Something about nature, specifically wildlife, has always captivated me. Even as a child, I would rather play with plastic animals than trucks, or action figures. At the age of 29, playing with toys has lost it’s appeal, but over the years I have learned to express my affinity for the natural world in other ways. Just being out in nature isn’t enough. I feel the desire to capture my findings through photography, drawing, and occasionally painting. I’m unsure why I find the urge to express myself in this way. Maybe it’s just how I most readily connect with the world around me, and share feelings with people that I am unable to articulate. But sometimes, I don’t feel the explicit desire to share with other people. I’m content with enjoying the solo process of discovering interesting subject matter, capturing it, and possibly manipulating it or combining certain elements to create something new, or visually surreal. On the other hand, I do enjoy sharing the finished product with other people. Making other people feel something positive and tangible through my art makes me feel connected to them. Sometimes I wonder if I would have any drive to create art if I could not share it with others. After all, what is the point of life besides connecting with others. Creating and maintaining meaningful relationships is a hallmark of humanity.
Anyway, I’d like to share a piece of Wyoming inspired art and the process of creation. When I draw, it is very time consuming. Because of that, I have only completed one drawing in the almost four months that I’ve been in Lander, Wyoming. Getting the form down is definitely the most difficult part for me. There’s plenty of erasing involved. Sometimes I will realize that something is out of proportion when I’m too far along to fix it. Oh well…maybe that makes it more interesting. Over the past few years I’ve started by drawing the outlines in pencil. Once I’m satisfied with the form, I will trace it with ink, erase the pencil, then use primarily ink to fill everything in. Even though using ink can be painstakingly slow, I enjoy the challenge of it. I like how the darkness of ink makes it easy to develop contrast in a drawing, and something about the permanence of ink is inherently satisfying. Once I’m at the point that I can start shading, I’m able to relax. The process becomes meditative and my mind becomes free to listen to music, learn something from a podcast, or just wander.
When possible, I enjoy using photos that I have taken myself as references when drawing (I really struggle at creating something from nothing, or drawing with no reference). In my latest drawing, I was able to merge a few photos I’ve taken to create something slightly abstract. I usually don’t find any deep meaning, or strong symbolism in my work, and I feel the same about this piece. I just took one charismatic animal that I’ve encountered in Wyoming and combined it with an equally attention garnering plant. My inspiration started with the only decent photo of an elk that I’ve taken so far. I knew I wanted that elk to form the foundation of the drawing. Next, I looked through photos I had taken of Castilleja (one species of this genus is the Wyoming state flower) and found growth forms that I liked. I drew the Castilleja to look as if they are growing out of the elk’s antlers…and one on the back just to kind of balance things out. After drawing the plant on the back, I got the idea to display the root structure of the plant. I liked what the strong, yet crooked, imperfect lines of the roots brought to the drawing. When I was done with all of the shading I still felt like something was missing. Several elements of the drawing had an ethereal feel to me; obviously, the plants growing out of the animal and the abstract root structure. But in addition to that, it looked almost as if the elk was smiling and there was a slight shimmer in it’s eye. I had the urge to make it more vibrant, but not in a totally rationale way. I added a lot of patterned, vibrant color to give it kind of a psychedelic feel. Maybe I implicitly created something that demonstrates the ecological connections present in nature, since elk do eat Castilleja…not sure what the colors mean though. I just wanted to make something that is visually loud and interesting.