Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stealth Cows

What’s Your Beef? © 2011 Karen Mathison Schmidt
6 x 6 inches • oil on 1/8" Gessobord
gloss varnish for UV protection and easy cleaning

Auction ends June 5

The difference between horses and cows is: when you walk toward them with the camera, horses walk toward you, thinking “Hey, this creature might have a carrot or an apple or something else crunchy and yummy in her pocket.” When you walk toward the cows, however, they think ... well, think is a pretty strong word, so ... well ... who knows what they’re “thinking” but they invariably turn and trot in the opposite direction.

Twice in the past few weeks this has happened to me: I’ll walk out on the front porch and see that the pasture is chock full o’ cows (and I’m talkin’ a BUNCH of cows), all pastoral and picturesque-like, so I quietly run back in the house to fetch my camera, which takes me maybe a minute and ten seconds, tops. I get back out to the yard only to find the pasture udderly (pun TOTALLY intended) devoid of bovine presence. Completely cowless:

Who knew cows could evacuate so fast? All this to say that it’s mighty difficult to get a close-up reference shot of a cow without a pretty powerful zoom lens, and even then you have to kind of sneak up on ’em. That’s what I had to do to get this reference photo. Today when I looked out the window and saw them, before they suspected a thing, I walked out into the yard very quietly, focused my camera on these two grazing out in the pasture, and called out, “hey, you cows!” Not a very imaginative phrase to call out, I know, but it did the trick. They looked up, I snapped the photo, they stared at me for about 8 more seconds, then turned and trotted off in the opposite direction and in less than a minute were nowhere to be seen.

I really like the chunkiness of cows when I’m painting them. And their heads are kind of lumpy looking. And have you ever noticed how big their ears are compared to their heads? I wanted to keep this painting loose and chunky, like the cows.

Here are the work-in-progress photos, starting with a red underpainting:

At this point, the mouths were completely wrong (I think because I’ve been doing so many cat paintings lately ... they looked like cat mouths!) so I decided to wipe them and start over.

They were much more cow-esque the second time around!

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