Tips on How to Paint Figurative Animals

  • Paint an animal the way a child would paint an animal – with abandon.
  • Don’t try to make all the legs match.
  • Remember that a figurative animal doesn’t have to make exact, anatomical sense.
  • Try subtly outlining only certain parts of the body with different colors or lines or dots or…
  • If you find yourself being too careful with an area in the painting, take a photo of it for memory, then paint a big black slash over that part, let it dry and then repaint it more carelessly (have fun or put down the paintbrush until the joy returns).

About this Painting

Giraffes in the Bird Garden by Sarah Gilbert FOx
  • Title
    • Giraffes in the Bird Garden
  • Size
    • 48′ x ’36
  • Medium
    • acrylic
    • oil pastels
    • charcoal
  • Styles
    • contemporary abstract figurative 
    • contemporary abstract expressionism 
    • abstract figurative expressionism
    • contemporary figurative markmaking

Details in the Painting

giraffe in bird garden - this is an contemporary abstract expresssionism markmaking painting with X as the center detailDetail One. Composition land often seems like the wild, wild west, with danger lurking in wide open spaces. A child doesn’t see fear in a blank canvas. A child points to the middle and says, “Just put a house there, or a sun, or a big flower!” This would be grand, but we aren’t kids anymore. As adults, we forget to make the house lean, to paint the people with heads as big as the sun, to add a five legged dog⁠—all those yummy things kids paint that make our eyes fly around a painting. So we grow up and learn the Rule of Thirds and yada yada yada. All that schooled art stuff, which is also grand. But I like rediscovering the kid in me. In this painting, I wanted to see what would happen if I popped an “x” in the middle of a painting to make the middle the first focus.

I put an X in the middle, just because.

giraffe in bird garden detail 1 - this is an contemporary abstract expresssionism markmaking detailDetail Two. This is the bird.  He has a fish dangling from his beak.

Birds have bones, but they are hollow, which helps them fly.

This is detail two - a  contemporary abstract expresssionism markmaking detail of an animal's ear that is red with yellow polka dots and different from the other ear.Detail Three. This  animal’s ear is red with yellow polka dots and different from the other ear.

Giraffes don’t really have horns – they have cartilages called “ossicones” that most likely are used to keep the body temperature constant.

This is detail three - a  contemporary abstract expressionism markmaking detail of an x marks the spot and two blue animal legs with a red tail.D

etail Four. X Marks the Spot. Also, there are markmaking lines all over the background.

The phrase “X Marks the Spot” probably came from the gangsters of Chicago. Newspapers put an “x” where a dead body had been found after a gangster murder, instead of showing a corpse.


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