Strokes of Genius 10 : Inspiring Subjects

Strokes of Genius 10 : Inspiring Subjects

It’s been an exciting week!  I feel fortunate to have had two of my drawings, “Dance for Joy” and “Mocha”,  selected for inclusion in Strokes of Genius 10: Inspiring Subjects, scheduled for release in the fall of 2018.

The first, Dance for Joy, has an interesting back story.  I had photographed this goose just as it stepped out of a lake on a beautiful sunny summer day.  It honked and shook its feathers and flapped its wings and just seemed to be enjoying the gorgeous weather!  I was working on this drawing when I received the news that my first drawing ever published, “Mallard” had been chosen to be included in Strokes of Genius 6.  That day, I felt just like the goose did – I wanted to dance for joy! I chose to eliminate the elaborate background that I had planned and instead just showed him dancing on cloud 9!  Limited editions of “Dance for Joy” are available here.

The second one is more personal.  Mocha is my cat.  She has been my constant companion for the past 11 years.  Mocha is a rescue and her age when I adopted her was estimated by my vet to be between 1 and 1 1/2 years old.  for blog_LSpino_mochaIt came as a surprise to me when I saw her file that the vet had arbitrarily selected the month that my Mom had passed away as Mocha’s birth date and  I’ve always thought of her as a gift from my Mom.  Soon after I submitted Mocha’s portrait to  the Strokes of Genius 10 competition I learned that she has a form of cancer which unfortunately is terminal in cats.  Learning that her portrait was selected was bittersweet, but knowing that I’ll be able to share her portrait with so many people is comforting.

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Shetland Pony

Wildlife Art – Realistic Graphite Pencil Drawing – Shetland Pony

There a few animals so universally beloved as the horse. It seems almost every country or region on earth has its own trademark breed from the elegant Arabian that was bred to survive in a harsh desert climate to the proud and free Mustangs of North America. Of course Canada too has its hallmark breed the beautiful “Canadien” which I hope to feature in a future blog.

LSpino_Shetland Pony 2

Today though I’d like to spotlight the Shetland Pony.  The Shetland pony as its name implies originated on the Shetland Isles.  It is an ancient breed long admired for its intelligence as well as its strength.  They thrived in the harsh climate of the Shetland Isles.  While researching for this article I was surprised to find that miniature Shetland ponies are being used as guide animals in the same role as guide dogs, a testimony to their intelligence.

LSpino_Shetland Pony 1

Although Shetland comes in many colours, these two ponies were white which presented a challenge in itself.  When drawing in shades of grey, white can only be represented by drawing the shadows between the hair.  These ponies had been living outdoors.  They still bore their thick winter coats and their manes were beautifully and hopelessly tangled!  It was pure joy for me to try to depict that impossibly complicated labyrinth of hair masquerading as a mane!! 

Some drawings are just plain fun to do.  I think that I smiled throughout the whole long painstaking process of drawing these two charmers.  Many thanks to Janelle Shane for giving me her generous permission to use her photos as reference for these drawings.

Pastel & Graphite Wildlife Illustration

Pastel & Graphite Wildlife Illustration – Deer Mouse

Pastel & graphite are not traditionally mixed but anything goes when mixing media! One of my favourite small illustrations is of a deer mouse. The composition is simple and because it is a vignette, the focus is easily kept on the deer mouse. I have been using this illustration as my profile picture on face book and I’ve had a few questions about it so I’ll try to answer them here today. 

LSpino_Deer Mouse_2This was one of those times when the composition came about quickly. I had taken some reference pictures of deer mice and I really liked this pose. Now I needed something for the mouse to look at. Since this was meant to be a fantasy piece reminiscent of traditional children’s book illustrations, there was no need to be study the mouses’s diet or behaviour!

All I knew was that I wanted to play up the idea LSpino_Deer Mouse_close-upof a tiny creature in a world where almost everything was bigger than it was. I also wanted a punch of colour and berries seemed like the perfect choice. The leaves were sized with the same theme in mind. They had to provide a background without overpowering the mouse yet they had to tower over him. It was lots of fun playing with the idea of mixing fantasy and reality!  

Pastel and graphite are not traditionally mixed.  The trick I have found is to use the pastel sparingly otherwise the graphite just won’t stick to it. With the addition of graphite powder, the pastel can be greyed down so that the overall effect is one of older book illustrations.

You can see a step-by-step progression of the drawing in the video below.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you may have!