So far, it is just called “Vixen” …


I am sure about one thing in this drawing. I was really, really scared to work up an image of the fox.

I often use bird images in my drawing for the Natural-Family-History series; I see lots of birds everyday. Even if and when I have to do research on the look and habits of a particular species or the visual differences between genders of mature/immature birds … at least I see many, many birds all the time. I have been watching birds, their behaviors, and trying to understand their relation to their habitat since I was about 12 years old.

But foxes? I seldom see a fox.

Studio view, with Vixen at first stage mixed media on Mylar

Studio view, with “Vixen” at its first stages
mixed media on Mylar

In this series animals are used symbolically (Purely visually? Not so much). Here the fox is a totemic image … a stand in for someone very important in my life. When the subject and I talked, we discussed the images that I could  use; I wasn’t surprised by the suggestion of the fox.  I was Just unsure how to incorporate the image. And I wasn’t used to drawing this four legged creature … an especially shy and reclusive little predator.

Vixen (a working title), unfinished, detail 1 mixed media on Mylar

Vixen (a working title), unfinished, detail 1
mixed media on Mylar

Despite my trepidation, the fox is, frankly, the perfect totem for this person. Shy and reclusive I have already mentioned those; audacious, agile, quick witted, and tenacious are other common attributes that people throughout history and across cultures have seen in the fox. The one I think of most though is … graceful; especially when the word is well used to denote a natural combination of power and beauty.

The other imagery falls into into basically two categories: intricate, abstracted geometric structures and evocations of autumn. The scarlet hawthorn with it’s late summer to fall bloom and fruiting, the heart of an apple, and the fiery coloration are all appropriate, just like the fox,  to communicate, through visual analogy, the temperament and character of this family member.

'Vixen', detail A3, WEB

You can see I have also included some text. It is a bit of a wordplay actually. Vox. Vox ≠ Fox … and it was an unexpected, almost quixotic metaphorical turn in my head. And it is beginning to suggest a a more “finished title to me. I’ll leave that one for your imagination.

'Vixen', image A1, WEB

Well, this one seems to be about finished. Other than the fact that I like the intensity of the parts but I am uneasy about the “crowded” nature of the composition … I am not sure what I think about it yet. I do know that I have worked on it enough for now. Maybe I’ll come back and alter something about it later.  First, I am going to go back to the study I did on paper and eliminate the fox in that one. More about that in my next post.

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7 Responses to “So far, it is just called “Vixen” …”

  1. Jean Sampson Says:

    All I can say is WOW, John!

  2. cf Says:

    So tell me please, what is it like to draw or paint on mylar? I am curious. it seems to me there would be an element of loss of control….as my thinking is mylar cannot be controlled like paper. cp

    • johnahancock Says:

      You are right. Mylar comes in three standard surfaces. The super slick – think of the feel of those silver balloons. A regular plastic surface, incidentally or irregularly pitted – not unlike a kid’s plastic toy sand bucket, smooth but not super slick. And then there is the kind that I use, “frosted” one one or both side.

      This frosted kind has enough tooth to feel really good with most any dry drawing material! It reacts/ feels like drawing on a non-absorbent illustration board or hot pressed (plate) paper. Heavily layered dry pastel is probably not a suitable match.

      It can even handle very light application of full bodied inks (no as easy with ink washes … unless the ink has … or you add a varnish or a gum to it). It can take light watercolor washes but it helps to add a touch of gum arabic. Acrylic does fine if applied in thin layers too. I would worry about oil or oil pastels as they prefer stiffer, less flexible surfaces.

      PS Connie, it is good to hear from you! Tell Bob I said “hello,” How are you two … and your daughter doing?

      • cf Says:

        It is good to “talk” to you too. We are doing “life” –some good and some bad. Bethany and her husband have blessed us with a 19 month old whirlwind of a grandson. Bob is doing ok and looking to retire early with the city, and do something different–maybe something in the creative world. I am in the valley a lot nowadays and would love to meet for coffee one day if you have time. I go over to Verona at least once a week. Looking to get back into things, and would love to talk. I will be trying to get to your opening. I would really like to see this body of work.

  3. Louisa Cahan Says:

    John, when you told me on Tuesday night how to follow your blog, and I did so, several links came up, including a link to this page about the fox. Fascinating and beautiful! Also, thanks for your ongoing teaching, which I value greatly!

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