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Eyecons of the world. The eyes have it.

Updated: Feb 5

Eyecon 1 Elephant Eye

What is it about an eye? Some say it's the window to the soul. That's true in part but I now realise there is more to it. Despite the various different physical characteristics of the different vertebrate mammals on our planet, of which the human is one, there is one thing we all have in common - an eye. Actually a pair of eyes. Mammals feed their offspring milk from mammary glands and are warm blooded but due to various other physical features, species within the category are differentiated, But, when it comes to the eye however it rarely differs.

Whenever I am producing a portrait it's the first elements I concentrate upon. If I can't get the eyes right then I can't get the character and personality of the person or animal.

I have decided therefore to produce a series of "Eyecons" these will be artworks focussing on iconic eyes, some human, some animal. They will be mixed media. Charcoal and Pastel and will come in different sizes, either A4 (210 x 297mm) or A3 (297 x 420mm). I might go bigger still though if people want to commission me to produce something of a statement for a feature wall. This first Eyecon, is relatively small, at A3 but framed it will increase to at least 350 x 450mm.

As with all my artworks I like to give people a little bit of background to the creation, The inspiration and the creative development. In the case of "Elephant"this comes from a recent visit to the Leopardsong Game Reserve. Leopardsong is a comfortable and friendly game lodge set in the middle of Pride of Africa within Dinokeng, one of South Africa’s newest “Big Five” Game Reserves. It is situated in the heart of South Africa within an hours drive of Johannesburg international airport and 40 minutes from Pretoria.

We were extremely lucky to be flown to South Africa by British Airways on the A380 a magnificent aircraft which set the tone for what became a truly memorable experience.

Waking up to the roar of lions in the game lodge the morning after our first game drive was truly inspiring and unforgettable.

First Morning
Leopardsong Game Lodge 2023

Your first game drive is probably the one you will never forget. Especially if, as we did, you meet your first elephant up close. In fact we were lucky to meet a whole family.

This guy was a relative baby, but still had the power to push over a small tree so he could get to the roots.

Despite the obvious difference in shape, physique and anatomy it was the eye which started me thinking.

In all mammals the eye is the one thing that we look at to make a connection to read mood, to assess danger, to empathise. Looking at the eye of an elephant close up is like looking into a pool of knowledge and power. Looking into the eyes of a lioness is a completely different experience. You really do feel the power and complete lack of fear. I started looking more closely, not just at our own eyes but all of the animals we came into contact with during our time at Leopardsong and the concept of "Eyecons" was born.

In fact Leopardsong provided me with so many photos of the big 5 that I will be producing various artworks during 2024.

So my first Eyecon has to be Elephant. The original you have already seen so now comes the more difficult part, creating an artwork that reflects the wisdom and tranquility that radiates from the eye but at the same time gives warning that you are in their space and you are only being tolerated to a point, so I wanted to add a little menace to the finished piece.

Stage 1 - Eye Development

Elephant Eye Stage 1 Development

I have to be honest I've never produced an artwork which involves the close up image of elephant skin. Whilst it's the eye that for me is the interest and reasonably straight forward, without the skin or hide the artwork would fail. Elephant skin has a texture which is somewhat unique. Incidentally I am using the term "hide" very carefully, as in many countries, it is illegal to sell elephant leather. I therefore prefer to refer to it as skin.

I decided to lay a base layer of fine powdered charcoal and then work from there to develop the tones. and skin texture. Elephant skin has an ochre tint to it so I also added a thin layer of tinted charcoal from the Derwent XL block range. If you are an artist and have not used these before a word of caution, go easy. They put a lot of charcoal down and need a lot of blending once applied. I also laid a layer of white charcoal in certain highlight areas to produce the skin folds.

Stage 2 Skin Development.

Elephant Eye - Charcoal & Pastel
Stage2 Elephant Eyecon Skin Development

At the end of Stage 1 I felt that I still had quite a bit of detailing left to do. As yet I was not confident that I had captured the skin texture. I was also not sure about the eye itself, it was a little too bright. So during Stage 3 I worked on toning down the brightness in the eye slightly and experimented with creating the texture and look of the skin..

Stage 3

I'm always better after a nights sleep and reflecting on my frustrations of yesterday I decided that I had to get my fingers dirty if I was going to reflect the skin texture effectively. I hoped that by adding a blend of ochre and XL black charcoals and then blending and dabbing with my fingers the black combination produced the effect I wanted. The XL charcoal when rubbed has a gritty texture, which worked perfectly after a few trials. There is a little more to it but, for those who are interested, please don't hesitate to contact me directly and I will talk you through the process I used. Let me state clearly at this stage that I am not a professional artists. I am self taught and create my art for pleasure. I am delighted that people want to buy my works, it tells me I have attained a standard that has value but I am more than willing to pass on my experiences, good and bad to anyone who is interested and would like to learn. So please contact me or add your comments at the bottom of the blog, I will reply.

Elephant Eyecon Final

The original artwork is for sale in the shop and will be shipped with a black border as shown below. We can also produce a framed version if required.

I have also released 10 signed and numbered Giclée prints at a very attractive price.


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