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Behind the Scenes of a Wildlife Art Commission, with an artist who makes her own paints from local pigments.

Behind the Scenes | Wildlife Art Commission | From Rocks to Painting

It took me some time to feel comfortable calling myself an artist. But eventually that point arrived. Then as I began to market myself as such, I found I needed to focus sometimes on “what exactly kind of artist am I?” Well, although I do a variety of subjects, I am predominantly a ‘wildlife artist’. And today I am beginning a new phase of answering that question. Now I am also “a wildlife artist who takes wildlife art commissions”. I’ll also do commissions for other subjects in my wheelhouse. I’m excited about this.

And also terrified.

Because of the nature of my art, it takes me longer than a lot of other artists to get from conception to finished work. So I thought I’d make a comprehensive post that shows what all goes into one of my paintings, from rock to painting. I’m venturing a guess that it’s a little different from the process of most other artists. Add to the facts that I’m just a slow painter. I pause between each phase to reflect, watch, and listen. The next step progresses only after the sensory inputs tell me what that next step should be. I suppose I could force this to move along faster. But that’s not the way I work.

I savor.

I savor everything. Especially the foraging for pigments.

If you have questions about art commissions, I have a FAQ page with lots of information. If the question you have isn’t listed there, please comment to ask. The first step after getting an email about a commission is to work out the details. What is the painting going to be about? How large? Most importantly to me, is to ask myself whether or not I think I can do a good job of it. After all of that is worked out, then the physical work of making the art can begin. The first step at this point is to be sure I have enough paints of the right colors on hand to finish the work. If I don’t, then I need to first forage for pigments.

So here’s where it all begins, once there’s an image in mind. Pigments must be gathered unless there’s already paint made to suite the purpose. Sometimes I don’t have enough. The worst thing that can happen is that I have to stop in the middle of a painting to go out and gather materials to make more paint. Well, maybe that isn’t the absolute worst thing, but it does disrupt my flow.

So for the painting I’m getting ready to begin right now, I need a rusty red, white, and more gray. I had all the stones for the white and gray already on hand, but not for the rusty red.

I went down to the creek this morning during the cool, shady hours in search of those rusty reddish brown earth pigment stones. When the light is right, the colors are vivid while the rocks are under the water. Once out of the water, looks are deceiving. This is likely why the wide range of our Ozark pigments are somewhat under-appreciated. They’re reclusive, and can hid in plain sight.

When I get a wildlife art commission, first I need to make sure I have enough paints on hand. This rock is a great pigment rock to make the paint I need.
That bright little rectangular rock is a great pigment rock to make the paint I need.

After foraging for the pigments, that’s when the physical labor begins. Rocks must be broken, crushed, and ground to a fine powder.

For any of you interested in my process as a wildlife artist, or who may be considering a wildlife art commission from me, I’ve created a slide-show / video to show the things I’ve talked about here. It’ll give you a little ‘behind the scenes’ look at what goes on in my life as an artist. There’s also some slides in it to show you the difference between the rocks under the water, and the rocks once they’re out. It’s at the bottom of this page.

If you prefer text format, here are a few of my posts on how the rocks are turned into paints.

Now that all the materials are on hand, I am ready to begin the actual act of painting a scene. Here’s the link to a post that talks more in detail about all the steps of making a work of wildlife art using my hand-process foraged earth pigments.

From Rock to Painting – The Process of a Wildlife Art Commission

This is the process of what happens when I start to think of a painting, or after the concept is worked out for a wildlife art commission. It always starts at the same point after the details are worked out. I go to the creek.

Here’s a little narrated slide show that gives a different view of all of the above. I’m trying to get better at making videos. The editing is a challenge! Let me know what you think. The volume is a little high on my voice, so best turn it down before you hit play. One of the many little things I need to learn more about during the editing…

My role model for a visual marketer/presenter is Jonna Jinton, a swedish photographer and journalist. Her videos leave me speechless (and jealous). It’s a high bar, but I absolutely love her YouTube channel and would like to have something like that to add to my website one day. You should take a look at hers (but please don’t compare it to mine yet, hahaha!).

As a wildlife artist, I enjoy painting many things, but the birds of prey are my favorite. The current commission I’m working on, though, is an American robin. Before I can begin this one, I needed a few colors I didn’t already have on hand. So the first week or two of my contract period is mostly about just making the paint. Then I’ll get busy actually painting the painting. There’s also a red fox, a pelican, and a few landscapes in my portfolio. You can see everything I’ve ever done over at my gallery website: www.PaleoPaints.com. If you’d like one of the paintings that are still available, or are interested in commissioning a painting that better reflects your own desires, send me an email to start the conversation.

Madison Woods is an artist and paintmaker from Kingston, Arkansas.
Author/Artist Info
In the summer of 2018 I began making watercolor paints from the rocks, clay, and other resources of our land here in the Ozarks. My artwork is made exclusively with these paints. I call them Wild Ozark Paleo Paints, because they’re made in a way very close to the same way paints were made when man first put a handprint on the wall of a cave. My specialty is painting nature, specifically the nature that surrounds me here in the remote hills of northwest Arkansas.

My Portfolio is at MadisonWoods.art

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11 June 2020 7:57 pm

Congratulations, Madison!! You’ll do a great job and hopefully will get lots more commissions.

11 June 2020 5:45 pm

Incredible ! and I could become envious of your gift 🙂 interesting paints, I had never seen stones used, I use dyes from nature such as leaves, flowers, when I find my muse again 🙂 Thank you for sharing your art techniques, it was interesting and I learned something new.… Read more »

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