Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Woolly Rhino for Conservation

 Another May, Another Bowling for Rhinos! After the success of last year, the kind folks at the Los Angeles Zoo asked me if I would do another painting for them to use in their silent auction. I was thrilled to do so. I wanted to come up with something thematically similar to what I did last year, with the idea that over time these rhino portraits might make a good series. Here's what I came up with:

Portrait of Poruchik Anatoli Volosatyy (click to enlarge)

'Portrait of Poruchik Anatoli Volosatyy'

Original Digital Painting, 2017.
Poruchik Volosatyy was one of the last of a long line of defenders of the Mammoth Steppe in western Siberia. He was a bit of a lone wolf, and disappeared some 10,000 years ago. It is unclear what happened to him, but it is thought he died in a skirmish - defending his grazing lands from the bipedal invaders often seen roaming around at that time.

As with last year's portrait of Mr. Eustace Simum, I wanted to do a piece that would look nice on the wall of whoever purchased it while also trying to highlight some conservation issues. I liked the idea of doing an extinct rhino species in order to subtly highlight that rhinos have gone extinct before, and it is likely to happen again. I also liked the idea of doing an extinct woolly rhino in the form of an old portrait, like you might find of a distant relative on a wall in your grandparent's house. I originally wanted to make it look like an old Civil War photograph, but I realized that Woolly Rhinos never made it across the Bering Strait to the US. So Instead of mixing the US Civil War with a species that never lived in the Americas, I decided to make him into an old Napoleonic-Era Russian soldier, since remains of woolly rhinos are often found in that region of the world.

After doing some research on the life appearance of the woolly rhino, and a bit into 18th-19th Century Russian Military equipment (I admit I probably didn't go far enough into this to get something that was truly accurate, but I did at least look at a bunch of things) I did some initial sketches to think this out: 

Just kind of thinking out loud here

 I took the first drawing and refined the shape language a bit to get a cleaner silhouette

I tried a few different compositions to see what I liked the best, but ultimately went back to the previous one.

...and here's a work in progress of the digital painting process
The painting was another success! It sold at the silent auction for a couple hundred dollars, all of which goes to benefit conservation of rhinos and the other animals in their habitat. It was a good time of bowling, drinking, and hanging out and catching up with people who care about conservation. If you are interested in this sort of work, but missed the event, I believe you can still donate to the cause here. And if that link is closed, some other reputable organizations I fully suggest you look into and consider helping are the International Rhino Foundation (who I support regularly through AmazonSmile) and the Global Conservation Force (who had an awesome presence at Bowling for Rhinos this year thanks in part to their partnership with Pacific Plate Brewing Co.) Thanks for tuning in, and I'm already thinking ahead to next year!