Thursday, January 2, 2014

Huntsman and Herdsman

Posted by: Kate

After finding "Shadow of My Hand" posted on some random person's site as "Something Nasty," and one of Dave's paintings winding up in a competition mislabeled as "Crap on a Table," I'm adopting a new policy of zero cleverness in my blog post titles.  "Huntsman and Herdsman" is another painting inspired by Fern Hill, a poem about childhood by Dylan "Chillin'" Thomas.  The phrase, which refers to Cain and Abel,  references man's conflicted relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom.  On the one hand, man as the protector; on the other, man as a predator.  Our duplicitous role as stewards and destroyers of animals is something that everyone struggles to understand as a child, and as an adult too.  Paul, the boy who modeled for me, is perfect for this painting because a) his parents are raising their kids to respect animals and nature without glossing over the fact that animals are food and that often their fate is at our mercy (as a family they fostered the kitten in the painting--a rescue who would have faced a life of starvation and disease without intervention), and b) his belly.

ROUGH SHOT.  Not for reposting.  Jerks.
Ima gonna come clean and say this painting was agonizing.  My original concept involved a gold leaf background (I was using a technique that involved vodka and shellac, but my vodka kept disappearing.  Incidentally, Dave drank a lot of White Russians during that time.)  Long story short, I failed one attempt after another and the whole concept began to emit a death rattle, so I just went for it without the gold leaf.  The upshot is that I was inspired to take a water gilding workshop once the painting was done.

The other challenge, of course, is the fact that it's a painting of an adorable boy with an adorable kitten.  I think every painter dreads the moment when someone says, "You could sell that to Hallmark!"  Neither does it help that Dave rarely approves of my paintings of children until they are finished.  Every time I asked if the painting was any good, he'd say,"Well, it's a painting of a cute kid with a cute kitten," and raise his eyebrows with ominous significance over the rim of his tumbler of White Russian.

I certainly didn't want the painting to be cute.  It's supposed to be a serious subject, this confusing world of death and life of which humans seem to be the oftentimes unwilling arbiters.  And in the end, I'm glad my attempts at gold leaf failed.  The darkness and loneliness of the background make Paul's gesture something more than simply sweet.  He's not just holding the kitten, he's protecting it.  


  1. Kate, I really like this painting. Thanks for sharing some of your creative process too. I assume this little guy and the kitten didn't hold still for you for very long, and you worked from a photo. Can you explain to what extent you rely on your photo references for lighting and color cues? Do you eventually put the photo away and work from your imagination, or do you find the photo necessary throughout your process.


    1. Hi Rob,
      I do work from photos. I generally shoot a few hundred per painting. A couple months pass between photo shoot and the commencement of painting, and during that time I sift through the photos, recombine elements from different pictures, look through my art library for colour inspiration, make drawings, colour studies, etc. Sometimes if the colours in the reference photos are good I will follow them fairly closely, but I often find myself changing things. Usually photos don't have enough colour variation in them, so I have fun compensating for that.

    2. Thanks for your reply. That's an eye opener!

  2. Did his parents eventually continue his education by cooking and eating the cat?

    p.s. gorgeous painting *as usual*

  3. Really, really great painting, Kate, well done and superb colors!

  4. Kate! Your art rocks. I enjoy it all day, erryday. But this is something else. Beautiful. Wish I could hang it in my home or at my work.

  5. Kate, I don't know much of your work yet--I'm sort of new to blogging and reading yours, but I'm so happy when someone disregards the contemporary mission of so many art theorists and advertisers today that tell us art should be brutal and post...everything. Brava! It's not trite to paint beauty--ever.
    Jerry Sumpter

  6. I love this too and I won't be a jerk and repost it either. :-)

  7. What's that? We can repost the rough shot? Thanks Kaaaate~ <3