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?

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?