A quick flying squirrel drawing using ArtRage oil brush tool.
Of course I can't know exactly how the hairstyles looked for ten thousand years ago, but my point is that people most certainly did use their hair to show status or group membership, or just for showing of.
In birdwatchers' mythology (yes, there is such a thing) the sender (or "sendari" in Finnish' birders' jargon) is the spirit that sends rare birds to birdwatchers to twitch. I would like to think it's a joke, but I'm not always so sure about that. On a small remote island (legendary for its many rarities) in the Alandian archipelago, there actually is a place, an old dead tree stump like the one in my painting, where dedicated "believers" bring gifts to the spirit in order to make it send the most exceptional birds to them, a country first, or other megaticks. It may be a joke, but it's also an echo from the (not necessarily so distant) past. For our ancestors it certainly was crucial that the "sender" was generous, and sent animals to to the hunting tribes to feed them. Experienced hunters new the routes of the reindeers, horses, and other big game animals, new when to expect the fish to swim up the rivers and creeks, and the migrating birds to return. But they could never be quite sure. If something went wrong - weather patterns shifted, and the animals didn't arrive in time - the clans dependent on hunting, could face severe starvation. So, while their skills and knowledge were not always enough to secure their food supplies and future prosperity, they turned to the unknown, and appealed to the mysterious forces that seemed to rule all life and decide the fate of people. A digital painting using ArtRage. Normally, I paint in a very traditional way, without using any "tricks", and even the blurred effects are achieved with basic tools, thin layers and light touch. But lately I have tried the special ArtRage features, like in this painting, to get a feeling of depth, by using the palette knife ("instant blur") or blurring a whole layer. Quite fun really, so much so that I must be careful not to use it too often.
The ancestry of the modern horse is a bit confusing issue to me, but on the other hand it seems to be that for experts too. The Przewalski horse, or the Mongolian wild horse, is pretty much straight forward, it even looks like the prehistorical horse images on the walls in many caves. But why are modern domestic horses so different? Okay, a chihuahua doesn't exactly look like a wolf, being a striking evidence of how selective breeding can change a species over a relatively short period of time. But what disturbs me most about the modern horse is the length of the manes of all domestic horses. Is it just a result of selection done by humans? In which case I wonder why it has been seen as something so much more preferable than a short mane? Are all modern breeds of domestic horses descendants of one single lineage in which a long mane had become apparent through selective breeding? Or was there a type of ancient wild horse, perhaps the (probably) hypothetical "forrest horse", which lived apart from the other horse types, maybe in more humid weather conditions, where rain and snowfall occurred more often, giving a horse with a longer mane some advantages against the shorter standing variety, which is standard in the wild extant equine species like zebras and asses and even the Mongolian wild horse? Of course, all illustrations depicting Ice Age horses or any other extinct species (or subspecies, or types) are hypothetical, so it doesn't matter so much how I paint them really, it's the context that is interesting. And it's not my task to invent the theories, my job is to make visual interpretations of them. But sometimes, like in this case, it seems quite hard to find even a good theory of the origins of a specific feature.
During the Middle Ages, a landowner ( in Finland usually a little wealthier farmer) could be exempted from taxes if he could afford to equip a mounted soldier for military service. Often the soldier was the landowner himself. I don't know if a soldier with a horse automatically meant a cavalry man; during long periods of the Middle Ages, battles were commonly fought on foot, and horses were mostly used for transport. In this picture the men are not holding lances, but pole axes, which were infantry weapons. No doubt the equipment carried by the men of arms varied a lot, and only a few could afford the latest kit.
Here's one image (in progress) describing the interior of a common medieval farm house. In Finland most buildings during that period were built of timber, so there isn't much left to see today. At archaeological sites, where ruins of medieval villages has been unearthed, it looks, for an untrained eye, merely like some stones randomly distributed on the ground. I have especially been puzzled about the piles of stones that are supposed to be ovens (or stoves). Not an easy task to try to reconstruct anything of those remains. But a while ago I run into some old photos that pictured the conditions in which poorer people lived for maybe a hundred years ago, and I can't help thinking that it wasn't much different from what it was during the Middle Ages. Even the stoves were not much more than, exactly, just piles of stones.
Here's a small painting from the archives. Can't remember the year, but I think I made for an article in a magazine. The idea was to show a bird in postbreeding moult. After the breeding season, most (adult)birds start changing their, at that point, quite worn-out feathers to fresh ones, before migrating southwards. Some do it partially, some completely. Juveniles moult too, but mostly only their body feathers to obtain a more adult look. I don't remember much how I painted this one, or where I checked the moulting pattern, if I did at all. I have made some repainting on it afterwards, but I'm still not sure if it's correct. The problem with many commissions is that there is not enough time (meaning money) to do the background work properly, but the job must be done anyway. I believe I made this before the internet-era (at least for my part), and back in those days it was way harder to get proper reference material. Hovever, it's fun to compare this painting (acrylic on paper) with the digital paintings I mostly do nowadays.
Thought that I could explain a bit how I work when I paint digitally. To begin with, I confess that I am completely autodidact in digital painting, and I do not know so much about computers and programs on the whole. But I paint anyway, and slowly, little by little, I'm making some progress. I think. In order to understand the following, one must be at least somewhat familiar with the art of digital painting. For those who don't, I will try to present the discipline in a more comprehensive way at some point in the future. The software I'm using is ArtRage 4 (I'm waiting for the next, 4.5, coming soon) from Ambient Design. It's the only program I have tried so far, so I can't make any comparisons. The process itself doesn't differ so much from the way I paint traditionally (I don't always work the same way in any technique, but in general, this is how it goes), and so, I usually start with a pencil drawing. For a naturalistic painting like this, a model is always required, life or a photo (in most cases, photos are more practical). Even when I don't paint from life, I prefer using my own material. If it's possible. After I have made a quick drawing, I start filling in color. The drawing doesn't have to be very precise, there are a lot of corrections to be made during the process anyway. Now, I can start painting on the drawing (or on a layer underneath it, which I often do at first) just in a normal way, like in the image above. Or I can use the advantages digital painting offers (I think that the point in using any new media is that it should make work easier and faster, there is no reason to make it more difficult than it already is), so I can speed things up by only painting one half of the image, then duplicating the layer, and flipping one of them. Actually there is a symmetry tool for ArtRage 4, which duplicates the brushstrokes automatically. I haven't tested it yet though. The effect I want to achieve, requires many thin layers of color overlapping each other, which is mostly sheer time consuming, mechanical work. Through using this option, I can save many valuable working hours for the more demanding work on the details. Not to forget that by saving thousands of brush strokes, I can also reduce the risk of repetitive strain injury on my hand. [...]
Yet another hot day, and the pen tablet gets sticky and difficult to use. But I have tried to work anyway. Summer is not particularly my favorite season for painting, too much greens. My trademark, in a way, is my restricted palette with umbras and siennas dominating. In fact, my more colorful paintings have not been so successful. Even if people have generally liked them, they don't necessarily purchase them. So, economically it's a risky business for me to deviate from my normal manners. But since it's summer, it should be ok with little swerving too. So I started with the goldfinches today, trying to give the painting a feeling of a hot summer day, with bright light and colors and some sharp cast shadows. I felt it was quite easy to find the right composition, which is good, it often happens that if the composition doesn't work well from the beginning, it never will. But now it's already midnight, and I should stop if I wan't to be able to start (relatively) early in the morning. It will be much cooler then.
After a rainy and exceptionally cold (even for Finland) first half of this summer, we are now experiencing unusually long warm period. At first it was fun of course, but after a while it has become apparent that it's quite impossible to work effectively in this heat. It's constantly around 30 degrees (Celsius) inside, and it's a bit too much for me. Because of the sweating it's impossible to use the pen tablet, or it's very annoying at least, since I can't slide my hand on the surface of the tablet, my hand getting stuck all the time due to the moist. Working traditionally isn't much better, the paper gets all wrinkled and the acrylics behave oddly in these temperatures. But still, the biggest problem is that my brain doesn't work so well...it seems like it wanted to sleep most of the time. The good thing is that it really doesn't matter so much, I don't have many undisturbed moments to work anyway, before the school starts again. I know, I shouldn't complain. The days are already growing shorter and soon enough the autumn will be here with rain and darkness, and then we (even I) start dreaming of the next summer. On the other hand I do like the autumn months, especially the colors and the light, all the migrating birds and different weather patterns, giving me lots of inspiration. But for now, it's summer and it's okay, just shouldn't try to do too much...