Painting Lions

What STORY do we want to tell? EMOTIONS do we feel? IMPACT do we want to make?

Art is a fluid language that flows from the artist, to the viewer, and back to the artist. Art adapts to the time and place of viewing- ever changing to meet people where they are. What we see and feel from a painting today may be different from how we thought of it yesterday, and how we’ll see it in the future. Therefore, we may have different answers to the questions in the headline above, depending on when we’re asked (What story do we want to tell, what emotions do we feel, what impact do we want to make?). We may also have different answers to those questions from the perspective of the viewer, including the artists themselves who become viewers as well (What story do we hear, what emotions do we feel, what impact is it making?).

Whatever our answers, art is personal, intimate, and we might change our hearts and minds seconds after we’ve settled on a direction. I can tell you what these paintings mean, but not what they mean to YOU. My perception about my art changes over time, so even though I’m the artist, I’m not an authority on art, not even my own. Once a painting is shared, art belongs to everyone.

Eyes can appear kind and wise. It’s all in what we see when we look into them. When painting eyes, it helps to imagine what we want the eyes to show and use our brush strokes to reflect that. Rounded shapes express gentleness, purity, innocence, and goodness; whereas sharp edgy strokes bring a sharp quality that expresses the opposite.

Layering with colors and highlights brings a flat painted eye to life.  A fleck of white in the pupil is a “life spot, according to my dad. He used to tell me to never forget that. Aiming for a small pin-point white dot works, but when the white fleck ends up as an organic, random “splotch” that doesn’t match exactly the life spot in the other eye, it has a more natural effect, so I try to resist making it too tidy. Light is generally not perfectly reflected or evenly cast.

Soft velvety texture on the lion’s face contrasts with the heavy paint strokes that become progressively more primitive as the mane extends to the canvas edge. What story, what emotion, what impact? Imagine running your fingertip down the bridge of that fuzzy nose, or a giving the lion a pat on that heavy golden mane. Is he gentle? Might he be dangerous? Would he hurt you? Would he protect you? What kind of lion is he, and what does he represent? Strength, wisdom, patience, victory over enemies? The story is up to the viewer, but an artist can steer the viewer toward asking questions. Contrasting elements give art a dynamic that is active, seeking, inquiring

This mythical winged lion was inspired by a resin Guardian Lion statue in Savannah, Georgia. I imagined the griffin as made of gold, and “alive” (yet still maintaining the qualities of a statue). Again, it’s all about the contrasting elements, as this second painting also begs inquiring minds to ponder what this art means to them. The rigidity of the lion, its fixed expression, stern lines, and monochromatic coloring contrasts- and almost opposes- the soft terrain, wispy fantasy landscape, streaky brush strokes and colorful palette. The only movement is water spray hitting the cliff edge where the lion stands watch. What is the story, emotion, and impact? Do we feel safe? Is this lion in control, even over the elements, the sea? 

Lion and the Lamb” was inspired by stained glass windows in the historic Cathedral of John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia. I wanted to paint religious art of my own, even though this isn’t in the style of the stained glass window art. My metaphorical intentions weren’t very deep (precious lamb, sacrifice and meekness; contrasting with mighty warrior lion and King). I guess we could bring that into a greater theological discussion about duality and the divine, but to be honest, I only imagined this art as a peaceful story, like the illustrations I have fond memories of from children’s Bibles when I was a little girl.

My Irish Gran used to dress up in her pink dress and sometimes she’d have a hat. If I was lucky to be at her home when she had a church event planned, I’d get to see her in her Sunday best. These memories are all caught up in my perception of Bible stories, which accounts for my peaceful and nurturing interpretation. However, I have received feedback from several viewers who have put quite a lot of thought into what they see in this metaphorical painting, and even took an entirely different path than I even knew existed. While I find their perspectives interesting, I still only see a gentle strong fatherly lion with an innocent meek lamb. Sometimes I paint on one level, while views take the art to much deeper levels. Art is a language that transcends, even if the artist is completely unaware.

“Guardian Lion”

Watch Natalie paint this art, and all 50 oil paintings in this collection (menu below)

“This winged lion is called the Cotton Exchange Fountain, also known as Lion’s Fountain by Savannah locals. The approximately five-foot-two red terra cotta statue was created in 1889 and sits in front of the Savannah Cotton Exchange Building, facing Bay Street. This is a popular area for tourists to visit and take pictures.

The original fountain was destroyed after a car accidentally struck it in 2008. It was reconstructed and rededicated in December 2009. The story is that this lion was designed by an architect during a time of prosperity in Savannah, to symbolize protection for the port city. The Asian culture’s Guardian Lions are usually installed in pairs in front of a building’s entrance.

My original concept for painting this lion, was to represent him in a colorful way, as opposed to the all-over resin of the actual statue. However it seemed the concept of prosperity and protection was best represented by gold. The fantasy scene brings color and life to the painting, while the Guardian Lion stays truer to reality.

Guardian Lion oil painting by Natalie Buske Thomas
Guardian Lion revised 400 dpi

Small Print “Guardian Lion”

All small prints are approximately 8 x 10. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$33.50

Guardian Lion revised 400 dpi

Medium Print “Guardian Lion”

All medium prints are approximately 16 x 20. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$65.50

Guardian Lion revised 400 dpi

Large Print “Guardian Lion”

All large prints are approximately 24 x 30. Giclee Somerset Velvet Fine Art paper. Free shipping. No frame.

$98.50

List of Oil Paintings in this Collection, linking to their pages here on the site, and also citing physical pages in the hardcover book:

  1. City of Savannah
    1.1 “City of Savannah” page 6-7
    1.2 “Natalie at the Fountain” page 8-11
    1.3 “House in Savannah” page 12-13
    1.4 “Guardian Lion” page 14-15
    1.5 “Autumn Angel” page 16-17
    1.6 “Steamship Savannah” page 18-19
    1.7 “Boiled Peanuts for Sale” page 20-21
    1.8 “Bulldog” page 22-23
    1.9 “Serenity Piano” page 24-25
    1.10 “Painting Colors” page 26-27
  2. Tybee Island
    2.1 “I Love Life” page 30-31
    2.2 “Living Sand Dollar” page 32-33
    2.3 “Matthew the Sea Turtle” page 34-35
    2.4 “Fungie the Dolphin” page36-37
    2.5 “Angel Releasing Dove” page 38-39
    2.6 “Flag on Tybee Island” page 40-41
    2.7 “My Kids at the Beach” page 42-43
    2.8 “Lighthouse near Tybee Island” page 44-45
  3. Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians
    3.1 “Gator and Snake” page 48-49
    3.2 “Tree Frog” page 50-51
    3.3 “Lizard” page 52-53
    3.4 “Blue Heron” page 54-55
    3.5 “Hummingbird” page 56-57
    3.6 “Painted Bunting” page 58-59
  4. Flowers and Trees
    4.1 “Pink Flower” page 62-63
    4.2 “Porch Flowers” page 64-65
    4.3 “Clover” page 66-67
    4.4 “Butterfly Tree Flowers” page 68-69
    4.5 “Savannah Tree” page 70-71
    4.6 “Dancer in a Floral Forest” page 72-73
    4.7 “Come to the Garden” page 74-77
    4.8 “Cherokee Rose” page 78-79
  5. Faith and Food
    5.1 “Floral Cross” page 82-83
    5.2 “Lenten Flower” page 84-85
    5.3 “Celtic Cross” page 86-87
    5.4 “Mary of God’s Favor” page 88-89
    5.5 “Lion and the Lamb” page 90-91
    5.6 “Breakfast with Friends” page 92-93
    5.7 “Peaches in a Bowl” page 94-95
    5.8 “Peach Cookies” page 96-97
    5.9 “Peach Pie” page 98-99
  6. Seasons and Weather
    6.1 “Pumpkins and Mums” page 102-103
    6.2 “Autumn Cottage” page 104-105
    6.3 “Spring Lambs” page 106-107
    6.4 “Peach Tree Hurricane” page 108-109
    6.5 “Eye of the Storm” page 110-111
    6.6 “God’s Promise” page 112-113
    6.7 “We Gather Together” page 114-115
    6.8 “Savannah Snow” page 116-117
    6.9 “I Believe in Santa” page 118-119