Tag Archives: Zebra

Continuous Line Zebra

I visited Yorkshire Wildlife Park in June 2014, along with fellow members of the Association of Animal Artists.  It was an introduction viewing of the animals to be followed up by an Exhibition of our paintings which took place at the Park on Saturday 26 July.  Tigers, Lions, a Leopard and the Zebras were particularly impressive in their large enclosures. 

I have aways been keen to draw a Zebra in my style but the stripes are such a strong feature that I could not work out a way of doing the animal justice with my crossover continuous lines.  Of course I had seen prints of Victor Vasarely intertwined Zebras, done before the war, which helped kick start Optical Art.

Zeus, 5 year old stallion Zebra at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Zeus, 5 year old stallion Zebra at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Here is my photo of Zeus, a 5 year old stallion Zebra (with a brown nose). 






I decided that I could use a continuous line, without any crossovers, to follow the pattern of the stripes as far as possible.  As the background of my picture is white, the gaps in the lines around black stripes allow the white to flow through and become white stripes.



Zeus, Zebra at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

Zeus, single continuous line drawing of Zebra at Yorkshire Wildlife Park


Of course I like to have a separate picture of the continuous line drawing without any shading  or colour and I considered calling this version “Albino Zebra”.  However, on searching this phrase on Google it turns out that there is only one albino Zebra in captivity in the world and that is in Hawaii (and this is not really an albino but a White Golden Zebra with a lack of pigment in its stripes).  In the wild the stripes are pretty essential for camouflage and “albinos” do not survive for long.  The Hawaii Zebra is a female called Zoe and so is smaller (and a bit scruffier) than Zeus.  I therefore had to do a specific continuous line drawing of Zoe with a faint slate colouring.

Zoe, albino Zebra, Three Ring Ranch, Hawaii

Zoe, albino Zebra, Three Ring Ranch, Hawaii.  Mick Burton single continuous line drawing.

Black and White Alternate Shading

010. 1966-9. Cat, or Ragamuffin. Alternate shade, black. Whilst doodling at work (I was articled to a Chartered Accountant) I was already using alternate shading on some drawings.   I realised that if you initially shaded one outer area on a continuous line drawing, and then worked alternately through the doodle, all outside areas became shaded.   Bridget Riley’s Optical Art (or Op Art) in black and white, with its shimmering effect, suddenly appeared in the early 1960’s.   I started black alternate shading on some of my new figurative drawings.   I now realise that most of Op Art was abstract to make the most of the effect, whereas I was doing animals, people and landscapes.

My Lion in particular produced its own shimmering effect.
016. 1967-9. Lion. Alternate shading, black.















To extend the scope of my continuous line drawings, along with the alternate shading, I had a go at a landscape based upon the countryside where I grew up near Ripon and called it Skelldale.   I could walk along the banks of the River Skell upstream to Fountains Abbey.

006. 1966-7. River, Skelldale. Alternate shading, black.

An exception to the abstraction in Op Art was Zebras (in 1937) by Victor Vaserely, in which he used the black and white stripes of intertwined zebras, and it was one of the very first Op Art pictures.   He then became largely abstract in the 1950’s.   He was unknown to me until several years after I started in 1965.

This was In about 1971 when I walked past Christies Auction house in London, when taking my pictures to an exhibitions agent, and I saw through a window some black and white abstract drawings which had a similarity to mine.   I went in and was amazed at the variety of drawings, so many having aspects which I had experimented with.   The lowest estimate was £14 and I considered leaving a bid, but I decided that it was a lot of money (then) and that I had similar ones at home (stupid boy).   A week or so later I read in the newspaper that Vaserely had been selected to design the emblem for the next Olympic Games (1974).   I should have left that bid !