"The uniqueness of my work is a result of the passion I have for my subjects which is the cornerstone of all my work as an artist... I developed empathy and compassion for creatures that are misunderstood, undervalued and often times mistreated."
My passion for nature and wildlife is the cornerstone of my artistic endeavors. Through my art I hope to educate people about the magnificence of God’s creatures and to promote awareness and appreciation for them. My gift is the ability to bring out the soul and essence of my subjects.
Please share some details of your background. I started drawing about the age of 10. I was raised in a very volatile environment and I would often go down to the basement to seek the peace and tranquility of drawing. About the same time I also discovered my love of athletics and became very involved with the game of golf. I earned a BS in Commercial Art after which I pursued a professional golf career. I became a proficient photographer and while playing professional golf I would find opportunities to photograph wildlife. Following my golf career I became serious about my art and with thousands of wildlife images that passed through my camera lens, I embarked on a career pursuing art. For several years I would travel to Montana to take instruction from the greatest names in wildlife art. Passion grew as I extended my travels to see and photograph my favorite subjects. My favorite destination is Africa and I am hoping to go again to this amazing place.
Please share with us some insight into your process. Whether I’m working with pencil or paint, the information gathering and overall process is the same. An idea for a painting evolves or a memory of a photo I took beckons to be painted. Once the subject or subjects are determined I begin gathering the reference material for the environment to place them in. I get together all of my photos that can be considered and if needed I’ll grab my camera and go hunting. When selecting the images for the foreground, middle and background of the composition I must be mindful of the time of year the subject was taken, behavior of the subject and the lighting on the subject. All these things must be accurate and in sync. Before tackling the final work in either medium I will do a detailed sketch to determine the best composition and work out the nuances of lighting, value and perspective. When doing an oil painting I will then do a miniature painting to further work out the specific details. No matter what medium I’m using, I will always render the eyes first. For me the eyes are the windows to the soul and once they are complete the animal comes alive and takes on a personality. I then feel a strong connection and am moved to complete the rest of the work.
Please describe the unique DNA of your art? Without question the uniqueness of my work is a result of the passion I have for my subjects which is the cornerstone of all my work as an artist. I feel this passion was created in part by my upbringing. Through it, I developed empathy and compassion for creatures that are misunderstood, undervalued and often times mistreated. It was once suggested to me that my rendering of animals is the rendering of my own soul.
How do you want your art to impact viewers? I want my work to be relatable and enjoyable for people but beyond that it’s really gratifying when my work elicits emotion from the viewer. I will never forget the impact of a graphite rendering of an old African Buffalo hanging in my booth. An elderly gentleman teared up as he looked at it and repeated the title “Old Timer”. The ultimate goal of my work is to inform and educate people of the value and uniqueness of my subjects.
What do people say when they discover your work? Almost everyone comments on the ‘life-like’ and realistic quality of the subjects I portray. “It looks so real”, “It looks like a photograph” and “It looks so three dimensional”, are comments I always hear. My ability to bring out the soul of my subjects through their eyes attracts a lot of people to my work.
Please tell us about 3 of your artworks that have most impacted your career and why? The first crayon drawing of my siamese kittens set the stage for my future as an artist. It revealed my talent for art as well as my love for my pets. The most impactful work to this day is the piece I donated to a local Hospital’s Chapel entitled “The Shepherd”. It’s a colored pencil drawing on a towering 6’ by 3’ piece of Mesquite. It took me 3 years to complete and in terms of sheer size and complexity it has been one of my grandest works and is my legacy. “The Shepherd” proved to be life altering both personally and professionally. My first oil painting, “Wing and a Prayer” was evidence that I could master the art of oil painting. It directed my artistic expression in a whole new direction.
Which artists have inspired you most? Early on Robert Bateman was a huge inspiration to me. As a conservationist and great painter of animals he inspired me to pursue my passion for wildlife. I ended up taking private instruction from him several years ago which was an amazing experience. Wildlife artists Daniel Smith, Lee Cable, and Carl Brenders are among those who have inspired me and given me personal instruction.
What directions are you interested in exploring in future work? I want to study landscape and light and incorporate them more into my work. I will do more Plein Air painting which is the practice of taking the easel out into nature and painting what you see. By doing this at different times of day and studying the effects of light I can create more dynamic scenes for my wildlife subjects. I would also like to explore sculpting to further my understanding of animal anatomy and the play of light on my subject.
What attracts you to your preferred mediums? The attraction to colored pencil on wood is the detail I’m able to achieve and the sheer challenge of the medium. The effects that each type of wood has on the pencil is a mystery every time and one must allow for this in your selection of color. Because you can’t mix the colors like you do paint, layering of each color to create the desired color is almost a science in itself. Careful attention must be made to the order of layering. If you change the order of laying down the color, the result will be a different color. Oil painting is a completely different form of expression. I love the creamy texture of the paint and the ability to blend colors together. Because you’re using a brush instead of a pencil lead, it’s a much quicker process. I’ve learned how to alter and use my brushes to get the finer detail that’s become the hallmark of my work.
What do you feel when you are creating? My studio is my sanctuary and a very spiritual place for me. When I’m creating I feel an intrinsic connection with my creator. Often when I come upon a particularly challenging issue at the easel I’ll ask for guidance and then feel as though I’m a vessel and someone else has control of the pencil or brush. I’m always grateful and astounded at the outcome of this interaction.
Describe your location and its influence on your art. The solitude of the Texas Hill Country inspires me to do my work. At any given moment I can look out into my back yard and see deer, fox, skunk, squirrels or raccoons while listening to melody of beautiful song birds. Being anywhere in nature ignites my desire to create.
How has your art evolved over your career? It all started with a crayon drawing of my Siamese kittens at a very young age. I loved drawing and turned to using graphite which was my medium of artistic expression for many years. I dabbled in using water color and explored acrylic but neither of those mediums ‘stuck’. Still drawing, and wanting to get color into my work, I began using colored pencil on wood which was my focus for many years. During my accumulative years of drawing I learned the essential elements of composition, value and perspective which catapulted the success of my oil painting.
For more information and to purchase Gabrielle Matlock's art, please visit: www.matlockart.com
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