Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Gus the friendly gorilla

I'd just been to Dublin Zoo a few months earlier and taken about five hundred photographs of the residents. I'd been hoping to catch an iconic photograph of a gorilla beating its chest. posing/pouting as they usually do or failing that just looking bored! I got the latter as they're stubborn beasties that never do anything to order. 

Chester Zoo had been no better – indeed the orangutans and gorillas looked even more drugged up there! At both places it would have been advantageous to have had a longer lens than a 300mm as the monkey enclosure with its tyre swings, ropes and wooden play furniture was on an island that didn't encourage these swinging primates getting too close to the public.
I desperately wanted to paint an animal but as everyone on pastel sites appeared to be going the obligatory cute cat/dead dog I had to be different. I looked at parrots and macaws on the Fotolia stock library website where I'm a member, then at lizards and chameleons but nothing was really jumping out at me! Maybe because I had purposely avoided lions, tigers and crocs! OK joke time over. 

Finally after a night wandering around a Fotolia zoo of photographs I stumbled upon Gus my gorilla and for a few credits he agreed to be downloaded and pose menacingly on my desktop! I loved this big guy. He agreed to my house rules and never once bared his teeth, raised his fists or threatened murder despite me throwing him in the bin several times. It's great when you find a pacifist gorilla who'll turn the other cheek. 

This was mostly a soft pastel job with Gus' body hair created with various shapers and kept it place with fixative. His tough skin was a mixture of soft pastel and the thicker Conté a Paris pastel pencil which seemed to give off a heavily textured and rough feel. I liked that, particularly the way I managed to capture his hands. More so than his body hair which I was never happy with. And I tried endless times to make it look unkempt and uncombed but it always ended up as if I'd called in a hairdresser to give him a blow dry. The soft photo below doesn't help. There was more definition in the hair. Anyway the failure to get this right was disappointing and showed me how far I still had to go as an artist.
On a more positive note I liked his eyes and his face and I feel Gus would have recognised himself if I'd shown it to him. The fact that no-one else really appreciated his apely likeness when I showed them the painting worried me and I didn't really want to be carrying around a photograph of Gus in my wallet just to prove a point. People so often get the wrong idea! Why can't tatch (moi) just have a girlfriend like everyone else! 

So that was my third painting done and that marked the end of my first term in Dawn's pastel class.

I did have a buyer for Gus when I brought him to Moy but never parted with him. I don't think he's one of my better paintings now. 

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