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 predominantly paint wildlife art. When I looked back through my catalog, there are mostly animals.
In time, some of my paintings began to sell, even though I consider them ‘expensive’. 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 everything. Especially the foraging for pigments.
First: Asking the Questions
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. And if maybe not, then will the attempt at least teach me something useful to learn? 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.
After foraging for the pigments, that’s when the physical labor begins. Rocks must be broken, crushed, and ground to a fine powder.
Making the Paints
Once the rocks are crushed and the pigments washed and dried, then I make the paint I’ll need for whatever wildlife art I’m currently creating. Making the paint involves using a tool called a muller and a glass or marble slab. This tool is used to rub around the pigment so that it is suspended in the binder. Then the paint is scraped off of the board or slab and put into the trays that hold the paint. The paint then has to dry.
For any of you interested in my process of painting wildlife art, or who may be considering a wildlife art purchase 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.
- How to Make Handmade Watercolors (a tutorial)
- The Colors (a category of posts at my Paleo Paints website)
- Paint from Red Sandstone (start to finish for a paint)
Painting the Wildlife Art
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 Painting
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 work in progress is a great horned owl. Before I can begin this one, I needed a few colors I didn’t already have on hand. You can see everything I’ve ever done over at my gallery website: www.madisonwoods.art. If you’d like one of the paintings that are still available, or are interested in suggesting a painting that better reflects your own desires, send me an email to start the conversation.
Madison Woods is a self-taught artist who moved to the Ozarks from south Louisiana in 2005. In 2018 she began experimenting with watercolor painting, using her local pigments. She calls them Paleo Paints, and her artwork now features exclusively the lightfast pigments foraged from Madison county, Arkansas. Her inspiration is nature – the beauty, and the inherent cycle of life and death, destruction and regeneration.
Her online portfolio is at www.MadisonWoods.art.
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