Untamed Pharmaceuticals


“Untamed Pharmaceuticals” 40hx30w oil

My post will be a not so brief explanation of how I composed the oil painting. Included are details or the painting and working drawings. I used the image of a tiger tamer, as a metaphor for battling a pharmaceutical industry that is guilty of predatory pricing and releasing highly addictive prescription drugs to the public. To turn the metaphor idea into a painting, I used a live drawing from a model, a study of a man in a Reuben’s painting, photo references, poetry, an oil study from life set up in my studio, and visual influences from an art exhibit I saw on Samoan tattoos.

The Man with the Tiger Tattoo

I chose this drawing from a live model to start thumbnails. His arm and hand on the green towel seemed strong visually to me.


I worked out various compositions with a tamer and whole tigers. They were too literal. One day I was doodling and thinking, tiger and tail and I came up with the tiger balloon in my sketchbook.


My sketchbook ideas morphed into the composition in the painting. I sized out my canvas based on the proportions of my preparatory sketch (below – notice it is a mess of cut out tracing paper ideas) and put down the drawing in charcoal on the canvas.


The life drawing has no detail on the man’s face. I knew I wanted him to have red hair (the model had reddish blonde hair) and some sideburn chops or some facial hair to make him tiger-like. I had just gotten a book on Rubens at a library book sale and found the head I was seeking, whiskers and all. Below is a study from my sketchbook from a painting called “The Four Philosophers” by Peter Paul Rubens. The profile if the man in my painting is more tiger-like.


If you’ve been reading my posts, I often mention that coincidence and me are pals. I couldn’t quite figure out the outfit of my tamer. I had an idea but couldn’t find reference photos. Oddly enough, I found references for the shirt, vest and armband in photos from an article about a drummer in my husband’s Modern Drummer magazine!

An exhibit I saw at the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles, CA, influenced the tattoo design. There were beautiful photographs the current day people of Samoa posing to show their tattoos. They were very intricate and also seemed in harmony with the shape of the body and underlying musculature. I hoped to emulate some of that in my tamer’s tattoo.


The purple teardrop earring is a memorial to singer and entertainer, Prince, who was battling chronic pain and became a victim of an accidental drug overdose.


Fearful Symmetry

“The Tyger”, by William Blake is the poem that inspired the artwork on the box. I had a good time arranging the words to look like an old poster. Poems are cool.


While working on the painting, I kept seeing tigers everywhere. Putting gas in my car, there is a small sticker of a tiger on the pump. Going to the post office, the new stamps are of wild animals, the featured one is a tiger. The background prop of a T.V. show I’m watching is a tiger poster. The most abstract tiger was an orange wine glass with tiger stripes at its base that was in the clearance section of a plant/ gift store I go to. Just the other day, (now that I’m done with the painting, but writing about it) I checked out a book from the library about a writer and flip to a photo of him standing next to a fake tiger. So far, I haven’t actually seen a tiger balloon, but you never know.


Predatory pricing, ballooning costs, holding a tiger by the tail, an addiction sneaking up on a person… images and phrasing that came to mind while painting.

The Symbolism of Water

First, I had to hunt for the right pitcher at my local thrift stores. When I got a pleasing “circus-like” pitcher (The decorations were a surprise, really) I set it up with the glass in my studio. It is way easier to paint what is in front of me, than to make things up.


To me the water has a double meaning: A symbol of purity or cleansing and a vehicle by which one takes to swallow dangerous prescription drugs. I guess that leaves the glass half full or half empty depending on your perception.

I’ve written enough, time for you to ponder. Maybe take an action. Vote. Read poems. Write letters. Create art. Hold a Tiger to your heart.





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