Some years ago I was asked by one of the UK’s largest online art galleries to write a piece about painting big cats, for their ‘Artist’s Corner’ feature page at artgallery.co.uk.
Below is a transcript of that piece. You can read the original article here www.artgallery.co.uk/corner/chris_chalk.aspx
People say to me quite often “ When did you start painting ? ”, but I don’t really have an answer for them. You see there was never a time that I didn’t paint and draw. Growing up on a dairy farm in west Wales I was always interested in nature of all kinds and used to spend countless hours drawing and painting wildlife especially.
I’ve always thought the process of actually making something from scratch with just the raw ingredients and a little skill a very rewarding and noble thing to do. If somebody then wants to buy a painting that I created it’s the icing on the cake.
The last four or five years have been my most productive art-wise however. I lived in Australia for a number of years and came back to live in the UK in 2004 and this is when I decided it was time to get a bit more serious about my painting.
I really don’t concentrate too much on any one genre, but change what I paint as I feel the need. If I have just finished a portrait I might get stuck into a wildlife painting or a landscape perhaps. I find that I need to do this to keep things fresh and interesting. In fact I change my favourite genre as often as each painting. I get totally absorbed in whatever I am painting at the time and love every minute of it saying that I must paint more wildlife paintings, or whichever subject I’m tackling, then when I’ve completed that particular painting something else will spark my interest and I’ll just have to have a go at that. Whether it be a portrait of somebody, a landscape view I’ve seen recently or the neighbours cat! In a way, my subjects decide what I’ll be painting next by jumping out at me in everyday life. I know that sounds a bit kaftan wearing arty, but it’s true.
I’m never more in the zone, so to speak, than when I’m painting a big cat. I’m the same as many artists and love to paint tigers and lions. I usually go for a complementary colour for the background to help give the painting impact. The tiger being mostly orange / red would mean that I often use a range of blues here. Strong lighting can also help to give a painting dynamism and I sometimes give the impression of side lighting hitting the subject to create strong dark areas and shadows. All this helps to give a painting depth.
Of course the eyes are what can make or break a close up wildlife painting so I pay quite a lot of attention to these. Observation is the key. Painting what you see and not what you think should be there. Leaving the highlights until the rest of the eye is dry is important too in oils. Easier said than done though I must admit. The overwhelming desire to put those finishing touches in before the paint underneath is dry has caught me out more than once.”
You can see some of my big cat paintings on this website here: http://www.chrischalkart.com/wildlife.htm