Well, it's been a lot longer than I intended since my last blog! I have been sort of distracted by the current pandemic situation. While my day to day hasn't really changed all that much, the uncertainty in the air has not helped my anxiety. I've been finding it very hard to keep up the creative momentum, but I am still working and I have a few different projects on the go at the moment. I can't reveal much about any of them yet and I haven't had any fairs or shows that I can talk about. So instead I thought I'd ramble for a bit about an inspiration of mine.
Albrecht Dürer was a German artist from the Nuremburg region during the 15th and 16th Century. He started out his career making woodcut prints and later became well known for his engravings (an art style that fascinates me). He also produced books, such as the Four Books on Human Proportions. I particularly like his sketches and drawings as well as the engravings. I think I am drawn to the simplicity of a good sketch. Dürer was also a skilled painter and produced a number of works in oils and in watercolour. It is one of his watercolour pieces that particularly inspired me.
The Hare-sometimes called Young Hare or Feldhase (Field Hare) in German is the particular piece by Dürer that first caught my attention. I remember studying it as part of a project in school at some point and feeling really drawn to it. It is a painting that is still special to me.
I think this is definitely a piece that stayed with me and set me on my current path. I remember feeling really excited that you could have a "proper" piece of art that was just an animal- no background, no people and not a still life- an animal portrait. My favourite portraits to create are in the same, simple style. I find there is something special in being able to create an effective portrait using only the subject, with no suggestions or distractions from other elements.
Often Dürer's watercolours were used as studies for engravings or larger oil paintings, but hares found in his other works were not key elements and were nowhere near as detailed. The fact that Dürer signed and dated The Hare show he felt it was a completed piece in its own right and I like to imagine it was something he painted for his own enjoyment. There is an added mystery to this piece and its level of detail in the days before photography. Did Dürer sketch the hare in the wild and fill in the details later using a dead hare? Or was the hare captured and drawn from life in the studio? There is no way to know for sure, but I don't think there would be such depth and such a lifelike quality unless the painting was made from life.
Dürer was able to paint a detailed and scientific image. The fur would have been particularly challenging with its mottled tones and different directions. Those are the kind of tiny details that really bring an animal portrait to life. I was (and still am) impressed by the way he managed to create a realistic representation but still managed to capture some of the hare's character. This is something that I try and aim for when I work on an animal portrait.
I was very excited recently when an artist I follow posted a piece of jewellery featuring Dürer's Hare. I knew I had to have it! Now I can wear it as a reminder to myself of where I began, how far I've come and what inspires me.