Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who's going to be my mate?

Pen,Walnut Ink and Wash in handmade sketchbook 14x5.5 inches

A cold day so I went to the American Museum of Natural History and drew this diorama of the Alaskan Moose that I always thought was very dramatic from a nice bench right in front of it. Quite a few young children came over to see what I was doing. Without any hesitation they'd climb up beside me and look from the drawing to the diorama approvingly.

The background to this particular diorama is by Carl Rungius, a well-known and admired nature artist, but compares somewhat badly to the other backgrounds in the same room (by C.P. Wilson) because it is a little too loose and blocked in (something that works well for him in his easel painting), and he hadn't mastered the trick of creating perspective on a wall that is curved, so some of the objects that should look straight like the clouds are curved with the wall. There was talk that someone else finished it, perhaps, because he felt discouraged. The goal of these backgrounds is basically like tromp d'oeil painting, to "fool the eye" into believing the painted background is real like the foreground objects (grass, twigs, etc) and not a painting. Wilson was the acknowledged master of this. The critical area is where the real (that is, preserved) stuff stops and the painting begins, the so-called "tie-in" line. It's said you can't do it successfully with fake water (glass), but Wilson did! Wilson is said to have used a four foot brush to be able to see what he was doing from the viewer's point of view. In Rungius's background there wasn't much of a tie-in line, most of it is hidden, probably to avoid this problem.