I was sitting in the back of my mom’s Chrysler LeBaren, encased within the perfect expression of a 70s station wagon, complete with a maroon red exterior accented by wood paneling.
I was eagerly hunched over my new possession – a large, blank, sketch pad, about the size of a desktop calendar.
We were driving home from downtown Lethbridge. Having recently revealed my plans to become an Animal Artist to my mom, she had taken me to the art store to get supplies. All I needed, I thought, was a massive sketch pad and multi-coloured pencil crayons.
I imagined the canvas filled with an abundance of beautiful, Bambi-like animals with massive, expressive eyes. The creative potential was palpable – I could not wait to get home and start drawing the animal characters who currently only existed in my mind. I had a vision of a lush forest filled with myriads of wide-eyed animals.
I think I was around the age of eight. When I got home that day, I immediately started working on my creation. I drew a Thumper-like bunny at the bottom-right corner of my new sketch pad, and that is as far as I got.
I don’t recall exactly why I stopped, but my sense is I became acutely aware of the stark nothingness that lay beyond the bottom-right corner. The overflowing potential in this blank canvas become oppressive. Perhaps my eight-year old self wasn’t ready to face the equally terrifying and exhilarating feeling of having a beautiful blank canvas before me.
But I am now…
Before I continue my story, take a browse through some of the images I have re-created in recent weeks, from the perspective of not just being a photographer and animal lover, but a full-fledged Animal Artist.
Click on any of the images below to see the full version.
If you happened to notice the above images look animated, don’t worry – your eyes are not deceiving you.
A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at a picture of my cat Buttons, and as usual, I was overcome by her beauty. I felt the need to amplify her adorableness, so I applied a stylizing effect in Photoshop and was struck by the result. So of course, I applied the same effect on a picture of Gracie and was equally impressed.
I started applying this effect to some of my favorite wildlife photos. Most of them dissolved into swirly obtrusiveness and looked fake. Others, however, seemed to magically transform from photographs to art.
Then I started experimenting, refining my technique, applying the effect to everything in the photo EXCEPT the eyes.
And I have to say, WOW. Eyes, as they say, are windows to the soul – so remarkably expressive and powerful, they do not need any sort of alternation. Eyes are striking.
A few days after my initial round of digital experimentation, my friend Jen came over and I projected my new art to my 42 inch TV screen. Jen’s reaction to my artistic creations was such a joy to witness. She was deeply moved by many of the images and was able describe certain characteristics of the animals that I had not previously thought of. Jen helped convince me I had created art, and I really appreciate her expressive energy.
A few days later, my sister Tina and I decided to collaborate on the creation of a set of Animal Wisdom Cards. With a focus on exploring the intricate layers of our human-ness through the energy and essence of wild animals, we had been discussing this card deck for years.
I like to think the re-emergence of my Animal Artist within, 39 years after my initial attempt, was at least partially what inspired us to take more concrete steps towards manifesting this creative endeavour.
One of these steps is a new Facebook group focused on our Animal Wisdom Cards. The purpose is to explore the impacts of and reaction to my newly stylized images. And, to share ideas and prototype designs for the physical card deck, which will consist of 60 different animal images and personal stories.
If you would like to join us for this journey, please visit our new Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/animalwisdomcards
There will be a new post of an animal on a weekly basis (minimum) along with a story and invitation to members to share your insights and experiences. Join now to see which image, within the above gallery of some of my favourites so far, left Jen so overcome with the sheer adorableness of the subject, she was rendered a quivering mass of undying admiration for this soulful little being.
Until next time, continue loving life and everything wild 🙂