About The Artist
Carol Santora, PSA, has loved animals of all kinds since she was a child, and remembers always wanting to be an artist. She had numerous well-used Jon Gnagy drawing kits and would copy pictures from magazines and sketch things around her home.
Santora (BFA, summa cum laude, Framingham State University) began her formal art training in 1983, while working as a registered nurse. One thing she wanted to learn to paint desperately was her dog, Flossie. After that first successful portrait, Santora realized she had a special talent and passion for animal and wildlife portraiture. Over the next 20 years, Santora would explore oil and watercolor painting before settling on soft pastel as her perfect medium. She painted landscapes and still-lifes, studied human portraiture and the figure, but the animals kept calling to her and appearing in her work.
Santora’s intimate portraits are insightful interpretations that express her passion for animals with excitement and energy by pushing the boundaries of color. She visits farms, rescues and wildlife areas in New England and out West to study and photograph her subjects. She takes hundreds of photographs and spends countless hours watching the animals that inspire her paintings. Her work is grounded in representation, but she is not bound by that. As she works, a completely realistic depiction gives way to a more artistic, contemporary rendering that serves her colorist and expressive purposes….
Learn more about Carol and see more of her work at her Website:
Soft Pastel Painting Demo of a Snow Leopard
The following step by step pastel demonstration of a snow leopard in soft (dry) pastel by Carol Santora, PSA, includes completing a Drawing and Sketch, the underpainting, the actual painting in pastel and final adjustments.
Carol Santora, PSA, is an award-winning, contemporary animal artist living in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in animal and wildlife paintings and pet portraits of cows, horses, sheep, farm and domestic animals, dogs and cats, the big cats, moose, bear in pastel and acrylic.
Step 1 – Drawing/Sketch
I observed and photographed this female snow leopard, Cloe, during my recent photo shoot at Big Cat Rescue in Florida. The snow leopard is one of the most elegant and elusive of all the great cats. It is very rare to encounter one in the wild. There are only an estimated 4,500 to 7,000 of these big cats left in the wild.
“The snow leopard is an endangered big cat that inhabits the rugged and mountainous terrain of Central Asia and the Himalayan region. It is currently threatened by hunting for the illegal wildlife trade and revenge killings by herders; habitat loss; and diminished food supply.” WorldWildlife.org
This leopard shyly, inch by inch, crept from her cave and intently stared at me, to check me out.
Step 2 – Underpainting
I transferred my drawing onto Wallis museum grade sanded pastel paper with a 3H graphite pencil. Working upright on an easel, I blocked in the darks with a dark blue hard pastel, then sprayed the sheet while laying it flat, with water. Once the image is dry, I can begin adding color.
As you can see, I have blocked in my middle tone areas with NuPastels, a harder soft pastel stick. I work back and forth from one area to another, from mid-tone darks to mid-tone lights building up the image in my preliminary base colors. I usually wait until closer tot he end of the painting to put in the eyes, however for demonstartion purposes, I have painted them sooner.
Another note… I routinely tint my Wallis paper with cadmium red light or cadmium orange acrylic ink before beginning a wildlife pastel painting, however, with Cloe, I wanted to her on the white background.
Step 3 – Painting
I finished blocking in the background darks very loosely and then layered lighter colors on top in various shades over selected areas to create the rock colors and texture. I did not want to overwork the rock den.
I also varied the pressure of my pastel stick and used softer pastels. I stepped back often to see my work. Lastly, I added the darkest darks and the lightest lights very sparingly to make the cat pop.
I will look at this now in my studio for several days to make adjustments if necessary.
Step 4 – Adjustments
I left this painting hanging in my studio for a few days and made some adjustments including darkening the body at it recedes into the cave, refining the paws and rocks. I will continue to make minor changes if necessary, but at this point am very happy with it and can settle down to titling it!