The Global Talent Search Adventure or the Mouse and the Terrarium

This is the story of my entry for the Lilla Rogers Studio Global Talent Search.

Upon receiving the brief I was glad to discover the subject matter was terrariums! I have already drawn several terrariums and am currently working on a few additional designs. Not having to research and learn the intricacies of a new subject was a big plus. Also I much prefer drawing living things than say, jello molds.

Like most people these days I am a fan of terrariums. I make lil tiny ones containing crystals and feathers to sell along side my prints and paper ephemera at art fairs. For my wedding, which was a really huge art project in and of itself, we made a unique terrarium or two for every table. This one, which contains a small ceramic rabbit that I bought for my grandmother when I was a kid, is my favorite. It now sits in my living room. I decided to make a painting inspired by this terrarium with a bit of a narrative thrown in.
photo by hotmetalstudio

To make the project easier I wanted the entire piece to fit my scanner. Although I feared that decision would force me to work at a smaller scale and the piece would not be as rich. A third of the way in I knew this small scale was working against what I had to offer- luscious line work and painterly shading and layering. The detail was also suffering for the scale. I needed more space to get into the meat of things. 

So I abandoned ship and redrew my terrarium larger.  Although I totally loved the rabbit idea, looking up at lightening bugs in the sky, such a nice little moment, a tiny little world, there was also this mouse, who I am incredibly partial to. He has been sitting at the side of my drafting table quietly pleading for his own little illustrated home for quite some time. Why not put this little mouse into the terrarium? He has been waiting to be a part of a piece for so long.  

I mean this mouse has been so cute and so patient! Seriously you guys, he is still waiting for his right paw to be painted in! 

Although in the back of my head I did wonder- do other people think mice are cute or creepy? And I thought the implied narrative in the rabbit piece really added something and perhaps that was just the sort of thing to make the piece sing. But that mouse was looking so lonely with his watery little watercolor eyes.  Oh bother! Plus this is wall art I thought! The one market that makes little sense to me and makes me and my MFA/classical oil painting background cringe with thoughts of distressed, weathered, "bad painting." Narrative does not equal wall art I told myself. Thick, smothering texture does! Goddess help you. The idea wall art brings to mind scrapes across my aesthetics like nails on a chalk board!

I decided to try to finish both pieces and submit whichever was best, knowing deep down that I had a 4 month old baby and finishing both pieces for the deadline, along with everything else on my plate, was rather unlikely. Now seeing the work of the 50 finalists I see how those pieces with little narratives in them are really so much richer. Wall art, you are a finicky beast!

Here is a sampling of thumbnails I sketched in my wall art discomfiture.

My initial attempt at the texture background I thought wall art demanded of me.  This is still in the mock up stage-

In the end I opted to photograph a wooden table in our home and use that as the basis for the entire background. A better solution, I believe, as the photo texture does not compete for your eye at the same level as the painted elements. Also collaged photo elements are on-trend at the moment and so is wood grain. Also wood grain is, like a terrarium, a natural element controlled for an interior.

I had a good time working on this piece and as with everything, I learned a lot. I challenged myself not to be too literal in my interpretation, something I have been working on, and that led to the collection of leaves and nature bits arranged/floating in the terrarium. While I like the way it looks, I am overly in love with negative space and not certain that was the best solution. I think the overall piece holds up rather well though and I am happy with it.

So I am not moving onto the next round of GTS but at least lil mousey has a home! And now to finish the rabbit and lightening bug terrarium illustration!

You can view all 999 entries here