Portfolio | Animal Magnetism

Meet four artists who are irresistibly drawn to the world’s creatures

By Norman Kolpas

This story was featured in the April 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

Carolyn Mock

Carolyn Mock, Prickly Path, oil, 16 x 24.

Carolyn Mock, Prickly Path, oil, 16 x 24.

In many paintings by wildlife artist Carolyn Mock, you may at first wonder where the animals are. Then you notice, say, a group of white-tailed deer camouflaged by the grasses and trees along the banks of a creek. “That’s the way you normally see them,” says Mock. “They’re not blatant. They’re often hidden in the woods.”

Her dedication to painting animals faithfully in nature is a hallmark of Mock’s approach. “I spend a lot of time communing,” she says of her extensive reference photography and gesture sketches, which she often does at the wildlife preserve that’s part of the Woolaroc Museum near Bartlesville, OK. She and Bill, her husband of 51 years, live not too far away on 45 rural acres that are also rich in subject matter. “We’ve got fields and woods and, a hundred feet from my studio, a pond where about 50 Canada geese come every morning.”

Self-taught in oils since the age of 10, Mock painted as a hobby while working first as a technical illustrator at Phillips Petroleum and then as an advertising designer and paste-up artist. About 25 years ago, when she turned 50, she became a full-time artist, honing her skills through workshops with respected wildlife painters like Terry Isaac, Robert Bateman, and Carl Brenders.

Today Mock remains steadfast in her passion. “I don’t see how anybody can be around animals and not respect them. The more I learn about nature and God’s creatures, the more I’m in awe. Think about how awful, boring, and dull the world would be without them.” Mock’s work can be seen at www.carolynmockart.com.

Patty Voje

Patty Voje, American Girl, oil, 20 x 30.

Patty Voje, American Girl, oil, 20 x 30.

The black cow eyes you, her feathery lashes almost flirtatious, like the “lusty flower” of the Elton John song that gave Patty Voje’s painting its title, AMOREENA. “I often name cows after the music I’m listening to,” laughs the artist. Indeed, spontaneity is the spirit in which the lifelong resident of St. Paul, MN, creates her works. “I paint alla prima, in one sitting, usually finishing a smaller painting in two to three hours and a larger one in an eight-hour day.” Voje explains that, “moving faster, you’re more intuitive, and quicker decisions are often better than overthinking a painting. But, to do that, your underlying draftsmanship has to be at a good enough level.”

She’s been honing her draftsmanship for most of her nearly 56 years. Growing up on a suburban hobby farm, she showed early artistic talent. She studied design in college, raised two children, and founded her own ad agency. More than a decade ago, she “fell into a plein-air group, found it calming, and couldn’t wait to do it again,” she says. Voje refined her skills through classes and workshops, and about five years ago, she “committed to painting every single day.” Today she considers herself a full-time artist. Minnesota’s farmland offers a wealth of subjects: “It’s important to paint what you’re interested in,” she maintains, “and for some reason, cows and pigs hold a very special place in my heart.” Voje’s work can be seen at Blue Awning Gallery, Port Washington, WI; Wantoot Gallery, Mineral Point, WI; and www.patriciavoje.com.

Kathleen Keating

Kathleen Keating, A Watchful Eye, graphite, 13 x 20.

Kathleen Keating, A Watchful Eye, graphite, 13 x 20.

“Draw me a horse! Draw me a horse!” Growing up on a ranch in Big Horn, WY, kindergartner Kathleen Keating always begged her dad, an accomplished amateur artist, to sketch images of her four-legged obsession. “I would copy them over and over again,” she says of those earliest precursors to the exquisitely rendered equine pencil drawings she creates today.

She’s traveled a long trail to reach that point, after an academic career as a librarian and professor at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. Though she loved the world of books, she yearned to be an artist. Then, 14 years ago, she learned about the atelier-style training offered by the respected Florence Academy of Art in Italy. She and her husband, George, also a university librarian, “cashed in our life insurance policy and went to Florence for the summer.” Her studies there “were transformational,” she says. Four years ago, in her mid-50s, Keating dedicated herself full time to art.

Though that makes her a relative newcomer to the art world, her lifelong dedication nonetheless shines through works like A WATCHFUL EYE. That title, in fact, also sums up her approach. She frequently visits ranches, racetracks, and equine events, constantly taking photographs. “I can’t get a horse to stand still for the 40-plus hours it takes for an 8-by-10-inch drawing,” she says—let alone the three months she may spend on a larger work. That may sound laborious, but Keating loves the challenge. “It doesn’t come without frustrations,” she says, “but the process, for me, is pure joy.” Keating’s work can be seen at www.kjkeating.com.

Ann Goble

Ann Goble, Study in Red, oil, 11 x 14.

Ann Goble, Study in Red, oil, 11 x 14.

“Find something that you love and really, really learn it,” says Ann Goble, explaining her focus on two particular subjects: horses and shore birds. The Atlanta-area artist attributes her love of the former to “being the parent of a horse-crazy child. I took that as an opportunity to learn about and photograph horses.” As for the birds, “I’m a beach bum. Growing up in the southwest corner of Georgia, we went to the coast as often as we could.”

Her passion for art goes back to childhood, too. “Every spare moment, I was drawing, and for every elective, I took art,” she remembers. But she majored in psychology in college and worked in that field before marrying and starting a family. Then, she says, “As soon as my children got into grade school, around the mid-1990s, I seriously started painting.” Courses taught by pros “made a huge impression on me,” including Jill Soukup, who deepened her understanding of horse anatomy; Stephanie Birdsall, who offered a better understanding of what  colors will do; and Roseta Santiago, who emphasized how light behaves.

Goble, now 56, puts such knowledge to subtly dazzling effect in paintings like BEACH SHADOW and STUDY IN RED. Working on birch panels or linen mounted on board, she lays down an abstracted background in earth tones, texturing the still-wet surface with vegetation. She then renders her main subjects in almost transparent layers of oils, conjuring lifelike depth and dimension. “If you slow down and focus on your subject, people feel that in your work and are drawn to it,” she says. Goble’s work can be seen at Wild Hope Art Gallery, Alpharetta, GA; Gallery on the Square, Gainesville, GA; and www.anngoble.com.

This story was featured in the April 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art May 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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