"Being an artist isn’t just a “right brain” activity---you must use ALL of your brain, body and spirit to create. When the creation is done, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts… and so is the creator." - Lyrae Perry

Pushing the Boundaries of Realism

Right up front let me say that I consider myself to be a hard-core wildlife artist…and like nearly all wildlife artists, stylistically, I’m a realist.  But over time, I’m finding that I want to push the boundaries and experiment with fresh ideas, techniques and materials within the category of realism, or at least close to it.

Realism is what most people “oooh” and “aaaah” at —assuming it’s good— when they look at art.   A potential client is more apt to feel comfortable purchasing realistic-style artwork.  They feel like they can look at it, instantly relate to it, understand the subject matter, and easily identify the quality of the art.   They know when it’s good, and when it’s not.

Under the broad category of art realism, there are other sub-category forms.  Borrowing taxonomic classification from Linnaeus, realism can be divided up into smaller categories, similar to species…




  • Realism
  • Photo-realism
  • Surrealism
  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Mechanical Drawing
  • Medical & Scientific Illustration
  • Cartooning

What other  “species” could be listed here?  I’m sure there are more!

The cool thing is that you have complete freedom to explore all of these and see what you like best and what you want to develop for your style.  This is an opportunity to create a fusion  art style that is uniquely you.

 Exercise – Pushing the Boundaries  for Yourself:

A really fun exercise that will stretch your art boundaries is to take one animal or composition and do it in different styles. Don’t worry if it doesn’t turn out the way you think it should—it may not be perfect every time.  The piece could be a total failure on one level but a very big a win on another, because the experimentation will teach you how far you can or should go with color or design in realism.  You also may find that you love a variation of realism that you hadn’t considered before.  The very best part is that you will have a lot of fun, with no pressure!

I’m working on a new series with Gila Monsters and doing that very thing.  I didn’t plan that approach specifically, it just happened because I was playing around and decided to throw some color on a background as an under painting, which inspired me to just jump in and experiment.

I had done a lot of research on Gila Monsters & Beaded Lizards when I moved to Arizona in 2011 and it was my fondest hope that a Gila Monster would wander into the garage and I’d get a good look at a wild one up close.  That never happened. Dang! DANG!  They are soooo cool.

I got lucky just the same…and found a great book that showed many groups of real Gila Monsters and Beaded lizards (photos, not drawings).  The book had little maps for each photo set.   Each little map had a blacked-in spot where the individual animals were found.  I copied the pages and laid them all out on the floor relative to actual geography.  I wanted to see if I could spot any patterns or relationships in the physical appearance of the lizards from one region to another. The living room floor was covered for about four days as I studied, made notes and contemplated what I was looking at.   It was FACINATING to see how the same species changed color, pattern and size traveling South, East or West from Nevada all the way to the Yucatan peninsula.   I wanted to do many paintings of these beautiful creatures!

I completed this painting of a Utah Gila Monster on a rocky outcrop at dusk.   Gila Monsters are always “tasting” the air with their tongues because it’s their primary sensory organ.

The title of this piece is “Something In the Air…”


I wanted to do the Nevada Gila Monster next, because the black and white pattern was so bold—and if you look closely, you’ll see a perfect white arrow in the pattern near the tail of the second piece.  I promise, I didn’t make that up! That animal had the exact markings I painted.  It’s just a gorgeous lizard!

Because it was Nevada lizard, I thought it might be fun to experiment with a less realistic background—a sort of nod to Las Vegas.  I painted the lizard realistically, and then played with a more graphic style for the rest of the painting.  I pumped up the color and used metallic paints on the artwork.  I had one heck of a good time doing that piece.  No rules, just painting for fun.


The title of this piece is “Something in the Air – Solar-Charged Series”

I have two more pieces in the Solar-Charged Series I’m working hard to complete.  I think I must be crazy sometimes, because I committed to a gallery show on 8-31-13 ,  and I’m going to be working my tail off to get those pieces and a few more done in time!


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