10 x (24 x 24 in), oil on birch, 2008

Animal Magic is a body of paintings I created for my Artist Project exhibit (2008). It includes animals I was fortunate to see live while on travels in Africa (2006 and 2007). Animals, for me, are magical. I marvel, every day, about the good fortune to have them in my life. Of course, the domestic variety are a little different from the wild, and most of us don't get opportunity to live with the latter. Poodle Pals, Lev and Sage, have taught me much of what I know about "animal magic." However, a couple of trips to African bush lands, desserts, and swamps have enhanced learnings. My earlier animal paintings were of Lev and Sage. These later ones are of favorite larger beasts: elephants, giraffes, lions, and zebra. Intoxicated by the sense of wonder these exotic creatures generate, my spontaneous blending of whimsy, realism, expressionism, and color come to the fore.  

Main Characters: 10 x (24 x 24 in), oil on birch, 2008, described in order of creation

Dreamer is somewhere else. His dreams border on the psychedelic. He can bend himself in almost any direction, mentally as well as physically.
Creating Dreamer was an adventure: the creation of new characters would lead me to fresh styles, techniques, and discoveries. I knew right away what I hoped to accomplish—which body part was which—but realized others may find the final image to be a bit of a puzzle.
Sheeba is as elegant as she is exotic. She also has a softness and sophistication about her which adds appeal. Creating Sheeba was a calming experience. This character's gentleness was transmitted from painting to painter. Since there'd been a few weeks between Dreamer's creation, and Sheeba's, I was very aware of a shift in ambiance and approach.
Eli is an old bull who doesn't only look like he's been around the block, he has. He's thinking about Bella. It was fun to be up-close and personal with Eli, His depiction was almost  life-size and reminded me of the real elephants I'd been privileged to tend to and ride. Detail and attention to it mattered with Eli, but there came a point when it was time to stop.
Bella bounces along. Everyone loves her. She knows who she is and where she's going, and has a following. Bella will, likely, win the "popular vote." And, not surprisingly, she was as magical to create as she is to view. Bella caused few problems, start to finish. She was ready to emerge—and just did.
Lenny isn't the dominant male, nor is his self-esteem great, especially when he views Leo.
Lenny proved somewhat difficult to create. Not at first, but once the painting got underway. He gave me back-ache and neck ache, and made me feel baleful at times. Then, finally, he agreed enough was enough. He let me finish bringing him into being, however I could.
Leo has just had sex for a week and feels chuffed, basking in the sun. Like most viewers, I feel Leo's allure. He is self confident, charismatic, and powerful, a true king of the jungle and beyond.Not only was Leo invigorating and exciting to create, he enabled me to take a leap of faith—that I was feeling more comfortable painting subject-matter other than food.
Majesty is a bit of a snob. She keeps herself to herself, but isn't the happiest for so-doing. She blends in with the vegetation around her and seems to like living in her own world.
 Majesty put me through my paces. Every time I went to work on her, I started confidently, then finished by questioning what I was doing. Over-and -again, struggles continued till the end. With a hint of grace, she let me know when she was finished.
Flirt can be a little infuriating. Just as Majesty thinks she has him, she realizes she doesn't. He's always sticking his neck out, looking for better. Flirt's games with Majesty didn't help my creation of either of them. Once I’d conceptualized them, I realized I might have taken on more than I could chew. Interesting choice of word! For starters, I usually like to include backgrounds—impossible when giraffes are in the picture. They need trees around them. Only choice: to focus on the task I'd set myself, take time, concentrate, appreciate.

Two "Stragglers" (following on from the main characters)

Every pack has stragglers. Usually they are weak, young, or "different." But, this doesn't mean they're inferior. On the contrary! Babe (the baby elephant) and Tell-Tail (the older zebra) weren't ready in time for the Artist's Project Show, even though I'd started to paint them before it began. Once the show was over, and a couple of months had passed, I went back to them, adding some finishing touches, and reflections.


Babe hangs at the back of the group and learns from elders (Bella and Eli). Children have a naiveté and innocence most adults have lost. They speak without thinking—say what they mean, and what they want to, no worries about who may be offended. Things are as they are, not as grown-ups, sometimes, would like us to perceive (and believe). Babe is aware of the differences between the sexes and how age effects behavior (and entitlements). Petty squabbles don't interest her. She prefers to keep the atmosphere light and stay busy with play. Fortunately, she has a playmate when she needs company and/or to bounce ideas. Tell-tail is on her tail—funny as it might sound! Painting Babe took patience and time. Sometimes, the simplest looking pieces can be more difficult to develop than might be thought. I realized that one dot out of place, or too many, could effect the desired outcome.
Tell-Tail is more jaded than Babe. He's done and seen more than her, and shares opinions and gossip that sometimes show attitude and bias. Is he a good influence on her? That's an interesting question! Tell-Tail knows what he knows and thinks what he thinks, and is never afraid to stir the pot by calling other creatures on their behaviors. Though he has no official role as "policeman," Tell-Tail sure acts like one. The problem is that when you're busy commenting about others' actions, your own have to be exemplary! Tell-Tail doesn't often show his face—will transmit his information via other people. He seems to have become the trouble-maker behind the scenes and is a bit of a coward... My challenges painting Tell-Tail were quite similar to those painting Babe. Patience and time mattered, texture as well. These final two pieces weren't as flat, smooth or precise as others in the series. 

Artistic Ramblings: Reflections While Painting Animal Magic

The Animal Magic imagery that emerged had been a long time incubating. From trips to Africa, to the review of photographs taken there, by hand, and on the computer, there were many stages and aha moments (even four dozen poems). The final stage, the actual painting, moved more quickly than all the others. Something that took me by surprise.

I painted with thirst and passion, keeping a grueling routine. What might have appeared as discipline to others was sheer delight for me, as well as drain/back-pain. Thankfully, as each magical herd member took form, I couldn't wait to develop the next.

Starting out, after determining I would introduce unexpected colors and forms to otherwise fairly predictable beings, I had no rules. What I clipped was spontaneous, and what I colored was randomly decided. From real sketch book to electronic assistant, I was open to whatever looked and felt right—would depict the magic of animal kind as memorable, clear, and wonderful.

My initial intention was to conceive all the animals one-by-one. But, once properly started, and with the painting of several underway, personalities and stories spoke up in my head. Just as for Noah's Ark, two-by-two was the actual way living creatures needed to show themselves. This was what felt right. Next came the names, chosen spontaneously.

Dreamer (the first of the herd), a "contorted (male) zebra," would soon have Sheeba (a more elegant mate) to gaze upon. The vibrant patterns on Dreamer's hind contrasted with softer patterns on Sheeba's.

Elephant Eli would soon meet Bella. While Eli's skin showed his age, he'd have no trouble partnering with a younger more energetic mare. Bella, I was certain, wouldn't be Eli's favorite, only. I confess, she became mine too. Her energy coursed through my brushes. She couldn't wait to show herself!

Lion friends, Lenny and Leo, came afterwards. Male lions aren't always good chums. But, these two seem to have a "special rapport."

Finally, came Majesty and Flirt. For some reason, they prompted the most complications and least satisfaction. Could it have been that I was tired?  After completing Leo and Lenny, who were full-page beings, I rediscovered that backgrounds aren't as interesting as foregrounds. Keeping the focus on the subject matter, not its context, is more my prerogative. Perhaps this is why, with Babe and Tell-Tail, the last two "straggler characters," there are no backgrounds at all, just sections of the animals, themselves.

I painted with awe (and questions), each species presenting in different ways—especially those with whom I felt lucky enough to get up-close-and-personal.