Saturday Studio: Slithering Snakes & Romping Rabbits!

Alyssa Dumire, Director of Children’s Education

Happy birthday, Luis Jiménez! The sculptor and Scholastic Awards alumnus would have turned 81 yesterday, July 30. Let’s celebrate by looking at his print in FWMoA’s collection, Sidewinder.

A color lithograph of a sidewinder, a species of snake. The snake takes up the whole of the page, with it's head in darker hues of blue and purple moving down it's body into lighter hues of yellow, oranges, and reds and sprinkled with glitter.
Luis Jiménez, American, 1940-2006. Sidewinder. Color lithograph with glitter on paper, 1988. Museum purchase with funds provided by the McMurray Family Endowment, 2013.20. Image courtesy of Alyssa Dumire.

A brightly colored snake slithers across a blank background, leaving us to imagine its environment. Where might you find a snake like this? The rattle on its tail may signal to you that it belongs in the desert, and in fact, Jiménez drew much of his subject matter from the American Southwest and his Mexican heritage. Unlike its beige-y counterparts you hopefully won’t find in the wild, our rattlesnake is rendered in vibrant blue, yellow, orange, and pink with just a touch of glitter for good measure. Jiménez was best known for his large-scale sculpture, which, like this print, is full of bold color and movement.

Luis Jiménez was born in El Paso, Texas where his father owned an electric sign shop, so he had early exposure to sculptural materials, neon lights, and colorful spray paint. He received Scholastic Awards for his art as a high schooler in 1957 and 1958 before studying architecture at the University of Texas, Austin. At a time when minimalism reigned supreme, he was finding inspiration in lowrider car culture and began using fiberglass to craft his colorful sculptures, one of the first artists to do so. His work sometimes sparked controversy, but is found in public spaces and museum collections around the country.

In addition to sculpture, Jiménez created prints throughout his career and was clearly an adept draftsman. Sidewinder was made at the Segura Arts Studio in South Bend and is a lithograph, a printmaking process favored by many artists due to its autographic qualities–the fact that it closely and sensitively replicates the marks they draw. If you look closely at the snake, you’ll notice the slightly sketchy marks that almost appear to be drawn by a crayon, a hallmark of lithography. Here, they also add to the sense of slithering movement, while the layered marks suggest the snake’s scaly skin.

A close-up of Sidewinder.

What animal best represents the place you live? How does it move? Is your chosen animal furry, scaly, slimy, feathered, or some other texture? To evoke our animals’ textures, we’ll use a rubbing technique, known as frottage if you want to be fancy.

You’ll need:

  • Colored pencil sticks or crayons
  • Paper (2 sheets)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Optional: glitter and/or other embellishments

First, think about your animal’s texture. I chose a rabbit so I needed to find something that would look furry. Firmly hold a piece of paper against a textured surface, then rub using the side of a crayon (peel off the wrapper first) or colored pencil stick. It’s hard to know what a texture will look like until you try it, so do a few test rubbings with different surfaces you find around your house and yard. I tried wallpaper, the woven side of a bookshelf, a rough sidewalk, and a weathered fence (which worked quite well) before I found the winner…

Pine needles!

Once you decide on a surface, flip your paper over, or get a clean sheet if needed, and fill the whole page, changing colors if you like (your colors don’t need to be realistic).

Now, flip the paper over, and draw the outline of your animal with pencil, filling as much of the page as possible. Cut it out.

Flip again and place it on another piece of paper, making sure you’re using the page in an interesting way to emphasize your animal’s movement. Glue it down.

Now, draw in some details to help the animal stand out against the white background. I chose to outline mine in black like Jiménez. 

Finally, add any sparkle or other 3D elements–I didn’t have any glitter but my bunny got a sequin eye and a fluffy tail (made from a cut-up pom pom).

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