I routinely conduct research about whatever it is I plan to draw, to be able to correctly illustrate things. Searching for the general facts, like sizes, colors, friends & enemies and next finding good photography. First, I envision the character realistically. Next, heavily simplifying the lines. Next, the challenge becomes giving them some human capabilities while retaining realistically identifiable specie characteristics. Here are some sketch examples.
I had no idea!
When I did the research on rhinos I found that I was totally oblivious to their plight. I had no idea that they were so close to extinction. The White Rhino is one of 5 quickly disappearing species of Africa, and Eurasia. Rhinos live in tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannah, shrub lands, forests and deserts. Unfortunately, with numbers dropping so drastically, many remain only in wildlife reserves now. The main factors driving the rhino population to extinction:
increasing human population creating less and less habitat for them
wars and militia massacres
Poachers kill approximately 3 rhinos each day to sell their horns for highly inflated profits. Poachers are the worst threats, very much like drug smugglers or cartels. Honestly, money is most important thing to them. Insidious criminals with no conscience.
Research the Horns
Poached rhino horns are purchased by two major markets in the world. The Chinese and Vietnamese mistakenly believe that magical medicinal properties exist in rhino horn. Not true. Rhino horns are made of “Keratin” which, is what human fingernails and hair are comprised of. If, Keratin is a magical medicine, we don’t have to kill the rhino’s for it. Honestly, anyone needing “keratin” can simply chew on their own fingernails or hair and get the same results.
This horrific act of killing rhinos and harvesting their horns, makes me ashamed to be a member of humanity. I wish it would stop.
I was looking for an pen & ink character project to work on, flipping through a stack of unfinished or abandoned projects that I am gradually completing, as time allows. Suddenly, I found a old cute rhino character, a male baby on a mission. Looking at this sketch, my artist brain immediately kicked into high gear thinking random thoughts;
Maybe a female baby rhino would be better…
She could wear a ribbon in her hair or maybe even a ruffled skirt…
Hey, there is room for improvement with what she is doing here…
It is kind of boring, sweating in the heat all by herself…
I could add another character for her to talk to…
Hey, the environment needs to change here…
I know, I’ll add radical thorns on a cactus plane…
Maybe erase this over here.
Before I knew it, a whole new scene and character had emerged. Now, that is something worth inking and
I was ready to go.
Riva the Rhino is hot! She asks, “Where is the water?”
“Turn around, it is back that way,” says the caterpillar on the cactus.
Next, I found myself looking for “R” names for a girl. She is a rhino so she needs a R name for sure. I found a perfect name, “Riva” which means “regain strength” in Latin. Riva the Rhino. The rhino population needs to regain it’s strength in numbers really bad. Check out my next post to see what I learned from researching rhinos.
I think Riva the Rhino, could be a real interesting character for an ongoing comic strip or children’s book. What do you think?
Witness the changes as we give Mr. Moose “A” his beauty makeover at my artist studio. This miner is looking for gold in the hills of Chewelah WA. Initially, he appears sporting a pair of patched blue jeans with red suspenders with his yellow miner hat. Miner Moose is a little large, okay VERY large and extending well beyond the edges of our table. I have to pay attention to drop cloth placement for this guy today. Doesn’t he seem like he is worried, as he lays on the table waiting for a “new look” after all his repairs?
First, his moose antlers are created with a light gray background that is shaped by working darks and lights into the wet paint for the different rounded horn surfaces.
Similarly, the next step is to cover his fur with a basic brown. I pull out 3D shapes in his body and face, by using combinations of red, blue and yellow in the wet paint. Oooops, mustn’t forget his hind legs showing at the base of his pants.
Next, I apply blue to the jeans followed by their highlights in white. If, while I am working, I have a color on my brush and notice an area that needs it, I simply apply it right then. You will notice that I like to use blue to make surfaces show more in the distance or shadow. With that goal in mind, blue applied to the eyes, leg backs, nose and around his ear.
Green Burlap Bag
The addition of a significant change as I add a small green burlap bag to hold gold treasures along his belt line, which eliminating the suspenders. This should draw attention to his middle body region instead of his legs. Just maybe, if the majority of the pokes are on his body center, it is possible that his spindly legs will stand a better chance at survival.
His eye and face are re-created here along with his little yellow “miner” hat, which is put-in without the light.
Stepping back, I examine Moose “A’s” makeover progress. While, I can still see some of the screw holes from the repairs from a few angles. But, honestly they are not all that noticeable when you step back. It is amazing what a good coat of paint does, isn’t it?
Now it is time for the finishing touch in our Moose “A” makeover! The gold treasures are placed in his bag, and he is ready for his final sealing coat. He is all new and ready to go back home to his place up on the hill.
There are two Moose Miner animal character signs up on the hill at 49 Degrees North Ski Resort. They have both received extensive attention over the years requiring some pretty extensive repairs before they could be re-painted. Moose A has two broken front legs and Moose B has a broken antler.
This moose has had interim repairs on the hill leaving some damage from screw holes. But, this is minor and will not cause us any problems. Luckily, all the parts are still intact so gluing them back together is feasible. Initial gluing is shown with clamps from the front then the process of using sawdust filler and glue to fill in gaps.
Pete glues the wood back together using sawdust filler for the gaps because with the drastic temperature variances. We must use similar product to fill gaps due to that old expansion and contraction law, you know. Placed upside down on his antlers moose A dries for 24 hours.
Metal reinforcement is installed on the back of both front legs and a wood reinforcement is placed on his antler, which is not broken yet.
”An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,”
….so, we decide to reinforce the antler now instead of later.
This moose has a broken antler when he arrives. The antler is glued back on and damaged areas filled.
The antler will need significant reinforcement to hold up. Additionally, we realize that placing reinforcement only on the antler portion of the sign will cause more stress to that specific area. Exactly what we don’t want to do. We can’t elevate the surface unevenly, without compromising the mounting (to the tree) concentrating more mounting stress on the weakest area. Consequently, we went with a solid top to bottom board reinforcement, intending to use paint to disguise it from the front.
Both signs areset aside to dry, ready for repainting.
This animal character sign is a bear learning to ski. While his major damage is not very obvious, he does have poke holes in scattered places the majority of them being the ski pole and claw area. Most importantly, he is missing half of his back ski. I wonder how many people will notice that the ski is half gone?
Bear Repair Process
First, I paint the bear fur in browns using a red tint to bring some surfaces closer in appearance.
This close shot shows how a warm red tint tends to draw his front leg closer to our eyes. In contrast, an addition of a cool blue makes shadow appear pushing his other leg back away from us. Isn’t it amazing to move areas with just a small addition of different colors? Certainly, art is cool.
I paint the various blue accessories, including his small blue neck warmer, ski’s and pole and set him to dry. Not everything can be done on wet surfaces, and needing a completely dry surface to apply details, I set him down to dry.
Working on camouflaging the bear’s missing ski problem I use his ski pole to diffuse attention as we visually separate the skis. The ski pole basket is deliberately located right at the intersection point of the two skis. Hopefully, this will cause a distraction resulting in effectively blurring the area between the two ski surfaces. Best case scenario result is, a redirection of the viewer’s attention away from the bear back paw being located way to far back on the ski. With an ounce of distraction the artist becomes a magician. Bet you didn’t know that about being an artist.
Continuing, with black outline details that exaggerate his wide-open expression and adds shadows above and below the eyes his face transforms.
Likewise, his mouth line makes-ready for later additions of his tongue and sweat. Why? Because, I plan to make him have a really nervous expression as learns to ski. A similar expression to the little people that will be poking at him later on the beginner ski trails.
Now, the nervous skiing bear repair is complete and he is drying on the table. Even though he is a nervous wreck as he learns to ski he will be ready to go play with the other kids learning on the trails up at 49 Degrees North Ski Resort in Chewelah WA.
This poor snowshoe rabbit holds a pick ax on his way to look for gold in, “them there hills”. As a result of the traffic in the past decade, a lot of damage evident. It looks like the majority of the hits are on his paw holding the pick and the paw below. Similarly, the cheeks, mouth, ear, nose, and eyes have gotten their fair share of damage. Repairing this character is a real art challenge, but hang in there, because his transformation will amaze you.
This critter is one of the types making those footprints that you see in the snow when you are going up the lifts on chairs 1 & 4 because you get close enough to the ground to see them there. It is kind of amazing how far they can jump, even in deep snow. Do you wonder what bunny tracks look like in the snow? Check them out here.
It is obvious that this fluffy furry guy is mostly whites with a few facial, ears, and tool shapes scattered here & there. I will use methods that I employ when painting snow landscapes in the fine art world. Most importantly, this means that I can not use much white straight out of the can. With a limited pallet, I give you clues by tinting the whites differently to show varying depths of field.
On this area, I add a touch of blue and gray to the white as I coat his body below his chin. I need to trick you into thinking he is a real live rabbit standing in front of you. Certainly, a limited white and grey pallet are not making this easy to accomplish on a flat piece of wood. Um Huh!
What is Next?
Painting over our rabbit’s other features and you may notice a slight yellow tint in his whites on the ears, cheeks and eye area. Because, those surfaces need to appear closer being lighter and warmer. Additionally, I move his right hand location away from the most severely damaged area. This gives a new target to aim for, that has not had any damage yet. I apply a coat of white and light pink to toes, ears, and nose and thankfully, I can still see where the eyes and teeth are underneath. I put a watered down coat of purple brown on the ax handle so I can see where to paint paw hands.
Darkening the chin under the rabbit teeth, nose and between the eyes makes his features begin to pop. I darken the chest and belly and you can start to see that 3D thing mentioned before. The uneven values and layers are beginning to hide the majority of the damages that were so evident before.
See how much white it takes to really cover?
It drives my husband crazy when he sees me dip my brush into paint cans without washing it first, because he used to work in a hardware store mixing paint for people. Ha Ha. You can see my fancy artist palette upfront on the table. I use a paint can lid turned over with drizzled spots of the paints that I anticipate mixing. Truthfully, I hardly ever use a plain clean color while painting murals or signs. The only place I feel it is necessary to keep paint clean and pure is when I have to paint the walls of a room or a house exterior, otherwise “the sky is the limit” when rendering, right?
A closer shot shows the blue grays working to distance his chest and make his teeth show up front. His hands are placed on the ax handle and more grays areas are put on his ears and cheeks.
Darkening the lower belly and lightening the leg upper thighs starts to show the separation between the knees and hand paws up front. Progressing, the highlights are added to toes with a touch of light on his shoulders to keep the body connected to his face and neck. Seems like his rabbit character is coming to life.
Coming into the home stretch now, you will notice details around his eyes, ears, nose and whiskers being quickly added. His teeth are now casting a shadow and his arms holding the ax are outlined to separate along with his kneecap and ear intersection.
Our fluffy snowshoe Rabbit, is drying on the dining table ready to greet the kids on the hill again at 49 Degrees North this winter.
The animal character signs tucked in and around the trees are one of my favorite things at 49 Degrees North Ski Resort (Chewelah WA). We are lucky to have really talented people in the ski school (Rick) and childcare center (Allison). Great things happen when experts teach our youth to love a sport, because they think of these kinds of tools in their program, a mystery scavenger hunt through the trees. First of all, Eric’s sister (sorry I don’t know her name) started it all. She is an artist who designed some great cartoon animal characters in a miner’s theme. She painted them on the walls in the kids club area and on plywood signs… hence, starting this whole thing way back when.
These animal signs are strategically placed in the trees on the bunny hill trails for the kids to find. Most of the time, the kids touch or poke the animal as they ski past. Everyone tries to be the first to find all of them, as a result, learning to ski is a lot more fun.
About ten years ago (2008) when I painted the children’s nursery, it seems like only a couple years ago to me, anyhow, I repaired and painted some of the old ones and made some new animal signs. Well, these animal characters get a lot of traffic and they consequently, need some tender loving care. Pete and I repaired the damage this week getting them ready for this season. There is a total of 12 animal figures that we loaded up and brought home. All in all, we were able to resuscitate 10 of them so far.
Bear on Skis
Blue Bird with Shovel
Red Bird on Cart
Both Moose are still being painted but all the rest are done and we will show you progress pictures on following posts. We are waiting to find out if the hill management wants the two other guys redone or redesigned or used for fire starter. They got missing limbs.
Here are two progressive images from sketch to ink of the rhinocerous character, “Abner being bummed”. Only got five more images to ink before I can start watercoloring all of them. This is a fun project.