mark making – on the fly

Mid-June: I drive through the streets of El Paso, TX, my home-town, with my brother. He takes me through the warehouse district to look at murals and graffiti walls. Returning to Phoenix, I regret not taking photos.

End of July:  For years I noted street art. El Paso nudges me. I’m curious enough to mess with it now.

Though not complicated, I admit, I don’t know what I’m doing. I cut out
stencils and pick up black aerosol spray paint. I cover my mouth and nose with a light-weight face mask. Quickly I learn I love (love) the graphic image. No delay of gratification with this medium. The experience is intoxicating to say the least.

And it’s toxic. It doesn’t help that it’s summer in Phoenix. I am just about done with it when someone gives me color aerosol spray paint. Before the weekend is over I pull out a high-quality mask with mouth, nose and eye protection and I wear long sleeves and gloves.

And so it goes…

I don’t have the language down. Is it a tag? A stencil? Because I am a printmaker at heart, my preference connects to mark-making.

No title, no signature, no sense of permanence, less is more.

Marking space, on the fly.


Afterthought…
Perhaps things begin with wanting to take the jaguar I am painting in studio, out of studio. One early morning, a few weeks ago, I go outside to photograph the painting. The shadow of the tree animates the composition in such a way, I naturally want to see the big cat outdoors.

He roams.

Today: back to painting in the studio with the plan to finish my jaguar in August.  I feel  satisfaction with last week’s roll.

Though I feel I should give it one more try…and play with the political. It’s crazy out there…

jaguar – panthera onca – big cat

Presence of a jaguar(s) in the Sonoran desert determines I will someday draw the big cat. First things first, I need to cross paths with one.

Last weekend, a visit to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center with artist Carolyn Lavender, brings the opportunity. We attend an evening Bat Netting. Excited about the bats, I don’t think about meeting the resident jaguar.

Before the netting, our guide walks us through the facility. Each animal has a rescue story. (Humans…one really has to wonder about some of them.)

A jaguar walks towards us, slow and elegant. Two fences sit between him and us.  I want to push aside a young boy that stands between me and the feline (but I don’t). I want a closer look.

The large cat and the guide interact, they know each other. We look at the majestic creature. He looks at us. He lays and rolls in the same way my cat does when she’s feeling secure.

Our guide makes introductions and explains Leonardo, bred for entertainment, was born in a cage. His canine teeth and his claws, pulled out. You can imagine how not having canine’s has effected him, including the facial structure necessary to eat, consequently effecting diet and proper nutrition. Declawing is not recommended (considered abuse) for cats (big or small) and in this case, the careless job leaves the jaguar with pain.

I stay behind as people move on to the next wild creature.  When he lays eyes on me, I am thrilled (to say the least).

Leo, respected and made whole, enjoys a good life these days.

Leonardo’s story points to the value of the Conservation Center.  The facility houses many animals including coyotes, wolves, lions and bears. While the goal is to rescue, rehabilitate and release the animal back into the wild, in the case of some animals (like Leo) where condition does not permit, Southwest Wildlife becomes home.

Back to the studio…This summer, I draw a jaguar.

As I begin setting up a composition, I realize I must consider how to lay in both anatomy and unique markings. I will need to decide how to balance the anatomy and the striking pattern. (I had a similar challenge a few years back when I painted an armadillo.)

The jaguar head is a 16 x 16″ collage and mix media panel. A study of materials, method and subject that will help me lay out a full anatomy study of the grand feline.


The Southwest Wildlife Conservatory is a non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates wild animals. They provide a home-for-life in their accredited sanctuary for animals that cannot be returned to the wild.
For more info and/or donation (they have a wish list)  → Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center