Mark Fairnington was born in 1957 in Gateshead, he studied at St. Martin’s School of Art from 1979 to 1981 and lives and works in London. Fairnington paints as a method of research. His work explores animal painting and its relation to the history of collecting within the natural sciences, probing the image of natural history specimens in collections, in storage and in displays. Fairnington paints extraordinarily realistic paintings, from insects, to large mammals, birds, humans and landscapes. For the purpose of this blog post I will be looking more closely at Fairnington’s works of painted animal eyes on tondos.
As you can see above Fairnington paints with incredible realistic detail. Even looking at the eye of the deer above it looks as if you can see a reflection of someone – I’m not sure if this is painted on the actual canvas or whether a varnish has been applied and the reflection is just from the photograph being taken, either way its very intriguing!
Thinking about what animal I might like to paint as a response and homage to the works of Fairnington, I was yearning for some bold colour, and thought about animals with piercing eyes, such as the ice blue eyes of Siberian Huskies, or striking eyes of lizards and other reptiles, when I stumbled across a beautiful photo of an owl with bright vivid orange eyes.
I purposefully chose this brown packing paper to paint on as I felt the more natural colour and material lent itself well to the subject matter as opposed to a very white and commercial watercolour paper. Instead of trying to paint in a hyper realistic way as Fairnington does, as I know this would not be playing to my strengths I instead tried to focus on matching the colour well to the photograph and just enjoying the painted strokes to fill in the owl’s feathers. Indeed I did really enjoy painting this tondo, and I think it offers a good likeness of the photograph, albeit not in a realistic way but as a representation.