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Monday, February 19, 2018

Citizenship Through Art

The Executions of the Third of May, 1808, Francisco Goya
The painting depicts an execution of a group of Spanish countrymen by Napoleon's troops. There are eight soldiers, with their faces turned away from the viewer, firing upon Spanish revolutionaries at very close range. There is a central figure, a Spanish man in his early 30's with his arms outstretched, wearing a white shirt and yellow ochre pants. He is on his knees. If you look very closely you can see piercing in the palms of his hands. The central figure is surrounded by about seven men. They are in various states of emotions. Some of the men cover their eyes, others are in prayer, while at least one covers his ears. There is a monk in prayer along side this group that frames the central character. In the foreground is a pile of dead bodies. A pool of blood flows into the center of the composition, in front of the central figure. A large lantern in the center illuminates the execution. The painting was created by the Spanish artist Francisco Goya in 1814, though little mention is made either of the artist, that date, nor even the title of the nearly 9-foot by 13-foot painting. The setting is the Museum of the New York Historical Society, and though it might appear so at first glance, the scene is not that of a routine art appreciation class touring the facility. The class is free and every student attending comes searching for help in passing a test, hoping to become a naturalized American Citizen.
 
A collection of just a few of the paintings the historical society uses to teach American history to future citizens.
The citizenship melting pot.
The citizenship class offered by the New York Historical Society is predicated on the fact that learning is best facilitated by doing and seeing, followed by reading, and listening (in that order). The class is aimed at experiencing art, thus deriving an emotional connection rather than memorization. What is the overall mean-ing of the work of art? The question is subjective. Everyone will have a different response. There are no wrong answers to what the painting says to the viewer. The goal is in helping students recall an im-age and its meaning as to American his-tory in answering the ten (out of a pos-sible one-hundred) oral questions posed during a personal interview. The painting is timeless. It pays tribute to people who are willing to stand up for their beliefs, in spite of, aggressors who would try to destroy them. It also depicts the cost of war for the victims as well as the aggressors.

Pulling Down the Statue of King George III, New York City, 1859, Johannes Adam Simon Ortel.
Cornplanter,
F. Bratoli, 1796
Pulling Down the Statue of King George III (above) is used to help answer two questions on the naturalization test: “When do we celebrate Independence Day?” and “When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?" The New-York Historical Society is committed to telling the American story and fostering a community of learners to consider what it means to be an American, past and present. For more than a decade, the historical society hosted naturalization ceremonies at the museum, celebrating new American citizens. Their exhibitions, programs, and educational initiatives delve into American history and explore issues such as government, immigration, culture, and civics--all important ele-ments of the naturalization test. Par-ticipants learn about pivotal moments in history by examining objects and docu-ments from the museum's collections.

President Washington Taking
the Oath, Federal Hall, 1789,
Guiseppi Guidimci, 1839
With their "Citizenship Project," the historical society’s leadership decid-ed in January, 2017, to take an active role in helping permanent residents become citizens after President Trump called for travel restrictions on Muslims entering the United States. The classes started in July, with the goal of helping 750 to 1,000 people prepare for the citizenship exam. The project is a 32-hour interactive pro-gram utilizing artifacts, documents, and art from the museum’s perman-ent collection in covering all the questions used in the test. For many students, English is not their first language, so they’re quite eager to get any assistance they can to make this test easier.

Many, for whom English is not their native language, fine help in reading children's books supplied by the museum and written by authors from their home country.


New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West at
(77th Street), New York, NY 10024
 
After the travel bans, the historical society recognized a long history of helping immigrants. If you're not a citizen, you can't vote, you can't travel out of the United States without fear of not being allowed back into the country. If you're arrested you could potentially be deported, so this is a way to be treated as a decent human being. The New York Historical Society program has already seen several students actually pass the exam and become sworn in as U.S. citizens.


The museum proudly displays America's first citizens.
















































 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Name That Color

Try it--print out the blank chart above, then write in the name of each color (some may require a white colored pencil). The answers are on down...WAY on down at the bottom, so no cheating. 
Remember, back when you were young and television was in its infancy, when there were dozens of game shows aired, usually in the early evening. In their latter years they migrated to mid-morning programming. A half-dozen or so from back then are still around and have remained quite popular. One which is no longer seen on TV (but sports a home version), was quite popular for some thirty-three years, (1952-85. It) was called Name That Tune. Over its lifespan it was moderated by TV game show icons such as Bill Cullen, Tom Kennedy, and Jim Lang. It was must-see viewing for music "trivians" and just simply play-along fun for the rest of us. Today I'd like to suggest a similar game for art "trivians" and those who fancy themselves as artist. I call it "Name That Color."
 
The RGB color chart with is 493 different colors.

The two games are roughly analogous in terms of numbers. How many tunes have ever been composed? How many colors can the eye identify? Before you go counting the color slots above, I'll save you the bother. There are 245 in the top one, 493 in the one just above. I've made it easy. The RGB (red, green, blue) color chart (above), now used in computer program, contains that number of squares (though the chart itself is not square). I don't know who first invented this little gem (sources vary), but the name M. George Craford keeps popping up. His landmark work along this line dates from the 1990s as a former Hewlett-Packard color engineer (later as a Philips Lumileds Lighting Company chief technical officer). I should also note that his work dealt with light emitting diodes (LEDs) not artists' pigments. In any case, his chart is not only a valuable scientific tool, but really quite a thing of beauty.

RGB (HEXidecimel) color formula chart.
The colors seen on the RGB color chart do not have names. Names are too subjective. Instead they are identified by six-digit, alpha-numeric codes ranging from  (000000=black, while FFFFFF=white), and by color formulas indicating the 256 different intensities of the red, green, and blue pixels which produce that color (0-255). Red: 0, Green: 0, Blue: 0, produces black. Red: 255, Green: 255, Blue: 255 produces white. Theoretically, this system produces an astounding 65,536 variations. If you're wondering why 255 is used instead of 256, remember, in mathematics, 0 is a number. Pick your favorite color. This is a system of naming colors only a left-brained digital artist could love.

I'm not sure you'll be able to read this 178-slot color chart with all its tints, but if you can, it should give you some ideas as to color names if you want to play "Name That Color" (try zooming in).
At the beginning I posed the question, how many colors can the human eye differentiate? If, after reading the information above, you guessed 493 or even 540, you'd be WAY too low. Optical engineers and the optical medical profession estimate around two-million though some go as high as 2.4 million. Obviously, giving a name of some sort to that many colors would be a human impossibility (like naming that many tunes). Add to that the fact we've been discussing additive color (produced by an illuminated source) while most artists are primarily interested in pigmented colors of red, yellow, and blue (a subtractive color system). Check out the studies of Johannes Itten in this case. The two bear little relationship to one another. However, with pigmented colors, at least we're dealing within the realm of descriptive names (though it's still a pretty damned big realm). My blank color chart (top) has "only" 245 color slots. Even at that, no one should anticipate getting them all correct. I should also mention that some colors require three-word names. Adjectives such as deep, dim, dark, hot, medium, light, and pale are also used. Some simply defy logic.

A color chart specially formulated for those who paint flowers.
SCROLL
 
DOWN
 
TO
 
SEE
 
THE
 
"CORRECT"
 
ANSWERS
 
TO

THE
 
"NAME
 
THAT
 
COLOR"
 
GAME
 

Please don't send your answers to me, but if you wish to brag, use the comment feature below to lie about your score.
 





























Monday, February 5, 2018

Winter Art


In glancing at the title above, you might bring to mind paintings of winter at its best--snow scenes, city or country, day or night. You might picture the work of painters such as Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses,  Claude Monet, John Fulton Folinsbee, John F. Carlson, or even Jim Lane. However, in this case I'm talking about painting on snow. That's no typo. I'm referring to the fine art of using a snow-white canvas of white snow upon which to paint. I've already dealt with snow sculpture (although some such artists choose to paint their creations). Painting snow and painting on snow are two distinctly different art forms with totally different "rules," techniques, values, and mindsets. In fact, some snow artists don't even use paint (below).
 
Snow calligraphy--anyone who quotes Faust has to be a serious artists, with or without paint.
When I first set out to explore the art of painting on snow I went in search of the usual broad range of professional snow painting artists. It didn't take long to realize what a naïve approach that turned out to be. For various reasons, not the least of which is the virtually non-existent archival element, all I found was a number of talented amateurs. Painting on snow is, after all, fun. Actually, the main emphasis I encountered was that of entertaining children on snowy days when schools were called off. At first I was disappointed, but then quickly came to realize that if painting on snow was the realm of school children, then so be it. As a former elementary art instructor, far be it from me to belittle such art "work."
 
From watercolor markers to food coloring to Kool-Aid, art of painting on snow has few rules and broad possibilities.
Although there are few "rules" in painting on snow, there are some factors to keep in mind:
 
 1. Snow disperses color as with the snowy decorated evergreen (above). Expect pastel tints if you dilute food coloring with water in a spray bottle.
 
2. Bright colors demand pure food coloring (upper images above).
 
3. Liquid colors tend to melt the snow except in extremely frigid conditions (at which times no one, especially young children, should be out painting on snow).
 
4. There is a learning curve. Start small. Then once you find what "works" and what doesn't, go for the spectacular.
 
5. Painting large scale works leaves footprints. Experiment--learn how to deal with them. (There are a number of ways depending on the nature of the snow).
 
6. Jettison any traditional thoughts of permanence. An hour is good, a day is great, a week is fantastic (and damned near unheard-of).
 
7. Expressionism or Symbolism are the best styles to emulate.
 
Kool-Aid may be sprayed on in
diluted form or sprinkled directly
from the package. It tastes good
with snow too (unless it's yellow).
One of the disadvantages of painting on snow is that snow tends to lie flat on the ground, or at best on a sloping hillside, (which demands the added skill of a sure-footed artist). A fairly "wet" (and deep) snow provides one way to remedy this limitation. Simply recruit some strong hands and arms to roll up a large snow-ball (much like the base of a snowman). Then, leaving it on its rounded edge, use a 2-by-4 or a piece of plywood, to flatten out the surface to be painted. Use "clean" snow to cover up any debris which may have been picked up along the way. Then draw on this smoothed surface with a stick, the image to be painted. Apply color as desired, guided by the factors mentioned above.

Whether free-form or stenciled, painting on snow can be quite expressive (the two images just above are in reverse order).
When you have SNOW...lots and lots of snow, and you're tired of sledding, building snowmen, and shoveling sidewalks, try SNOW SPRAY ART! I don’t know how this art craze got started, but it looks like everyone is doing it. Probably because it’s a blast! Inasmuch as traditional paintbrushes are of little use in painting on snow, water and food coloring or even diluted dry tempera can be used in a discarded spray container. Here the use of stensils is quite appropriate while also allowing the combining of multiple shapes and colors into abstract images. Try Jackson Pollock's drip-and-splatter techniques (in diluted form, food color washes out of clothes quite easily).


Once you've become fairly adept, along side the creation of a vertical "snow canvas," mentioned above, spray painting snow goes hand in hand with snow sculpture. Once more, start small. Save the your full-size version of the Statue of Liberty for when you turn "pro." Try first sculpting a cat or dog, or perhaps the head of President Trump (several times life-size, of course). Varying concentrations of orange Kool-Aid should suffice for flesh tones and the hair.

Paint? What paint? Who needs paint? The Russian "snow artist" Simon Beck has boots.
Drakony, Simon Beck
Simon Beck, who bills himself as "the world’s first and most famous "Snow Artist," proudly displays a new work of art--a massive snow dragon (left) that he drew by walking in the snow near Yakutsk, Siberia. His works take anywhere from 5-10 hours to more than a day to create. Beck created this particular work of art for a Russian movie called Drakony.
 

 
The work of Utah snow artist Simon Beck.

The sworn enemy of all snow art.




































Monday, January 29, 2018

Lotus Temple, New Delhi, India

The Lotus Temple at dusk.
About five years ago, I wrote a piece to which I gave the presumptive title, "The Most Beautiful Building in the World." The focal point of that item was the Taj Mahal, located in Agra, India. That may have been a rather impetuous choice. Quite apart for dozens of other possibilities around the world, India itself, is home to a very strong competitor for such a title. Located about 130 miles south-southeast of Agra in the capital city of New Delhi, we find another similarly exquisite architectural masterpiece known as the Lotus Temple. Notable for its flowerlike shape, the Lotus Temple is a Bahá'í House of Worship which serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent, and has become a prominent attraction in the city. Begun in 1980 and completed near the end of 1986, the temple takes its name from its lotus blossom shape. Around the blooming petals there are nine pools of water, which light up, in natural light. Creating a spectacular glow at dusk when it is flood lit.

New Delhi, India--location of The Lotus Temple.
The temple is actually in the village of Bahapur, Kalkaji, to the South of Connaught Place in Mandir Marg; a secluded area of the bustling center of New Delhi. The Lotus Temple has come to be known as the "Taj of modern India" owing to its distinctive lotus-shaped marble petals surrounded by a landscaped garden. This architectural marvel of the Bahai faith is essentially a symbol of peace. In the Bahai's Holy Writings great importance is given to prayers as is revealed in all the scriptures. But according to Bahai faith, the mere act of praying is not sufficient. The inspiration drawn from one's prayers must be translated into action which promotes the well being of humanity.

Regardless of the time of day (or night) the Lotus Temple is a "budding" rival in its beauty to the centuries old Taj Mahal.
Construction News, a technical journal from the United Kingdom, was the first to give the Lotus Temple the appellation of Taj Mahal of the 20th Century. The comparison brings to mind the words of the famous Indian poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore, who described the Taj Mahal as "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity". Considering that the Bahai House of Worship is an affirmation and a celebration of man's love of God, the Lotus Temple could be described as "a dewdrop on the brow of eternity". The temple is a powerful icon of great beauty that goes beyond its pure function of serving as a congregation space to become an important architectural symbol of the city.

Bahai Lotus Temple, architect Fariborz Sabha
Fariborz Sabha, the architect of the temple, was given an award in 1987 by the International Federation for Art and Architecture. Further the temple itself received an award for its structural design from the Institute of Structural Engineers in UK. It also won a Citation Award for personifying the visual impact of the beautiful Lotus flower and received an accreditation for its outdoor illumination in the year 1988. The American Concrete Institute gave the temple an award for being one of the most artistically built concrete structures. In the year 2000 it received the "Glob Art Academy Award" from Glob Art Academy in Vienna. The Bahai House of Worship at New Delhi is one of the marvels of modern architecture. The temple gives the impression of a half-open lotus flower afloat, surrounded by its leaves. The shining pure white marble, the majestic dome, the petals clearly standing out create a sense of awe. The temple is surrounded by walkways with beautiful curved balustrades, bridges and stairs that surround the nine pools representing the floating leaves of the lotus. It is a remarkable tabernacle of peace and beauty and an engineering feat that will set standards for centuries.

Bahai Lotus Temple sectional plans. First conceived in 1976, the Lotus Temple was under construction for six years.
The temple complex consists of the main house of worship with a basement and the ancillary block, which houses a reception canter, a library and the administrative building. The library contains a rich collection of religious books along with an hourly introductory audio-visual presentation for the visitors. The inner dome is spherical and patterned after the innermost portion of the lotus flower. It is like a bud consisting of 24 petals. Light filters through these inner folds which is diffused through the central hall. While the flooring inside the auditorium is of white marble, the walkways and stairs of the outer portion are of red sandstone, offering a majestic contrast. The Lotus has three sets of petals. The outermost set of nine petals, called the entrance leaves, open outwards and form the nine entrances all around the outer annular hall. The next set of nine petals, called "inner leaves" appear to be partly closed and rise above the rest and form the main structure housing the central hall. Since the Lotus is open at the top, a glass and steel roof provides protection from rain and lets natural light into the auditorium.
 
The Lotus Temple under construction, ca. 1984.

The interior dome therefore is like a bud consisting of 36 petals and light filters through these inner folds and is diffused throughout the hall. Light enters the hall in the same way as it passes through the inner folds of the lotus petals. The central bud is ringed by three sets of nine petals as they appear in a natural flower--the just-opening petals, the semi-open petals and the completely open petals. The just-opening or inner petals constitute the external dome; the semi-open or outer function as high skylight; the completely open or entrance petals form a canopy over each of the nine entrances.

The temple superstructure is designed to function as a skylight. The interior dome is spherical and patterned after the innermost portion of the lotus flower.

In the architecture of India, perhaps more than in other places, it is possible to the see the religious roots in a clear and different manner. The representative symbols which can be seen on the buildings and in their decorations, and which include the surroundings in which they have been placed, are inspired by the religious convictions of the people; convictions which are integrated and form part of the way of life of the country. The bushes which grow in the corner of a temple courtyard or the color of its walls can indicate to us to which religion the temple is dedicated. In this way we can also discover the allegorical significances which the forms, colors or statues wish to convey to us, in such a way that we can consider Indian architecture as an architecture of story-telling and symbols, in which hidden meanings dwell in every form. These hidden meanings have an intimate and inspired connection with the lives of the people of this place.

Yes, there's a Lego version.










































Monday, January 22, 2018

The School of Athens (in depth)

The School of Athens, 1508-11, Raphael
Raphaello de Sanzio,
Self-portrait, 1506
Just about everyone has heard of the Renaissance, the period in Italian art of some forty years from roughly 1480 to 1520. And anyone familiar with the arts is no doubt familiar with the half-dozen or so landmark painting masterpieces produced during this period (or shortly before or after it). They would include at least one each from what I've termed the "big three" of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael--artists so prominent their first names alone should suffice. Two of the three lived long, productive lives while the third, Raphael de Sanzio died young. Born in 1483, he died suddenly (on his birthday, no less) in 1520 at the age of thirty-seven, his lifetime perfectly coinciding with the Italian High Renaissance. We're all too familiar with Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling and Leonar-do's Mona Lisa. But Raphael's comparable fresco, The School of Athens (top), located in the Vatican's Stanza della Segnatura is as underexposed as the other two are overexposed.

A "Who's Who" of Greek philosophy with likely names in black and Raphael's possible models in red.
The School of Athens shows Plato and Aristotle in conversation. Plato, on the left, upwards while Aristotle, on the right, points down. The here and elsewhere, heaven and earth are the subject of these discussions. The fresco, painted between 1508 and 1511 (dates vary) conveys an impressive synthesis of the world-view of the two great Greek philosophers that was formed in the course of the 15th-century and would have been completely inconceivable just a century earlier. This was the result of the rediscovery of Plato which took place in Florence thanks to the efforts of the Platonic Academy and the activities of Marsilio Ficino and his circle. Restored to his master's side, Aristotle, who had never suffered the same neglect, could now speak, and his words took on a new significance.

The elder Plato walks alongside Aristotle.
School of Athens (detail). Leonardo is said
to have served as the model for Plato.
Plato lived in Athens during the 5th-century BC. He was a disciple of Pythagoras' school of philosophy which interpreted the universe as a mathematical system. Plato believed that a link existed between mathematics and music, and understood the heavenly bodies as entities separated by rhythmic intervals similar to those found in music. The heavenly spheres followed the same principles of harmony as those applied in music--heavenly music (so to speak). According to Plato, the entire world of creation, which we perceive with our senses is merely the shadow of the real world--a world of godly causality--the world of music. Further, he believed that only those minds which have been trained in the contemplative use of reason could know the only true world, a world of pure harmony. If that sounds pretty "deep," it is, and Plato's teaching was as much a lost cause in Europe during the Middle Ages as the study and knowledge of the Greek language itself. Apart from individual quotes used by Latin authors, all that was known of Plato's work was the Latin translation of the treatise on mathematics, the Timaeus (an anachronistic bound edition which Raphael depicts Plato holding under his arm).

Zoroaster, Ptolemy, Raphael as Apelles, and Perugino or Timoteo Viti as Protogenes, are arrayed on the right as followers of Aristotle.
Plato was Aristotle's mentor, but he moved away from his teacher's ideas in that he believed it possible for man to understand the laws of the universe with his senses and study them with the help of logic. Aristotelian mind is not contemplative in itself. The main doctrine of the medieval church was based on established Aristotelian thinking, which influenced biblical interpretation and the understanding of the relationship between God and man. Logical mind games were something of an intellectual passion among the medieval schools of theology. Moreover, they were completely comparable to those we know today, which have led to the invention of the computer. The problem was, having been engulfed by logic, left a degree of uncertainty with respect to the body of Aristotle's teaching. In an attempt to explain the world, Aristotelian reason tended to lose itself in a roomful of mirrors.

Cosimo de' Medici, 1545,
Agnolo Mariano
The revival of Platoism began its slow spread in the city of Florence when Manuel Chrysolaras from Greece was invited to give a series of lectures at the University of Florence sometime in the early years of the 15th-century. Chryso-laras' student circle included the young Cosimo de' Medici (right). He and others who were interested in the study of philosophy, gathered around Ambrogio Traversari in the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The young Cosimo was also a member of that group. Traversari, the general prior of the Camaldoese monks was one of the few men of his time who was fluent in both Latin and Greek. He set about trans-forming the Monastery of Camaldoli, high up in the Casentin mountains, into a workshop for the translation of classical authors. Cosimo withdrew from his phil-osophical studies at the age of forty following the death of his father, Giovanni de Medici in 1429. He was obliged to take over the family business. However, he continued to buy books and spend part of his vast fortune on the support of humanists and their work. One such project carried out with Cosimo's financial aid was a search by Poggio Bracciolino and Niccolo Niccoli of Europe's monastery libraries for the ancient classical texts, which had been preserved for centuries thanks to the efforts of the Benedictines. In 1437, Cosimo de' Medici was present at the Council of Ferrara which brought representatives of the two great Christian churches--Greek and Roman--together in a last-ditch attempt at reunification. There Cosimo met the Greek scholars from the Byzantine delegation and the Emperor of Constantinople, John VIII Palaiologos.

And on the left, the school of Socrates (in the tan robe, a follower of Plato), The School of Athens (detail),  Raphael.
When the town of Ferrara was no longer able to accommodate the Council, Cosimo offered to foot the cost for it to continue in Florence. This single, magnanimous, yet seemingly incidental gesture was enough to change the course of European intellectual history. The Greek scholars who moved to Florence with the Byzantine delegation were the main impetus for "the new Plato." There followed a series of memorable lectures by Georgis Gemisto Plethon at the University of Florence, which was attended by all the humanist scholars living in the city at the time. The importance of the lectures by Plethon, who was over eighty years old at the time, was connected with the fact that Plato's dialogs had already reached Italy a decade earlier thanks to the efforts of Giovanni Aurispa. Aurispa, a humanist, was a bibliophile antique dealer who was constantly on the road between Constantinople and Rome. He had managed to save a considerable number of classical works.

Raphael's School of Athens (right) as seen in the Stanza della Segnatura.
The Cardinal Virtues, also by Raphael, is on the left.

Raphael's rival, Michelangelo,
depicted as Heraclitus,
School of Athens (detail).

Cosimo de' Medici commissioned a young man named Ficino with the task of translating Plato and hence starting a Plato Academy. Ficino translated the Hymns of Orpheus and several other Greek works into Latin. In 1464, he be-gan translating Plato's dialogs. Cosimo was first able to read Plato's words from Ficino's translation while on his deathbed. The Platonic Academy (Euro-pe's first modern academy, was truly es-tablished through the efforts of the small group gathered around Cosimo's death-bed listening to Ficino's translations. It's hard to overemphasized the influence of the Plato in 15th-century Florence on the fine arts and their flowering during the golden age of the Tuscan city. The works of Sandro Botticelli such as his Adoration of the Magi (below), from 1475, are not generally intepreted as a rendering of the Platonic mythology in painting. However, the art of Domenico Ghirlandaio (bottom), who reached the summit of his artistic career in Florence, appears to be based on the philosophy of Plato. Yet the sublime tranquility of the figures rendered by both artists with their imperturbable calm mark them as "ideal" in the Platonic sense. A generation later, Raphael's The School of Athens was one of the direct results of the birth of Cosimo de' Medici's Plato Academy.

Adoration of the Magi, 1475, Sandro Botticelli
Zachariah in the Temple (detail), by Domenico
Ghirlandaio, depicts four humanist philosophers
under the patronage of the Medici.








































 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Fox Art

Frogs for Breakfast--Red Fox, Bonnie Marris
Vulpes, Danny
Bilsborough
In painting wildlife, there are several directions an artist may go. There is, of course, the natural, wild environment demanding a realistic rendering (above). On the other end of the scale is the symbolic, in which the artist strives only to capture the "essence" of the animal, usually with as few strokes as possible strategically placed to merely "sug-gest" the animal being depicted (below). Expressionistic renderings (right) have much the same qualities. All of this is especially true when that animal, though wild, is as familiar to viewers as a domestic canine lounging on the couch. It's easy to forget that such a beautiful dog-like creature as the red or silver fox is, in fact, a vicious predator, albeit one unlikely to be a threat to humans. A hungry fox, particularly one with up to a half-dozen pups to feed, can be as lethal to smaller animals as a hungry lion would be to us. Moreover, a fox will eat about anything from frogs to other canines, felines, or asinine rodents--with the exception of skunks, virtually anything smaller than it is.
 
Fiery Fox, Apofiss
 
In between these two extremes are any number of degrees of realism, expressionism, even abstraction (right). In large part these make up the greater part of the artist's "style." Add to that the differences in techniques and effects of var-ious painting media and you quickly realize all the variables which slice across the entire realm of modern-day painting, but seem es-pecially not-able with regard to wildlife art. The fox, being the highly intelligent (sly) yet exquis-itely grace-ful creature it is, makes it a highly desirable subject worthy of the painted image.


Mr. Fox, Yhodle
of Yhodesign



Eluding the Fox, Bruno Lilejfors
The fox is a very social creature which lives a very flexible life. They are found all over the world—in North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa—and utilize a wide range of terrains as home. As much as we tend to stereotype wild animals, the fox is one which defies the practice. Most foxes are around the same size as a mid-sized dog. Yet, since foxes are smaller mammals, they are also quite light. They can weigh as little as 1.5 lbs. and as much as 24 lbs. The fennec fox is the smallest living fox and doesn't get any bigger than the common housecat. It weighs in at about 2.2 to 3.3 lbs. Other species can grow to 34 inches from their head to their flanks. Their trademark bushy tails can add an additional 12 to 22 inches to their length.

Culpeo Fox gives us a lesson not so much in how to
draw foxes, but how to think of them.
Given the penchant artists and others possess for gravitating toward babies of virtually all animals (well, not so much flies, perhaps), it should be noted that unlike many wild mammals, even those which have been domesticated, raising fox pups is a family affair. Foxes are usually monogamous, having only one mate for life. Strangely, they also sometimes take on nannies to help with their pups. The nannies are female foxes that are not breeders. Sometimes, a male fox will have several female mates. Females that have the same male mate are known to live in the same den together--apparently the foxy ladies are not the jealous type. Divorce is rare and alimony is unheard of.

The Chase is on--Red Fox, Pat Pauley.
Foxes can run up to thirty miles per hour.
After mating, females make a nest of leaves inside their burrow upon which to birth their pups. This special room in the burrow, called a nesting chamber, has a fairly short period of preparation in that the pregnant female only carries her pups for about 53 days. It must also be rather roomy since the mother fox may have a litter of from two to seven pups. Add to that the fact that both the mother and father share the care of pups. Even older siblings (from the year before) will help take care of their younger brother and sisters by bringing them food.

Full House, Fox Family, Carl Brenders
In the wild, foxes live surprisingly short lives. They often survive only about three years. In captivity, they can live much longer, as many as ten to twelve years. Carl Brender's Full House, Fox Family (above), was obviously not drawn from life, nor even from a photo. Fox puppies are never that cooperative. And like most mothers, Mrs. Fox is overly protective of her brood. Despite an excellent sense of hearing (they can hear the low-frequency sounds of rodents digging underground), in the wild, fox cubs can easily fall prey to eagles, coyotes, gray wolves, bears and mountain lions.

Silent Grace, Tim Donovan. Like humans, foxes can identify each other's voices. Despite the title of the painting, the red fox has 28 different vocalizations consisting of various yips, growls, and howls.
 
For the benefit of artists, coloration of red foxes ranges from pale yellowish red to deep reddish brown on the upper parts and white, ashy or slate gray on the underside. The lower part of the legs is usually black and the tail usually has a white or black tip. Two color variants commonly occur. Cross foxes have reddish brown fur with a black stripe down the back and another across the shoulders. Silver foxes range from strong silver to nearly black and are the most prized by furriers.



Say What?, Isaiah Stevens,
the silver fox.

As with most "how to draw" charts this one renders a stereotypical, symmetrical front view, which is rather static for a hyperactive creature like a fox.
There are two typical errors artist sometimes make in drawing wild animals such as a fox. They center on posing and composition. If working from a photo taken in the wild, neither are likely to be a problem. But when working from memory or other sources, the temptation is to treat the fox like any other canine, even to the point of posing a long-nosed dog such as a collie then attempting to convert the dog to a fox. In fact, any head-and-shoulders pose takes on a posed, artificial quality removing it one step from its true nature as a wild animal. Marcia Baldwin's Red Fox Head Study (below), with its natural background coloration, three-quarter pose, and avoidance of eye-contact is about as good as it gets, allowing for the limitations of a close-up study.

Red Fox Head Study, 2009, Marcia Baldwin


Cute, captivating, yet natural.