The short answer is about three weeks working 14 hour days. The larger drawings take over a month.
The long answer is… longer. Gil Menzies is very detail oriented; therefore; the environment must be as correct as the subject. In the drawing “Bad Apples,” for example, not only are the magpies anatomically correct with 10 primary wing feathers, coloration, and so on, but the tree is a Makamic crabapple – a distinguishable cultivar – that the artist cut branches from to use along with the top of a fence post and barbed wire. This detailed research of the anatomy of the subject as well as its individual character in its credible surroundings is what sets Gil Menzies’ art uniquely apart from others.
A preliminary drawing begins with drawing several individual drawings of various subjects. Those drawings are then put together to form the composition with thought to the relationship of each to the other. As in the case of “Bad Apples,” each bird is drawn separately, placed appropriately and changed to improve flow, balance and relationship, keeping in mind the tree branches and background. When Gil Menzies is satisfied with the individual birds and their relationship to one another, details are added to complete the composition. Notes are then made on the preliminary composition regarding changes necessary to improve the final composition.
The rough composition is then put on a light table where it is outlined for the final drawing. More detail and finer workmanship is added to create the final drawing on fine quality paper. Each drawing is done at least twice to result in the finely crafted original.
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What medium does Gil Menzies use?
Pencil – varying thicknesses and hardness. Occasionally, Gil Menzies uses charcoal in some of his drawings.
Most of the subjects are real specimens. Gil Menzies is a fisherman and hunter, so he has first hand knowledge of many animals, birds and fish; however, many specimens are dead, so creating life in a believable habitat is a challenge. He has also honed keen observational skills, which are valuable when he visits the zoo and takes photographs of less familiar subjects.
From an array of photographs and first hand knowledge, Gil Menzies creates the subject(s) in different poses with different expressions until he is satisfied with the subject(s). He may use the idea for the head from one photograph, the leg formation from another, and add a body from his knowledge to create a suitable pose. Then the composition is created ensuring the correct environment for the subject(s).