Oh those eyes!

by cheri sabraw


P.T. 109 12×16 oil on linen 2018 I live in a rural setting and walk by these girls every day. One morning very early when the sun was perfectly low, this piebald Angus girl came up to the fence. Imagine my delight when I saw her number was 109, my birthday. The red tag and the green grass hanging from her mouth, along with the light, made it a perfect setting for an oil painting.

Painting an animal sets the artist up for criticism, unlike painting a tree or flower.

There’s always an old cowboy at the show who will let you know immediately that a certain muscle is wrong.

I’ve just finished reading Leonardo by Walter Isaacson, a long and detailed biography of Leonardo da Vinci, who, I learned, never stopped his dissections of the human body. In fact, when he was painting the Mona Lisa–which he carried around for 16 years making changes to it–he dissected the mouths of corpses, trying to get that mysterious smile just right.

The last time I dissected anything was 50 years ago in sophomore biology. Those stinky slimy frogs, bathed in formaldehyde, were enough for me to change my mind about vet school.

I cannot paint an animal until I put the eyes on. Then, somehow, the creature  becomes easier for me to draw and paint.

This girl, a piebald Angus, begged for a photograph, which I dutifully snapped. The light was perfect. Her face was in half-shadow with a large orangey-pink nose and a red tag. But what really cracked me up was that she stopped chewing her fresh green grass when she saw me trudging up the mountain. That mouthful of grass is, I think, what makes this painting sweet and maybe one you would stop to look at a bit longer.

For me, it is the eyelashes that draw me in and those are not enhanced!