Animal portraits, über realism and natural themes

Three artists explore very different media in latest show at the Leyton Gallery

Published on September 6, 2013
“Mable,” mylar painting, by Sarah Hillock. — Submitted image

Sarah Hillock’s newest paintings of farm animals aren’t typical. Done large-scale on frosted mylar, her chicken paintings are done portrait-style, from the chest up, showing the birds distinct personalities.

Tabitha looks like she could be posing for an elementary school photo; Dani looks like someone’s grumpy great-grandpa.

“They are so regal and beautiful, it seemed appropriate to give them a majestic presentation. They demanded it, in fact. If you meet them, you’ll see the air of sophistication they project is purely natural, so I painted them in the spirit of classical portraiture they way Louis XIII or Henry VIII might have been captured.”

The chickens in Hillock’s images belong to Lori Yetman of Pouch Cove, but Hillock has been creating art depicting farm animals since growing up on a farm in Ontario. She recently moved to Toronto after living in this province for years.

The chicken images, as well as two larger portraits of a calf and a lamb, are part of a series hanging at the Leyton Gallery in downtown

St. John’s in a show of new works. It’s a simple, small exhibit featuring just two other artists: Jonathan O’Dea and Jack Botsford.

Mylar, like encaustic, seems to be a trend in local visual art at the moment, and Hillock said she’s been “really obsessed with it” for the past three years.

It’s taken her a while to develop her own technique, and it’s unique in that in many areas of her work, she has used the negative.

Where the chicken’s feathers are white, she has painted only the space between them, leaving the actual fluff to the mylar.

Her brush strokes seem hurried but precise; short strokes to create a realistic impression of thick wool on the coat of the lamb, and longer to create fluffy feathers on the chickens.

“I’m always striving to be unique and to stand out as doing something new and exciting,” Hillock said.

Botsford, typically a printmaker up until a couple years ago, has also chosen natural themes, painting them in oil on birch board.

His pieces depict flowers, leaves and birds on backgrounds of brilliant blue cloudy skies — and in “From the Garden,” a knife and cutting board near a bunch of green onions.

He lets his underpainting peek through in parts, creating depth and light.

“You never know, when an artist takes on a different medium, how well it’s going to translate, but for Jack, he did well at both. I live how painterly he can be,” said gallery manager Tia Connolly.

Photo-realist painter ­ has already fooled gallery visitors with his work, not only into thinking they are photographs, but, for those who realize they are depictions, with the medium.

He has chosen to create his life-like pieces in thick chalk pastel, expertly using them to create the illusion of light shining through grapes in a bunch or lemon slices and ice cubes in a glass.

Other pieces show fruit or, in the case of “Every King Needs a Crown,” a piece of lemon meringue pie.

The current exhibit is a minimal one for the Leyton Gallery, which generally hosts a large number of varied works, but the pieces are each striking on their own and deserving of an abundance of space. The show runs at the gallery until Sept. 29, with an opening reception this Saturday from 3-5 p.m.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury