Ezra Tucker instinctively paints his animal portraits
Visual artist Ezra Tucker, whose works have been on exhibit at the Kennedy Center and the Texas Rangers Historical Museum’s permanent collection, loves animals.
His fascination moves past painting small animals in a large landscape work. Instead, the artist, who is based in Monument, Colorado, creates actions scenes and animal portraits.
"You go to Washington, D.C., and go through the museums, you see a lot of portraits of our heroes and people through history," Tucker said during a telephone interview with The Park Record. "I think that’s nice and comfortable to look at, but you don’t see animals portrayed that way. And since the animals were here before us, I felt we needed to worship, explore and honor that. We must not dismiss it or ignore it."
Tucker’s work can be seen locally at Hoffman Fine Art and Exotics, 1678 Redstone Center Dr. The artist’s works will also be on display at the new Hoffman Fine Art gallery that will open at Quinn’s Junction in July.
Tucker’s draw to animals was cultivated at an early age.
"My parents were farmers and we had family that lived on farms until I was up into my teenage years," he said. "I’d spend a lot of time in the barnyard with the cows, chickens and pigs when other people were in the house."
In addition, Tucker found a love for drawing when he was 4.
"So, I’d have my paper with me when I was out with the animals and I would sketch pictures of these creatures," he said.
The emerging artist discovered exotic animals while visiting zoos and zoological gardens in his teens.
"I loved everything about these creatures, and I would spend hours at the zoo drawing them," Tucker said. " I still have that fascination with creatures. I feel a connection with them because I think they have personalities and moods.
"I always thought animals had intelligence as well as spirits, souls and all sorts of those things that we apply to human beings, because of the way they looked at you or how they showed their expressions and the looks in their eyes," he said.
Tucker decided create his own art that replicated that sentiment.
"There are some artists that do that extremely well in bronze and paintings, where I feel the life and connection with the animal, and that’s something that I feel with the challenge of what I do now," he said. "I want to bring that feeling forward. That’s why I paint large portraits of the animals, rather than doing big scenes with a small animal in a landscape. I want people to make a connection with the animals like I have and how I see them."
Tucker uses his imagination when capturing the animals’ emotions.
"We’re all animals here and we have similarities with expression, motion and all of those things," he said. "When you see people who are angry, passive, tired and upset, and then see a wolf with that intense stare coming from its eyes, you reflect back on when you saw the human do that.
"If you get the wolf angry enough, it’s a very familiar feeling, because like a human, the brow or snout wrinkles and the stare changes," he said with a laugh.
Tucker is also interested in the animal’s color, as well as movements and expressions.
"I went to art school [now known as Memphis College of Art] and did a lot of life drawings of the human figure," he said. "I found movement, motion, as with a ballet dancer, describes attitude.
"Animals do that same thing," Tucker said. "I’m looking at human beings as an animal and how we have historically depicted the human form in grand mannerisms."
Tucker’s main medium is acrylics, which he was introduced to when he was 18.
"I couldn’t afford oils and other expensive mediums, so I spent my time with acrylics," he said. "They were affordable and water-based, so I could use them anywhere without having to carry a lot of gear. I just needed a cup of water."
His appreciation for the medium solidified when he was an illustrator for Hallmark in Kansas City, Missouri, for five years.
"My job description was to explore and experiment with different mediums," he said. "I also managed other artists, and one of the challenges was to experiment how we could make acrylics look like oil or watercolors. Once we did that, we experimented with oils to see if we can make them look like acrylics."
Hallmark was an inspiring job because of the idea swapping he and the other artists did on a daily basis.
"When you’re surrounded by 300 artists who are all sharing ideas and information, it’s a great environment to be in," he said.
Since then, Tucker has been commissioned to do work by other companies such as Budweiser, Disney, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Universal Studios, MGM Grand Hotel, the National Park Service, Levi-Strauss, Warner Bros., LucasFilm, 20th Century Fox, Paramount and Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines, to name a few.
"I learned a lot of discipline from having these corporations asking me to do an image that could be universal and promote their products," he said. "I learned about design and marketing. I learned how people respond to iconic images."
Tucker points to the work he did for Anheuser-Busch with their Budweiser Clydesdale horses as the real eye opener.
"They were having a tough time finding artists who knew how to draw and paint the Clydesdales in a manner that they felt comfortable marketing during Christmas," he said. "I love and painted many draught horses because they are such impressive creatures, but the colors, the sheen, the shape of that animal was something that I really had to pay attention to in order for the work to get past their committees and approved."
That was when Tucker learned to see animals through other people’s eyes.
"So, with the creatures that I paint for my gallery work now, I really pay attention to what makes the animal appealing to the viewer, so they are attracted to it, rather than repelled by it," he said. "That’s the challenge, and I enjoy it, because each work has to be different than what I did before and it has to be appealing."
Tucker’s method worked on Don Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Fine Art and Exotics.
"I saw Ezra’s work in a magazine and was really attracted to it," Hoffman said. "Lots of times I don’t know why I’m attracted to something, but I’ve been doing this for 50 years, and have developed a good eye for art."
Hoffman noticed Tucker’s works in other magazines.
"That told me that more than one person liked his works," he said. "So, I called him and found he was looking for another gallery."
Ezra Tucker’s animal acrylics can be found at Hoffman Fine Art and Exotics, 1678 Redstone Center Dr. at Kimball Junction. For more information about Hoffman Fine Art, visit http://www.hoffmansfineart.com. For more information about Ezra Tucker, visit http://www.ezratucker.com.
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