Mai Artiste du mois | Rick Wheeler

We’re excited to have our May artist of the month, Rick Wheeler! He was a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine’s 30th Annual Art” competition>. His painting, Gray Hawk (watercolor on scratchboard, 16×20) is below. Keep scrolling to see what Wheeler has to say about art and life. and ~ Green Valley, Arizona


birds of prey in art,

Gray Hawk (scratchboard/watercolor, 16×20) by Rick Wheeler

I didn’t take art seriously until I entered college. With my professors’ encouragement, I eventually attended the San Francisco Art Institute and the San Francisco Academy of Art University where I studied both studio art and illustration. I graduated with a BA from Prescott College, Arizona. I’m a professional artist, as well as an art instructor. I find it’s a great balance of my time.

Although I’m probably best known for my scratchboard work, I enjoy working in a variety of media, including oil, acrylic, and watercolor. As a resident of the Sonoran Desert, I find the flora and fauna of the desert an endless source of subject matter. Lately I’ve been focusing on desert birds, especially the birds of prey. There’s something regal about them.

I work from life, photographs, and/or drawings. I do a lot of field sketching, and always pack my camera with me as well. I find working from life is always an important part of the process and I do it as much as possible. Generally my palette, watercolor for Gray Hawk, is two blues (cobalt, ultramarine) and alizarin crimson, which I often mix with my blues to create violets and mix with cad orange to create reds. I also use two yellows (Naples and yellow ochre). My favorite tube greens are either sap or hookers green deep. Here, in the desert, where gray-greens are predominant, I mix a burnt umber or burnt sienna with the greens to gray them down, or add a bit of ochre to get more of a sage green.

I enjoy drawing and scratchboard is a drawing medium that allows for a great amount of detail. As a result, the time spent can be extensive. On average, a 16 x 20 piece like Gray Hawk is about 3-4 week’s worth of work. I found the foreshortened view of the hawk and the subtle reflected light on the underside of the bird the most challenging, yet enjoyable, part.

The Artist’s Magazine‘s Annual Art Competition is one I’ve considered entering for years, and I felt the Gray Hawk piece was one of my more successful efforts of late. The timing seemed right. As the saying goes, you never know unless you try, right?

I hope to continue broadening my opportunities for both gallery exhibits and teaching. There are far too many friends and family members to mention for thanks because I’m fortunate to be around so many supportive people, but numero uno has always been my wonderful wife.

Free download! Watercolor Painting for Beginners: The Basics and More

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