Hyena, 2014 | ©Aimée Rolin Hoover | 45in x 52in | Acrylic on stretched canvas
I have always loved the physical shape of hyenas. They’re equally awkward and powerful with those pointy satellite dish ears, meaty necks and sloping backs. Not to mention wild-looking, multicolored fur. I had been thinking about painting one for a while but I wanted to go “against type” and create a portrait that was on the soulful side. Therein laid the rub: finding a soulful photo of a hyena. Or at least one that didn’t have her red face stuck in a carcass (which, to be fair, would also make a great painting but isn’t my particular style.)
But after looking at thousands of photos online, I finally found the needle in the haystack on the flickr.com page of Theo van Wyk, who happens to live in Lydenburg, Mpumalanga in South Africa:
Original reference photo by Theo van Wyk
He and his friend, Gabriel, were at Kruger National Park when they snapped the shot:
The hyena you painted was the teenage babysitter that had to look after the kids while the older folk were out trying to get some food. You can see the inquisitiveness in the posture and the nose raised a bit to get a better smell of us, but the right ear keeping a lookout and listening for danger, trusting but not trusting…
Theo was nice enough to send me a high resolution file to paint from so I could see all the minute reflections and details in her eyes:
Hyenas in general get a pretty bad rap. But it turns out that spotted hyenas in particular are not the block-headed, opportunistic scavengers they’re portrayed to be in TV and movies. The spotted hyena is truly more of a predator, like a lion, and lives in very complex societies where the females are dominant (and larger in size):
Like cercopithecine primates, spotted hyenas use multiple sensory modalities, recognize individual conspecifics, are conscious that some clan-mates may be more reliable than others, recognize 3rd party kin and rank relationships among clan-mates, and adaptively use this knowledge during social decision making. [source]
I’d like to say that I knew all this before I painted one, but I didn’t. Though now I’m even more happy that I choose this hyena as a subject.
I’ll be sharing a video of the entire painting process here soon, so stay tuned for that post.
In the meantime, thanks for reading.
Donkey, 2013 (SOLD)| ©Aimée Rolin Hoover | 58in x 60in | Acrylic on stretched canvas
Excited to announce that Donkey (2013) has been procured for a client by Mark Cravotta of Cravotta Interiors of Austin, TX. It was a truly a pleasure to work with Mark and Jill, and it’s an honor to have one of my pieces hanging in one of their beautifully designed spaces. I also can’t think of a better city than Austin for this particular piece. I look forward to shipping more 100 pound crates of artwork their way in the future!
One of Mark’s beautiful interiors
Aimée, you’ve been a delight to work with…and I love your painting style. I wish I had the ‘Donkey’ portrait [that we procured for our client] in my own home. Maybe someday I’ll get you to paint something for me. But for now, you’re on our radar and we’ll be calling on you again. — Mark Cravotta | Interior Designer, Cravotta Interiors
The beginning stages of Donkey
Prepping Donkey for shipping
Now that Donkey is safe and sound in Austin, it’s time to get back to my easel. A hyena is waiting…
Until the next painting,
The Horde, 2014 | ©Aimée Rolin Hoover | 44in x 70in | Acrylic on canvas
Before I painted my first large-scale cow portrait I had no idea I’d be so smitten with bovines as a subject in general. But “The Horde” actually marks the fourth cow painting in my new series of animal portraits. And it’s a big one—just shy of six feet wide. Here are a few detail pics:
I learned a long time ago that waiting around for inspiration to hit is a good way NOT to paint. So like the previous Cow, Piglet and Goat portraits, I usually manufacture my own inspiration by plunging into a week long, online photo binge. I started with Flickr.com and simply searched for “cow.” It was a purposely general search term to cast a wide net, since I’m not opposed to running across images like this during the hunt:
Photo credit: “Stickeresq” on Flickr.com
Finally, after three days of reviewing thousands and thousands of photos, I came across an image by a photographer named John Wilhelm. As soon as I saw his multi-cow photo, I knew it was the one. John’s image was heroic, powerful, and had lots of movement. Needle in a haystack…found. And it frankly changed my mind regarding what i was going to paint: I was originally planning on painting another singular cow, not four. Here’s the original photo:
Original source photo for The Horde
Immediately I emailed John—a complete stranger in Switzerland, as it turns out—via his Flickr.com account to ask his permission to use the image. Believe me when I say a generous “Yes” from him felt like Christmas morning after looking at 50,000 photos. He even emailed me a big, high-resolution file to work from, so I could clearly see all those awesome cow eyelashes.
When I finished the piece, I was curious about his side of this collaboration and asked him a few Qs:
AH: What was your first thought when a random stranger asked to paint from one of your photos?
JH: “I felt absolutely honored and pleased. Especially when I checked the homepage of the ‘random stranger’ and I encountered this stranger was an incredibly talented and passionate painter.”
Has anyone ever asked your permission to do that before?
“Not a private person. But a German company asked me a few months ago if they could sell my photos as paintings.”
What made you say yes?
“After I checked [your work] out it was easy to say yes. But honestly… I guess I’d have said yes anyway. I think artists should support each others and I pretty much liked the idea of a painted interpretation of one of my photos. And now that it’s finished (and I’m so happy with the result) I feel vindicated the yes was good.
Where were you when you took the photo…were you working or on holiday?
“It was on a cloudy sunday and I was on a little walk with my daughter. She was sleeping in the buggy when I was lying ‘under’ the cows.”
What type of work do you normally do, what subjects do you normally photograph?
“98% of my work is retouching and composing. I like it to meld techniques together.”
And meld he does, quite exquisitely. Check out his creation called iFondue, inspired by the new Mac Pro (look at every element that changed in the second photo…amazing):
Before & After: iFondue by John Wilhelm
Being able to connect with talented and inspiring photographers like John is just a huge bonus to being an artist. And it makes painting even more enjoyable when I’m able to work from such beautiful images.
You can follow John on Facebook to see what he comes up with next.
As for me, it’s time for another photo binge…
Thanks for reading,
Pollux, 2013 (SOLD) | ©Aimée Rolin Hoover | 60in x 40in | Acrylic on stretched canvas
After I said adieu to pet portraits and started painting some new subjects, I was contacted by an owner of a German Shepherd mix named Pollux (to be clear, Pollux is the pup’s name). As a German Shepherd
freak fan, I took one look at Pollux’s big Shepherd ears and soulful eyes and thought, “Rules are for breaking, right?”
It of course helped that his awesome owners, Alec and Michelle, had a beautiful downtown LA loft. Which meant two things: 1.) I could take the photos myself since they were local and 2.) they’d have room for a large portrait.
They also liked the new direction of my current work and were happy to have me paint Pollux in that more dramatic style. So we took a few pics, decided on a size, and to work I went:
And an interesting side effect occurred while painting Pollux…
Mu unintentional wall pallete
Delivering the finished portrait was a ton of fun. Here are some pics from the day…
Scott (husband) and Alec doing the heavy lifting
Celebrating with some tasty vino on Alec & Michelle’s downtown LA roof deck
“The painting of Pollux, our beloved canine companion for more than 12 years, perfectly captures his personality, charm and spirit. It is a spectacular and marvelously detailed large scale painting, which we are proud and grateful to have in our home. The painting provides us a further reminder of how fortunate we are to have found Pollux. When, some day, he is no longer with us, it will serve as a perfect and poignant memento of the great joy he brought to our lives. —Alec & Michelle
What’s a portrait delivery without a prime view of a organized “naked” bike ride through the streets of LA?
It was a fantastic experience working with Alec, Michelle and sweet Pollux (who just turned 13!). I’m so happy that they love their new painting.
Until the next painting, thanks, as always, for reading…
Cow No. 3 (2013) | ©Aimée Rolin Hoover | 68in x 60in | Acrylic on stretched canvas
Cow No. 3 is the third cow portrait in my latest series—and at just shy of five by six feet, my largest animal portrait to date.
For size reference: pic of me holding up Cow No. 3′s blank canvas
Just like the previous bovine paintings, I worked from a fantastic original photo taken by Heico Neumeyer. He happens to live in Bavaria. Which is apparently lousy with cows.
Thanks as always for reading. Until the next painting…