Behind the Scenes: Nye Noah’s Ark

It’s finished and delivered!

Finished piece

Medium: Graphite on paper

Size: 8″ x 10″

Date: May 2014

Time to complete: Approximately two weeks

Purpose: Commission by Heather Nye

History: Heather is the older sister of my best friend, so she has basically been like an older sister to me. When she saw the other Noah’s ark drawing, she asked if I could do one for her son, Noah. Apparently  he asks when he can build his own ark and have every animal on earth, so Heather thought his own ark drawing would be perfect for him 🙂

Gator detail

Thought process: As I had just completed an ark drawing, I wanted something a little bit different in composition. I didn’t want to bore myself, and I want each of my pieces to be unique. I thought the ark being loaded might be an interesting piece, and when Heather agreed, all my brain power died and it took forever to get the layout from my brain onto the paper without looking ridiculous. It took 4 days to get it right!

Heather gave me a specific list of some animals to include: tigers for her, alligators for Noah, monkeys for her oldest son Jayden, and giraffes for her youngest son Eli. When I started to think about what other animals to include, I ended up choosing ones that have significance either in her family’s life or in the history of our friendship. For more details on what the story is behind each set of animals, check out the Fun Tidbits section of this blog post 🙂

Giraffe detail

Problems I encountered: Getting that ark laid out just right was a pain! Also getting the ark to fit in with the composition was difficult; with all the animals being so detailed, the ark just stood out like a sore thumb because it was so plain. Playing with the shading really helped. Once I got the grass in, it didn’t seem so bad; all the white space around the animals really threw off it’s appearance.

Also I made a mistake in measuring out how big of a space I was drawing in. I usually leave myself a little bit of a buffer about a quarter of an inch on all sides when I’m taping off my paper, but I accidentally left like three quarters of an inch on all sides. What that means is that my drawing was too big to fit in the mat, but too small to go into the next size mat/frame. I ended up having to cut off part of the top of the ark, turn one of the background hills into storm clouds, and cut off the bottom of the tigers. It was really frustrating having to figure out how to do that without having to redraw the whole picture, and a very stupid mistake. Like they say, measure twice, cut once? I’m going to have to do measure twice, tape once!

Storm clouds moving in over the hills
Storm clouds moving in over the hills

Oh, and drawing a tiny black cat and getting it’s eyes to appear? Ha, that’s funny. And stressful. I ended up having to tweak the cat to get it to be facing the ark and walking up the ramp instead of facing the viewer, which is how I had intended for it to look.

Fun tidbits: Here are the stories behind all the animals:

Horse detail

Horses – Noah loves cowboy boots and thinks he’s a cowboy. Every cowboy needs a horse!

Emus – One summer many years ago, Heather’s mom took her daughters and a couple of us friends on a week long vacation and we stopped by an emu farm. I remember feeding an emu long grass and almost getting bit on my finger! These emus are very nice and tame, though 🙂

Tigers – Heather’s favorite animal

Gators – Noah’s favorite animal

Giraffes – Eli’s favorite animal (he’s got great taste, but I’m biased!)

Monkeys – Jayden’s favorite animal

Cats – These are actually two of the Nye family’s cats; the one sitting in the ark is a former cat, Calliope (Opie), and the one walking up to the ark is Bagheera.

Sheltie in the ark – This was their dog Dickens who passed away last year. He and Noah were buddies, and Dickens was an amazing dog. I wanted to incorporate him in as a memorial for them.

Mastiff by the ark loading ramp – This is Nala, their dog. She is huge and amazing, and obviously had to be included 🙂

The Nye animals
The Nye animals

Favorite part of the piece: I love the tigers! I think they’re my favorite part. The one on the left looks happy and like he wants to play 🙂

Tiger detail

Least favorite part of the piece: Getting Nala to look right was hard. She’s a huge dog and is a dark brindle coloring. Getting that to appear in the drawing on such a small scale is like, impossible. I think she looks muddy and not as beautiful as she really is 😦

Questions on the piece: One thing that I consciously did that has been questioned was “Where is Noah?” Knowing that this was going to be for a little boy named Noah, I wanted him to be able to visualize this as his ark. If I put a Noah figure in, I don’t know if he would have thought of this as his ark, but that Noah’s ark. So I’m just pretending Noah is inside loading some other animal or finishing the last minute details as the storm clouds are rolling in.

What part of the Noah’s ark story would you have chosen for a design?

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