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  • Writer's pictureApril Gavin

Looking Again

It has been some time since I last posted. I have been diligently working. For the last ten weeks, I took an animal illustration class at UC San Diego's college of extended learning with instructor Michelle McCunney. Michelle has a lovely storytelling style that really invited me to study with her.

It gave me a space to work, try new things, and receive feedback. The instructor also introduced us to some great artists. I have a lot of work to show that I am really proud of.

Early on, we did a number of gesture drawings. What is captured in each of these is the spirit and movement of the animal.

For my homework, I used a video of Scout running to capture the quick, fast and graceful movements. This technique allows us capture large motions and not worry about the details. We used color to build out the volume of the subject. Ok, I added one detail - Scout's tongue.

One of the artists Michelle introduced us to was Hazel Soan. She uses a wet in wet technique to introduce volume and maintain light in her subjects.

This was hard at first because my initial impulse was to over mix the colors on the paper. This goat is my best effort at the technique.

I did start my goat with a gesture drawing and was judicious on where I allowed the colors to land.

One week, we worked with watercolor pencils to achieve textures. Michelle has a knack of picking the cutest animals to draw. The pencils allow for nice definition and expression in the eyes.

For this cat, I worked from a photo my friend Michael Lownie took while in Turkey some years ago. The watercolor pencils were helpful for the textures around the ears, fur, tail and stone steps. This was a hard pose to capture and I think I did ok.

Another artist we studied was Ted Lewin. He uses a photo-realistic technique for his art. I was really inspired by his painting of a gorilla and wanted to attempt a dark subject. Keeping the light on a subject with a dark coat gives volume and shading.

Tandy belongs to my neighbor and friend Ariel. Scout loves to play with Tandy. And yes, she does have this doleful expression.

Only because I'm so proud of this painting am I showing it again. My pet chicken Phoebe was my model for our assignment on birds. I took a number of risks here. For one, I used masking fluid for the first time. Masking fluid maintains the white of the paper while you work on your painting. When you're ready, you can remove the mask with a simple eraser. I used a lot of dry brush detail to show the belly and neck feathers.

Capturing the expression was the chief joy in this painting.

For my final piece, my friend Michael again supplied the subject and I had the best fun painting these two. I worked with masking fluid again to hold the white space for the ripples, water drops and other small white areas. Then I painted from the bottom of the pond up. It seemed like the best strategy to show life under water and above water.

I saved the mouth for last. It was scary to paint something with that much expression.

I was talking to someone recently about keeping a public record of our work. One of things that has helped me is that I can see my evolution and it keeps me accountable - primarily to myself. This work is very different than even the work I was doing two months ago. I feel more confident in my skills.

Now that I don't have to do homework this weekend, I can work on another four-color lino-cut reduction and use my new lino press.

Stay tuned and Happy Spring!


Christl Michele
Christl Michele
Mar 17

Wow, April… thanks for sharing! I love watching your artistic evolution, as well as learning about new artists and teachers. You’re an inspiration to me. I love love LOVE your hen… I love her textures, shading, details, and her expression. Brava!

April Gavin
April Gavin
Mar 18
Replying to

Hey Christl, I'm glad you enjoyed the work. I work very hard and am always working. Hope to see you again soon.

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