I create an emotional connection between my subjects and the viewer and portray the soul, spirit and expressions of the animals I draw, whether they are domestic animals with whom we forge partnerships, or wild animals whose lives are mostly unknowable. I use charcoal so I can pare my drawings down to basic elements of light, dark, texture, detail, and composition. Charcoal is the most primitive of media, but its warmth, depth and versatility are tactile and mysterious. My drawings belong to no historical era, but are portraits of our animal partners and the wildlife with which we share this planet.
For creating different textures, I stretch soft leather or coarse fabric over blending stumps and also use Q-tips, cotton balls, make-up applicators. Rubbing the tools into charcoal sticks, I then “paint” the charcoal into the surface. I also use my fingers. Sharp erasers pull charcoal out of the dark areas and soft erasers provide more subtle highlights, although once I’ve marked the paper I can never go back to pure white. I use compressed charcoal for deep blacks and home-made willow charcoal for a softer, less dense dark. From white paper to intense warm blacks, I can recreate horse-hide, denim, fur, leather and steel. I reduce the image to its basic components of texture, shadows and highlights, but still portray a horse’s expression, the specific gear a cowboy might use, or the unconscious grace and spirit of a wild animal.