.” “Once I stopped trying to use acrylics as if they were oils, I started to love them. I like to paint detail, which acrylics lend themselves to very well, and I like their forgiving properties and their easy clean up.”
The secret to Great Gray Hunter’s range of textures is innumerable layers of acrylic washes. “I don’t use mediums,” Murry says. “I don’t feel a need for anything other than paint and water. I wouldn’t say I use acrylics like watercolors—I paint more thickly than I would with watercolors, as a rule, but there are times I use acrylics in a very watered-down state—for mapping out areas and for glazing. When I need to blend or to push back areas of the background, I’ll sometimes use an airbrush.”
A former equestrian, Murry now shows dogs and paints all types of animals. Her paintings of horses have been featured in Horses in Art Magazine and the book Ex Arte Equinus. She sold her first paintings when she was in eighth grade to a teacher. Today she paints steadily, finding four to five hours daily for art, in addition to running several Web-based businesses with her brother. Her training has been gleaned from workshops she takes regularly, the most recent being in Canada with wildlife artist Daniel Smith. Earlier in 2008, she was able to take a workshop with noted artist and conservationist David N. Kitler, who won First Place in last year’s Animal/Wildlife contest.
Flicker and Virgil (egg tempera with oil glazes, 8×8)
In the Middle Ages, to “illuminate” a manuscript meant to embellish the text by decorating the sides of the pages with emblems and other designs in luminous colors, gold and silver. Today Koo Schadler (www.kooschadler.com), who concentrated on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance when she was an art history major at Tufts, puts her own spin on the tradition by painting images that illuminate in the sense of gloss (explain or define) selected texts. In Flicker and Virgil she appropriated a quotation from the Roman poet: “Fugit inreparabile tempus” or “Time is flying, never to return.” Illustrating this text is the northern flicker woodpecker as it alights on a wall carved with the Latin words.
To render the bird, Schadler pieced together three different photographs into a composite image, which she then further altered with drawing based on observation, since northern flickers frequent her New Hampshire property. Once she had the image of the bird, she built her composition around it, including the hand-drawn lettering of the text. Egg tempera is a very old medium; the artist acquired the technique on her own, after studying old-master oil painting for three years with Numael Pulido. Egg tempera is built up in many thin layers painted on wood. Each layer dries to the touch within seconds, and dozens of layers may be applied in one work session. Schadler typically applies anywhere from 20 layers (the background) to 200 layers (details in the flicker). “I find it a meditative process,” she says. When the painting is nearly complete, she adds about a dozen thin layers of oil glazes to saturate the surface and add luminosity.
Deemed a master painter by the Copley Society of Boston, Schadler is represented by the J. Cacciola Gallery, New York, and Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe.
Contemplation (watercolor, 26×20)
This striking composition of a horse contemplating a snow-blanketed world from the shelter of a barn holds significance for the artist who painted it. “This piece will always be symbolic of my personal venture into a full-time art career,” says Simona Tarakeviciute. “It was the first painting I did after leaving my job in retail. The hesitation I felt at the time is reflected in this horse’s expression. I worked in watercolor because it was the medium I felt most confident in, as I wasn’t willing to take any more risks for a while!”
Tarakeviciute, an associate member of the American Academy of Equine Art, is passionate about horses, and she often features them in her work. Since animals rarely stand still, Tarakeviciute usually works from photographs. Even with camera in hand, she admits, “Ultimately, it comes down to being in the right place at the right time and capturing the moment.” For Contemplation she used a horizontal reference photo and did thumbnail sketches in her studio to work out compositional aspects. The vertical format of the painting emerged from her studies, giving the piece a strong abstract quality, with the space divided into three blocks of differing values. She referred to her photo to capture the horse’s expression and the quality of light.
Tarakeviciute received her BFA in painting from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and pursued additional art studies through the Mediterranean Studies Program at the University of Messina in Sicily. She currently has work in four Massachusetts galleries: Kooharian Fine Art in Mashpee, the Drawing Room in Chatham, My Sister’s Gallery in Sandwich, and Watershed Gallery in Cataumet.
The Waiting Game (oil, 12×9)
These days Holly Metzger is all about painting dogs. She’s loved them since she was small (she grew up with Springer spaniels). “Dogs were always a big part of the family,” she says. The dog in The Waiting Game belonged to a friend who commissioned the portrait. Metzger is pleased with the narrative aspect that took over the piece.
The artist uses photos but says, “I love to work from life whenever possible. It helps get the feeling of the particular dog into the painting.” She paints in oils, using alkyd white for its fast-drying properties, allowing the texture of her brushstrokes to impart an added subtle energy. In the past, Metzger spiced up her portraits with bright colors, but she’s learned a limited palette serves her better. She generally chooses two colors for each hue: cadmium red and alizarin, sap green and viridian, and a warm and cool blue. She uses variation in values to emphasize the focus of the composition.
Mountain Gorilla (acrylic, 32×22)
When Canadian Daniel Taylor began painting African animals, his first choice was the mountain gorilla. “We have so much in common with these amazing animals,” he says, “yet decades of hunting and habitat destruction have led to their final struggle for survival.” Taylor (www.danieltaylor.ca) hopes his arresting portrait will call attention to their plight.
A self-taught artist who has been painting professionally for 40 years, Taylor works in all media but finds acrylics best for his highly realistic style. He uses transparent colors in fast-drying layers to build the surfaces up slowly. “I’ve found my intricate system of layering colors gives the image a depth of feeling and warmth.” This portrait took him five months to complete. Taylor recently went to the heart of Lebialem Highlands jungle in Cameroon to sketch and study the most endangered gorilla, the Cross River Gorilla.
Anana (pastel, 10×8)
The title of Lynn Freed’s portrait of a zebra, Anana, meaning gentle in Swahili, mirrors the expressive mood of this close-up. The pastel portrait shares with the viewer the artist’s quiet encounter. Freed says, “When painting animals, I always begin with the eyes and work out from there. The personality is in the eyes. If they’re not right, the finished piece won’t be right.”
For years, Freed (www.wildandfreed.com) painted in oils, slipping painting time in around bringing up a family and working subsequently as a designer. Today art has taken the front seat, with her talents and attention divided between the heritage of oils and the immediacy of pastels. Freed takes her camera with her everywhere, gathering new ideas for paintings that she then sketches and completes in her studio. Inspiration for Anana came from Freed’s travels. “I always enjoyed painting the Southwest, as well as architecture,” she says, “but after taking a three-week safari, I just had to start painting wildlife.”
Tamara Moan is an artist and writer who lives in Honolulu.
Jim Thorpe PA
Laguna Beach CA
Ian “Griff” Griffiths
Helston, Cornwall UK
South Chatham MA
Lake Charles LA
Ryan D. Jacque
David N. Kitler
Pompano Beach FL
Jamaica Plain MA
Salt Lake City UT
South Jordan UT
Francis E. Sweet
Kanata, Ottawa ON
Colleen Patricia Williams
Frederick G. Yost