Saturday, July 02, 2011

Because Every Illustrator Eventually Draws An Octopus

I’ve joked in still-life painting class that you’re not officially an artist until you’ve painted a pomegranate. There is subject matter that eventually pops-up in every artist’s work. If you walk through enough museums, you’ll see that seemingly, all artists have painted a pomegranate. I’m still waiting to join the pomegranate club, but it will happen. It has to. It’s subject matter that has gravity. A trip to the farmer’s market and blank canvas will see to that.

For illustration, every illustrator will eventually draw an octopus. It’s inevitable. There is something about that creature that lures artists to take pencil to paper. It’s a rite of passage. Finally, I have included it in my oeuvre.

Octopus (Pencil in Moleskine sketchbook, 5 1/2 x 3”).

I’ve been dying to draw an octopus for a while, although I wanted to use my own reference. Finding opportunities to take pictures of an octopus proved to be tricky. They’re not like the ubiquitous pigeon. Even in aquarium settings, they tend to be elusive, or so squished into an alcove, that the majesty of their form is not revealed.

Fortunately, a trip to the Chula Vista Nature Center (5 miles south of San Diego) last weekend helped me out. An octopus sat on display in a cylindrical, acrylic case that offered complete visibility around the entire enclosure. The octopus had spread out against one side of the enclosure to eat a crab, providing full, albeit distorted views (due to the curvature of the tank) from the opposite side.

Drawing an octopus creates an interesting challenge from a design standpoint. You have to figure out ways to make the elaborate form apparent and attractive and manage all of those legs to enhance the design. I look forward to creating many more pieces. It becomes its own un-instructed illustration class.

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