May 14, 2022
Painting animals well is not easy.
Sure, it is easy enough to make a good representation of an animal. The tricky part is not to tip over into sentimentality or, god forbid, kitsch. And I’m not talking about Odd Nerdrum Kitsch, I’m talking about kitsch kitsch. We have all seen versions of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s Dogs Playing Poker.
That is the challenge with painting animals. To convey the initial spark that triggered the artist in the first place, the innate character of the animal. To convey that without falling into the trap of anthropomorphizing the animal.
I am not against anthropomorphization it can be very cute. I grew up with Scooby Do and Top Cat and loved them. And it is certainly profitable, just ask Walt Disney or Yuga Labs - the people who made The Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.
The difficulty with anthropomorphization is that it has little to do with conveying the essence of an animal. It is all about projecting human qualities onto the animal. This is very hard for us not to do because we are wired to do it. It is well known in the automotive industry that the front profile of a car, the “face,” of the car if you will, is vital for sales. Cars with “Happy” faces sell considerably better than those that don’t.
In the extreme, it takes over. We have all met someone who has a name for every object in their house. I vividly remember one woman who had a name for each of her umbrellas.
This is why it is so difficult to paint animals well. The artist has to fight against the natural inclination to anthropomorphize the animal and instead push for something more authentic. They have to stop any projection and let the information all travel one way only. From the sitter, the animal, to the artist.
This is why I like this painting so much. Phil has managed to capture the essence of this cow without projecting onto it. It is clear that he has received the cow and created his painting around that reception. “ . . . she seems to have an opinion when I speak to her.”
But there is so much more to like about this painting - from the name to the colors, to the composition. I can’t help but smile when I look at it.
The impasto in the brushwork really creates the illusion of fur and makes me want to reach out and touch it.
The use of color is surprising and intriguing. Blue, green, pink, and orange fur? But in a lovely way, it makes sense.
The blocks of color used for the field, mountains, and sky keep the background simple and upbeat while keeping the eye focused on the foreground. The little cameo of the dog in the background balances the composition and adds a whimsical touch.
I don’t know cows that well, do you?
Through Phil’s masterful creation of this painting, I feel like I know this cow.
I would like to have this cow greet me every morning.
I think that would be dandy.
- Animals, Pop Art
- Painting - Unframed
- Acrylic, Canvas
16.00 inches wide
20.00 inches tall
1.00 inches deep
- 2.00 lbs
- Corning, CA, US