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Florida Panther (2)

In December of 2023 I began working on another large Florida Panther painting! It's not done, but here's a picture of where it is so far. I'll update this in a few weeks when it's finished:


This piece follows the same vein as the last large panther painting. I hope it inspires people to love their local native species and advocate for their protection. (As I write this, the Kingston development in Lee County threatens panther habitat. Read more about it here.) Like the last painting, this panther is also surrounded by animals and plants that can be found within it's range. The panther is sometimes referred to an umbrella species, because by protecting the panther's wide range you also end up protecting all the other plants and animals that live there. In art, this means that I have a wide berth in what plants and animals I can include around it! I've enjoyed paining owls, tortoises and wildflowers around this panther.

Process - Image use

What sets this apart from the other panther painting, is the composition constructed around a single photograph. I came across the Florida panther image In 2019 in an article about the MCORES tolls roads from the Tampa Bay Times. I tried to contact the photographer, Jim Damanske, to ask permission to use the image, but received no response at the time. I moved on to create Florida Panther in Big Cypress that year instead, but the image of the young panther stuck with me. In 2023 I contacted the photographer again and he got back to me! (he hadn't seen my first message). He didn't own the image anymore, but helped me to contact those who did, and I purchased a license to use the image in this painting!

Other photographs in this piece, used with permission, include the burrowing owls from Ben Jiang, and the gopher tortoise from Charles Livio. The herbaceous plants at the bottom of the painting use my images repurposed from the Plant Portrait series that were taken with the help of Bound by Beauty and Steve Woodmansee, and photographed in Miami Dade County parks.

Process - planning and painting

This piece started with several sketches exploring the features of the panther and it's relationship with the plants. When I had decided on the overall composition I did a 8x10 watercolor sketch:

I felt like I had a good idea of what I was going to do after the sketch. Then I stretched the watercolor paper on a sturdy MDF board, and transferred the image to the paper.

I began the painting by applying masking fluid over the plants that cover the panther. This allowed me to build up layers and details in the fur. Then I added a green background wash to the top of the piece. Then removed the masking fluid and began a lengthy process of painting sooo many leaves.

Check out the process and detail shots below!

I developed an over-use injury in my right shoulder half way through the plants, and had to slow down for a while to figure out what I was doing wrong ergonomically. The issue was that I was painting with my hand above my shoulder for too-long periods of time (apparently that puts a lot of pressure on your shoulder). Also, being on my phone for long periods of time was affecting my back and neck. I reduced my phone usage (no candy crush for me :c ), did regular exercises for that area of my body (that I had learned in physical therapy last year), and started using a homemade art maul stick to help support my arm as it healed (seen here).

Slowly but surely, I'm working up the details in the herbaceous plants and flowers. It still needs a few more weeks of work, and then it'll be off to the photographer and framer!

This piece also includes many native butterfly species: Zebra longwing, monarch, painted lady, checkered skipper, duskywing skippers, and grey hairstreak

And many native plant species: yaupon, bidens alba, sunshine mimosa, thin paspalum, coreopsis leavenworthii, lakeside sunflower, milkweed, fogfruit, St. Augustine grass, pellitory and pepperweed.

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