I have always harbored (no pun intended) a bit of obsession with dolphins. I started this painting last night. It’s larger than most of my works, about 16×20″. I wanted to show a pod of bottlenose dolphins swimming under water.
I started out with just a few basic outlines, featuring this one guy going up for air. I wanted to have beams of light coming down from a roiling, bright surface, so I had to decide how to work the dolphins into the composition.
I added a couple others. I knew I wanted a pod of them; and it would have to be an odd number, so either five or seven. I was a little concerned that with the bright surface and all the movement that the painting might become too busy if I made the group too large.
At this point it was getting dark outside and I was working by artificial light, so I decided not to worry about color just yet, and stick to figuring out how the shapes were going to work.
I decided on five animals. Dolphins are a close social unit, so I have four of them touching and only one apart, set in the background to give the painting depth. Even though the setting is under water, I wanted it to have a lot of warmth and energy, to reflect the ebullient nature of the dolphin.
This morning I included some dark shadowing to define the musculature on the dolphins (they have more condensed muscle power than any other animal). I lengthened the tail on the bottom one to repeat the undulating pattern in the waves.
The final finishing touches came today with some raw umber and ochre to brighten the mix.
Bottlenose dolphins are the ones most frequently seen in marine park shows. They are rounded up in Taiji, Japan, in an annual slaughter made famous by the documentary film, “The Cove”. Those not killed for meat are sent into captivity. Currently The Dolphin Project is sponsoring a petition to stop this practice. They are gathering the final 90,000 petition signatures to reach a goal of 1 million by the end of March for delivery to the White House in April. You can sign the petition here.