This etcher is wild at art

Rudy Droguett has risked his life for the love of his art.

The artist, who is in his 70s, has traveled to Africa twice to take pictures of wild animals, which he later uses as subjects in his scratchboard etchings. He's come close to losing his life, he said.

During one trip to Kenya, the vehicle he was riding in had a flat tire. There was a lion lying under a tree nearby watching the entourage. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, Droguett got out of the vehicle to take a picture.

The ranger told him to get back inside because the lion's ears were back and his tail was moving side to side.

"He was tense," Droguett said. "But I still got a beautiful photograph of him."

Another time, he was charged by an elephant. The elephant had often hung around the cooking area of a safari group. But he must have suffered a trauma because he started to become aggressive, Droguett said. The cooks would throw rocks at him to get him to leave, he said.

"I was standing outside the tented area with the camera over my neck and he came charging at me," Droguett said. "I clicked his picture, jumped into the tent and he stopped, thinking it was a wall."

While most people would have been scared to death, the incident gave this artist a rush, he said.

"The adrenalin ? I loved it," the North Hollywood resident said. "Fabulous. I got the shot of him as he was coming toward me."

Droguett, who said he favors animals as subjects for his work, uses several photographs with different perspectives of an animal to create one etching, he said.

His work is on display until June 22 at the Creative Arts Center Gallery in Burbank.

The 14 originals in the display are amazing to see, said Gallery Director Frances Santistevan, of Glendale.

"They are so lifelike, they look like photographs," she said.

The process begins with the artist first drawing a light pencil outline on a white matte board that is treated with a thin layer of a white chalky substance and then a thin layer of black dye. The artist etches the subject with a fine blade.

Droguett was introduced to scratchboard art, a method discovered during the 1800s, while attending Pratt Institute in New York.

"I never had the chance to try it," he said. "After years of painting, I taught myself."

He went to the library and checked out black-and-white magazines to get his mind thinking in the reverse.

The first picture he attempted in scratchboard was of a cat, and using animals as his subjects has stuck with him, he said.

"I stayed with it because of the challenge," he said. "I love animals and to do fur with this medium is fantastic."

Some people have contracted him to do their pets. One of his customers bought an eagle at the opening reception of the Burbank show, he said.

She told him she was very impressed that he was able to get the beak so realistic, he said.

"It makes me feel good because I really try to get it perfect," he said.

Along with his scratchboard pieces, he is showing two large abstracts in oil and 12 abstracts in watercolor.

He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960s and worked as a commercial artist. Since then he has created and sold originals and prints of his scratchboard art.

In the last few years he has participated in art shows in most of the Western states and has won numerous Best of Show awards. His work has been represented in galleries in Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, San Francisco and Hawaii.

FYI

WHAT: The Rudy Droguett Fine Art Exhibit 2006, featuring scratchboard works and abstract paintings

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. Call for Saturday hours. The show ends June 22.

WHERE: City of Burbank Creative Arts Center Gallery, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank.

ADMISSION: Free

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