The years of 2008 to 2012 could best be subtitled “The cargo container years” or maybe “The year of extreme travel”. For it was in this period that I painted the illustrations and did the pencil sketches for “Grassfinches of Australia”. For all of you who are unaware of this book, I suggest you rush right out and buy one…..but of course you already have!
The Dallas Safari Show as a real eye opener for the boy from Australia – a bit like Crocodile Dundee must have felt when he landed in New York City! My hotel was a 3km walk from the Show, so I set off on foot via McDonalds for breakfast on the way. It was then I realised that no-one walks in Dallas – everyone drives for a reason. Here I was, all dressed up in suit and tie for my day of spruiking art, and I thought I wouldn’t make it alive. The armed guard protecting McDonalds was a real give away that my transport planning was seriously flawed!
A constant theme in the responses to The Blurry Line blog was how a lot of so-called contemporary bird art has a narcissistic overtone. It’s never about the subject, but all about the artist. With their high flown arty-speak they are signalling that they belong to an exclusive club and if you don’t understand the art-speak you are an outsider. It is all about self-promotion for the artist who produced the work.
One of the most frustrating and challenging obstacles to overcome when you are attempting to paint birds is to decide upon the most effective approach to detail. This can be particularly relevant if you use reference photos. While it’s important for background habitat and subjects to be accurate, you don’t need to sacrifice artistic flair in the attempt.
About 30 years ago I witnessed a young Black Falcon learning to hunt. It was obviously newly independent and making a valiant effort to catch its breakfast. The Mulga Parrots escaped to live another day, but the image never left my mind… I knew there was a painting to be wrangled out of that scene if I could just find the right reference, along with the patience to do the picture justice.
My passion and talent for drawing did not translate into anything above the high 60% mark at school. So when I turned up at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) with a lot of fresh-faced hopefuls starting their art career I felt very intimidated….Everyone else seemed to have Distinctions in art – 90% plus was the norm – one girl even had 99%…..That was almost the end of my career before it started!
The drawing and glazing techniques I use for my oil painting starts with a very detailed drawing. This is followed by underpainting to get the right tones, laying down the colour in lots of thin transparent glazes, and working up the darks and lights. This article is based on work I did in 1991, but I still use the same techniques today.
Painting birds is one of the greatest challenges for any wildlife artist. There seems to be a never-ending cycle of anguish and triumph, because painting birds isn’t hard, but painting them well is difficult. I’ve been putting my artistic endeavours into birds since I was 14 - about 40 years. And I never stop learning. While I paint many types of wildlife, birds are where my mastery, or lack of it, becomes obvious. Birds are the toughest of all wildlife subjects to get right.
We have built a new studio to cope with the bigger canvases I now work on - Gang-Gang Studio. Plus enough extra space for all my artistic clutter! But what you may not realise, is that we also run a ski lodge (MannaGum Alpine Lodge), so if you want to come and check out the studio we have space to accomodate visiting artists!
Art galleries are a dying breed... Thus dear reader you can now find me on Instagram under #tonypridhamhyperrealism (obviously for my new hyperrealism work) and #tonypridhamfineart (for traditional realism).
How does talent get noticed these days when social media worships youth and good looks - and you only have talent?
Landseers abound in the most obscure areas: Boardrooms, ticketing areas of grand houses and the back toilet areas of Westminister Palace....however the one I most wanted to see was lost in a box in Scotland!
My painting technique over the past 40 years depends on a very detailed underpainting, where I balance the tones and get it right as a black and white piece. This is then followed by layer upon layer of glaze to get the right colour and texture. It’s a labour intensive and time consuming method. And like many artists I usually end up not loving the end result. I get too close to it. But I think I like this one….