My first commission as Back to the Drawing Board!

Here’s my first piece finished under the Back to the Drawing Board name! Woo hoo!

Final drawing
Ta da!!!! 🙂

Medium: Graphite pencil on paper

Size: 8″ x 10″; framed with a mat to be 11″ x 14″

Purpose: Commissioned by the Sobles

Time to complete: Approximately 10-12 hours over a two week period.

History: Every year our church has an auction and all the proceeds benefit short term missions trips for the year. The motto for the auction is “Bid High, Bid Often!”, and it’s always so much fun to attend, even if you’re not interested in buying anything (which is crazy, as they always have amazing things there!). This was my third year putting in a certificate for an unframed 8″ x 10″ drawing of the winning bidder’s choice. The past two years the certificates have done really well, and this year was no let down. It’s always a jumble of emotions for me to watch people bid on my certificate; it’s exciting to see that people like my art, yet humbling to see people try to outbid each other while the price tag keeps rising. This piece is what was requested by the winning bidders; it is my third drawing for this couple, and this one is for their grandson’s bedroom.

Thought process: When I heard that they wanted a Noah’s ark, I immediately thought of the traditional side view of the ark with just a couple animal heads poking over the side. I knew I didn’t want to do something super traditional, but still have it be recognizable as the ark. Thankfully the winning bidders were more than happy to give me complete freedom with the drawing, so I felt comfortable doing something slightly different than what first popped into my head.

After doing some looking around on my friend the internet, I found some pictures of “real” arks. They all looked different, but all recognizable as an ark. The one I liked most is the one that I used as a model for the one in my picture; slightly turned, facing the viewer. I changed a few things about the boat, mostly cutting off half of it as I never feel like the ark is big enough to hold all the animals, and I didn’t want to be looking at my drawing thinking the ark was the wrong size. Yay for artistic license!

I also took artistic license with the timing of the scene. When the dove comes down with the olive branch, Noah is actually run aground, not floating in all the water. I thought visually it was a little bit more interesting to see the water rather than rock. I could have done it a couple different ways: 1) cut off the bottom of the drawing so you don’t see either the rock or the water, and then keeping with the story, or 2) not put the dove in. Neither of those were options for very long. In my initial sketches, not having the bottom of the boat just made it look weird compositionally. I really wanted the dove in the picture as I always feel hopeful when I get to that part of the story. Noah, his family, and all the animals have been cramped in a boat for so long, and being claustrophobic, I think I would have gone crazy and started questioning God’s provision (because I’m human, I’d forget he provided me a boat and I could either be cramped there and alive or dead under all that water). The dove returning with that olive branch meant there was land somewhere, that relief would be coming soon.

Dove detail

Problems I encountered: None! Ha, how I wish. Okay, some pictures of arks have round fronts (is it a hull?), some have pointy fronts, and some are flat. As you can tell, I have no idea what different parts of the boats are. My friends at Mission Navigation are probably shaking their heads at me (sorry guys!). I personally can’t stand the flat ones; it doesn’t make sense to me how it would cut through water and move, but then all this boat really had to do was just float and keep humanity and the animal kingdom from going extinct, right? Well, I wanted to do a round front. I really really did. But any time I tried drawing it round, it just looked like it was tipping over and sinking. It was a sad, sad, pitiful ark. I had to make it flatter just so it would look like a sound and sturdy ark that could withstand the weather!

Boat hull detail

Another problem was keeping all the animals in perfect proportion to each other. My initial sketch for the final drawing had them in, but as I was drawing them in, it didn’t always work out that way. And yes, the giraffes are supposed to be two different heights; they looked funny when they were roughly the same height 🙂

Giraffe detail

The hardest part of the drawing was trying to get enough detail into each animal to make it recognizable, but still have it look clean. I think the tiger, monkeys, and lemur were the hardest to do! Trying to draw these beautiful and complex animals on such a small scale was pretty challenging. I think they all turned out okay, though!

Something I didn’t notice until this morning while I was editing photos was that there was something on our camera lens last night that I never noticed while weeding out the blurry pictures, but it’s standing out like  a sore thumb this morning. If you notice a random dark dot in some pictures, it’s just stuff from the camera lens, not part of the drawing. *sigh*.

Fun tidbits: The dog in the front is a cross between my two dogs growing up. It’s the size and shape of my dog, Shadow, but the coloring of our other dog, Kira. Dogs had to be on the ark somewhere, so I used two of my favorite dogs ever as my model.

Elephant detail

Oh, I’m also terrified of snakes, but I saw on one picture online where they had a snake climbing up part of the front of an ark. That creeped me out a little but fascinated me at the same time, so I have this one kind of resting instead on the side of the boat. He’s a friendly, happy, sleepy snake. Or as my husband says, a sea sick snack. Try saying that ten times fast!  😉

It is impossible for me to even think of lemurs without getting a lemur song stuck in my head from when my daughter was little. My mom, daughter and I used to watch a show called Zoboomafoo or something like that. Anyway, the two guys on the show had a lemur for a sidekick, and one day they celebrated lemur day. They had this very random song to honor the day with, and it gets stuck in my head very easily.

Roof detail

My favorite part of the piece: Hmm…I really like the monkey holding onto the flag (the idea, more than the finished product) and I really like how the zebra turned out.

My least favorite part of the piece: I’m still frustrated I couldn’t get the front of the boat just right. And the moose antlers; I can’t get them quite right, either. The problems of perfectionism!

Lion detail

Questions on the piece: One question I was asked frequently as people saw the piece in progress was if I was including the rainbow or not. If this had been a painting, I probably would have tried to include it. But as a graphite pencil drawing, trying to get all the various gradations of color and have it still be clear enough without looking funny was just going to be too much stress for me. I would have loved to include it, but I also wanted the piece to look really nice, too!

Signature detail
I love putting my signature on a piece; it means it’s done!

Anything else?: The animals on the boat with Noah are monkeys, lemur, parrot, zebra, toucan, elephants, dog, polar bear, lion, moose, domestic cat, serval cat, boa constrictor, giraffes, and a tiger. Thank you for all your suggestions on Facebook about what animals to use! It’s amazing how when you’re concentrating on a piece your mind just blanks. Now that I’m done I have a huge long list of animals I could use, which is great as I’ll be starting another Noah’s art drawing soon for one of my friends.

Product availability: Available as a print in my Etsy shop here.

What animal would you have chosen to put on the ark?

6 thoughts on “My first commission as Back to the Drawing Board!

  1. “There were green alligators and long-necked geese…” No unicorn? 😉 O:)

    Thanks, I now have the lemur song running through *my* head… 😀

    Love the picture and the blog! Oh, and you!

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