Cruz the Puma

Cruz the Puma

The 47th annual TCA Member’s Juried Show

I am honored to tell you, Juror Dr. Julie Sasse included my piece, Cruz the Puma, into the 47th annual TCA Member’s Juried Show. Tubac Center of the Arts host multiple shows throughout the year, this is one of my favorites. There are so many talented people within the region working in so many different mediums, it makes for uninteresting show.

 I experienced something wonderful.

Cruz, the Puma is the result of a plein painting trip to the area near the  Sonoran Desert Museum and Old Tucson in preparation for PACE 2016. The plan was to paint until the desert museum opened and then meet friends to tour the grounds and have lunch. Fortuitously my friends plans changed, though I was disappointed not to have their company, I experienced something wonderful.

I had all day to watch and observe the wildlife at whatever pace I chose. There is something incredibly centering about doing your own thing in your own time not concerned for others preferences and needs, just to feed your soul, in your way. So many times we spread ourselves to thin trying to please those around us that we lose the very essence of what makes us, us. Encourage you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others. You’ll have so much more to give.

 Sonoran Animals and Plants- lesliemillerfineart.com

As I took photos with paintings in mind, bebopping here and there, out of order, waiting as long as it took to get the perfect shots, I felt my creativity well filling. I had had the best time, but I was getting tired but the one animal I really wanted to capture. The mountain lion had been busy flirting with visitors in the window earlier in the day. I went back again to the beginning of the two mile path to visit him one more time.

Restless Cruz the Puma lesliemillerfineart.com

Restless Cruz the Puma lesliemillerfineart.com

Success

This time he was on the opposite side of the habitat area, looking for a spot to lounge, preferably with a good view. As I watched him search for the perfect spot, I found my perfect spot, set up my tripod, out of the way of other visitors but with a great vantage point. I enjoyed hearing children ask questions about the big cat, the volunteers telling stories about Cruz and about Strawberry the black bear next door, and I waited.

Cruz found his spot, vacillating between napping and watching, from his cool perch inside the rock face atop a boulder warm form the sun. I snap shots for 20-25 minutes then, as I was looking through the lens, Cruz looked right at me. I felt the connection with this beautiful creature as our eyes met and our souls spoke.

Cruz and Strawberry

A puma named Cruz and a black bear called Strawberry got their names from a naming contest. Cruz was submitted by Darlene Baty of Tucson, Arizona, and references the Santa Cruz river that runs through the Sonoran Desert. The naming contests follow the Museum’s tradition of selecting names that are particular to the Sonoran Desert, are related to the scientific name for the animal or are similar to names selected in years past. Love that the community and fans of the rescued animals are a part of the adoption process by helping choose their names!

Painting Process

I knew that Cruz need to be something special, and that I wanted to accurately portray the connection I saw in his eyes. To that end I began my painting as I often do, with an oil rub-out method. Once I had him rendered and in place, I was faced with portraying the rock face, his habitat. Quite happy with Cruz in this rub-out stage I wanted to complete the whole painting in this rubout stage. The challenge being it must be completed before the fast drying colors used begin to set up and dry.
Enter my magic tool. I can’t claim the discovery of the magic tool, that honor belongs to Julie Ford Oliver. I purchased her excellent online tutorial on fracturing. She uses it in a different way than I used here, I love her technique using the tool to break color and line then reinstate to produce an impressionistic quality in her work. and I love this tool which I use in various ways. Thanks Julie for introducing the magic tool to me.
The magic tool-lesliemillerfineart.com

The magic tool.

What is the magic tool? Simply a squeegee inserted into a paint scraper tool handle. Here are the two components, I ordered on Amazon.
I use it to scrape away mistakes, clear a spot in masses for pure color, rocks, straight lines (way harder than it should be for me to achieve)and to make repetitive marks
 The magic tool was my tool of choice to create the rock face in this painting pushing the dark values darker and giving the appearance of depth while the lighter ares where the sun is hitting the surface seem to come forward.

the Finishing of Cruz

Though I was quite happy with the rubout stage, I didn’t feel it was finished. I wanted to see it in full color, wanted to convey the excellent natural camouflage Cruz found in his habitat. Pumas are hunters after all.

 Since the initial coat of paint was now dry, I opted to uses transparent glazes to bring the color to life in this painting.
Using a mixture of Universal Painting Medium with pigments with transparent qualities, and layering multiple passes in varying strengths with a sable hair brush and wiping away in areas with a rag, to create more depth of color.
The final stage involved sandpaper, steel wool and nail files before a final coat of varnish brought the various elements together.

A little More about Mountain Lions

Fun facts from the Desert Museum:

  • Mountain lions are not true lions and cannot roar;
  • they hold the Guinness record for animal with the most names — with over 40 names in English alone;
  • Proportionally they have the largest hind legs in the cat family.

Artwork, See It In Person

 As with most art, a camera the best photographic skills cannot compare to viewing it in person. This painting is quite difficult to capture with photography, the true beauty in the layers can only be seen in person.

Go and Visit Cruz the painting at Tubac Center of the Arts opening reception Friday December 9, 5-7pm. If you cannot make the opening reception the exhibit will be on display thru January 15th, 2017. I hope to see you signature in the guest book!

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