“Cheetahs are enigmatic and perhaps the most intriguing of all the big cats to me,” says artist Simon Combes of the subject of “First Light.” “My encounters with cheetahs have been like meeting a person who has poise, elegance, class, fleeting moments of warmth and yet tantalizingly aloof. The challenge of painting cheetahs is two-fold: firstly, the chest is so pronounced in comparison to the head that in certain positions the animal can look positively grotesque. Secondly, I am often stumped at portraying the cat’s mood . . . what is it thinking behind that mask of haughty distain? So serious, so intent, so reserved, does this animal ever relax and have fun?
This painting was as much an indulgence in design as it was an attempt to capture that magical, early-morning, golden mistiness surrounding the surreal silhouettes of distant arcadia trees. I loved the elegant, s-shaped line from the cheetah’s nose to the tip of its tail.”