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Nova Scotia artist captures subtle detail in wildlife portraits

Quinlan Smith’s graphite drawings of wildlife capture subtle details in the faces of animals, especially around the eyes.
Quinlan Smith’s graphite drawings of wildlife capture subtle details in the faces of animals, especially around the eyes. - Contributed

A Nova Scotia artist with a Valley connection has a reputation for heart-warming, life-like pencil drawings of wildlife. Quinlan Smith was born in Kentville and grew up in the Valley town before moving to Ontario to pursue and education in advertising and graphic design. His life-long passion, however, is combining his graphic arts and design skills with capturing the subtlest details of an animal’s face. Especially the eyes.

“I have definitely always been more interested in art than probably anything else,” Smith said in a recent interview.

“I always knew that I was going to do something with either computers or with art, and hopefully with both together.”

“I loved every new school year that meant a new box of crayons as a child,” he remembers.

However, he decided to focus his attention on fine art when he entered West Kings High School.

“I was in grade 10 when I took art in high school and realized that I enjoyed that. I remember not being very good at painting and finding it very frustrating. I decided It's not for me. I'd rather be drawing with a pencil because mixing colours was not for me at all. I remember trying to learn how to use watercolours and swearing I would never do that again in my life."

Smith eventually graduated from NSCC in Halifax with diplomas in digital imaging and photography. After graduation, he worked in photography for a while.

Then, he rekindled his passion for drawing when he wanted to create a gift for his mother.

Nova Scotia Artist Quinlan Smith began focusing his attention on animal portraiture after drawing this English Springer Spaniel for his mother.
Nova Scotia Artist Quinlan Smith began focusing his attention on animal portraiture after drawing this English Springer Spaniel for his mother.

"She has English Springer Spaniels. So, I wanted to draw one for her. I drew one and thought, 'Wow! I'm actually pretty ok at doing this.'"

He put that drawing on Facebook and soon had a couple of people interested in him drawing an animal for them, mostly in the form of pet portraits.

“Then, I always loved owls, so I drew an owl. And, I loved how that turned out even though it was a lot more work than drawing a dog. So, I started drawing other things than just people’s pets.”

In 2016, Smith entered an art show at Argyle Fine Art, drawing owls and crows. His work sold quickly after opening.

Over the years, Smith has settled on drawing with pencil has his preferred medium.

"I Work from a photograph made black and white in photoshop so I can see all the tone values of the different grays. That's important for me to be able to see because I don't draw in colour. I only draw in graphite.

Then, I sit in front of my computer and draw as much as I can by hand on a sketch pad, in one sitting.”

He hopes to draw more people in the future. However, he has continued to focus mainly on animals.

“I’ve tried to draw people a few times. And I don’t like it as much as I like drawing animals. You can’t really hide flaws in the drawing when you are drawing a person because they have skin rather than fur or feathers.”

Smith’s animal portraits capture even the smallest details, especially around the eyes.

“I always start with the eyes. Once they are done to my satisfaction, I feel like I owe it to the eyes to make the rest of the picture just as intricate, detailed and beautiful, to bring the rest of the animal to life.”

Quinn Smith’s drawings often capture the personality of the animal in the subtle detail.

“When I know the backstory of the animal or when I have met the animal, then I know their personality a bit more, so I can put that into the drawing a little bit better,” he said.

“Generally, when I finish, I feel relief that it’s done and I say to myself, 'That looks so great. Why don’t I do this more often?'"

You can find his fine art at @QRS.art on Instagram, as well as Facebook.

[email protected]

This article appeared in the Valley Harvester.

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