Monday, October 11, 2010

Inspiring Animals in Acrylic Dots

I am a part of a wonderful exhibit in Danville, California. The exhibit is called "Once Upon a Book," and is featuring the art of children's book illustrators. The coordinator asked if I would explain my inspiration and method, so I thought it would make a nice posting.

I began acrylic dot painting in 1992, after spending time in Australia. I found the Australian Aboriginal Acrylic Dot Paintings in museums and galleries inspirational. I was also inspired by mosaics during my Art History studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Over the past 18 years, my style has matured and become more focused on creating animals out of dots. My book, “Through Endangered Eyes – a poetic journey into the wild,” really got me out of my comfort zone and I found myself painting animals I would have never thought to paint.

I start off painting the background of my pieces. The most important element of my background color is that it must contrast from the lightest and darkest dots placed on top. In my latest paintings, I am painting landscapes around my animals. I intentionally make the landscape soft and usually paint it with a sponge. The dots pop out that much more when sitting on a soft background. I do a soft outline with a wax pencil of my animals. I like to start painting the face first and build out in proportion from there.

Chinese Alligator
 I use the handle or the butt of the paintbrush, not the bristled side. I dip it into the acrylic paint and then onto the canvas. Each dip gives me 3-5 dots. I leave space between my dots and rarely overlap them. My process takes a long time, but it is also very meditative. The Chinese Alligator is one of my favorite pieces. It was the first time I had painted a reptile and I fell in love with the textures the dots created on the beautiful alligator portrait. I can almost feel the folds of his skin around his neck.

The California Condor was inspired by the poem of my book. These birds, with a wingspan of 9 feet, are masterful flyers. I was at the Grand Canyon when I saw one, its shadow passed over my head. The shadow was so enormous it felt as if an airplane had passed over me, it was magnificent.

Lastly, the Snow Leopard, I started with a head portrait for my book, but it didn’t portray what the poem was focused on; its freezing environment and the leopard’s coat. So, I painted the piece you see now. I think big cats are my favorite animals to paint in dots, although my interest in other species is certainly changing how I feel about the challenge of painting other animals.


Angela Ackerman said...

These are amazing--I can only imagine the time it must take.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Thank you Angela! They are a labor of love. - Rachel