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This etcher is wild at art

June 07, 2006|By Joyce Rudolph

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.

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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.

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