Mane Menagerie Marathon

It started with a sketch.

Wait.  No, it didn’t.  It started with an idea. Then a sketch.

Yes.  The idea definitely came first.  You see, there is an annual charity auction of employee artwork where I work.  The last four years I have abstained from participating.  This was the year to take the challenge, however.  So an idea was needed.

Due to a slight misreading of the rules, I thought one of the categories was art for children.  In fact, the category was art *by* children… as in the offspring of my coworkers.  Who wants to buy that?  It would have been hilarious if I had actually entered as one of the youngsters… boy would those other little brats be jealous.

On the other hand, if their work turned out to be better than mine, how embarrassing would *that* be?  So I entered in the art *by* adults category, after all.  By this time, though, the idea had already been planted to do something that would appeal to kids.

Now came the sketch:

Mane Menagerie - Sketch 1

Kids seem to like pictures with a lot going on in them. So do I.  That’s the main idea behind this one.  Animals galore!!!  You’d be forgiven if you didn’t even notice there were some kids dangling from that wild mane.

The sketch sat for about a week or two.  Eventually, the time came to make a more deliberate preparatory sketch for the painting.  It now seemed there was a little *too* much going on in the original.  So it got paired back a bit:

Mane Menagerie - Sketch 2

This one makes better use of the composition-space.  The subject is more focused, and the shapes are more refined.  Just outside this photograph, there’s a note reminding myself to put a little more separation between the boy and the girl.

You’ll also notice an alternate version of the girl’s face in the lower portion.  This whole sketch was done in one corner of a very large sheet of paper torn off a roll at the studio.

Now, with a good plan in hand, I was prepared to start the painting. But that didn’t end up happening for another few days.  Another assignment cropped up in the meanwhile that had an even earlier due date, so it got all the attention for the better part of the week.

With the auction deadline fast approaching, it was time to get serious.  I went to the studio after dinner yesterday evening and stayed until midnight; first redrawing the picture onto the watercolor paper, then starting in with the paints.

By the time I started to collapse, this is what was on the paper:

Mane Menagerie - Early

I didn’t plot out the colors any more than just having a vague notion in my head, and a lot of faith.  Things were going well.

Mane Menagerie - for blog

The next day, I returned to the studio after work and finished.

The kids and their monkey are colored in, the elephant and giraffe have details added, some butterflies and birds have shown up, and outlines were added to most of the figures.

The outlines functioned both to add definition to the objects, and also to increase contrast.

All the patterns are no accident, either.  Other illustrators make wonderful use of pattern, but it’s never been a strong suit of my mine.  I am making a concerted effort of incorporate pattern and repetition in a number ways into some of my upcoming drawings.  Assignments are good.

Hopefully this picture makes someone happy this holiday season – and makes a little cash for charity.  Even if neither of those things happen, at least it was fun to paint.

(and remember: you can click on all images for a screen-optimized view)

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This entry was published on December 6, 2012 at 8:54 pm. It’s filed under Animals, Bold Color, Humor, The Artistic Process, Watercolors and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

12 thoughts on “Mane Menagerie Marathon

  1. Ben G on said:

    Hiieee GABE-

    This looks ripped from a children’s book. What most reminds me of this is the texture on the grass.

  2. Wow, this one is so awesome – definitely one of my favorites!! I love the creativity, the colors, the emotions, everything. Kudos!

  3. Pingback: Oh, Brother! « Gabriel Garbow | Artworks

  4. I like the colours in this one, Gabriel… they give off a feeling of both warmth and fun… I also don’t see the lion as frightening!

  5. poppytump on said:

    I love the way the children and the monkey seem to be hanging on for dear life with expressions that portray fright and exhiliration @ the same time haha
    It’s really zingy and yes I agree with Betsy G 😉

    • The kids are funny. Their expressions were intemded to look a little less terrified, but the mixture of emotions suits this picture well. I’m tickled that the lion’s face looks absolutely frightening, but the overall feel of the piece is of fun.

  6. Betsy Garbow on said:

    OMG, Gabriel! This takes me back to your childhood. This is the kind of work you did as a kid. Work that delighted me with it’s creativity and whimsicality (I think maybe I made that word up). Work that made me wonder how in the world I got a kid with this talent and how in the world I was supposed to nurture this kid. I think you need to look into illustrating children’s books.

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