A Big Ol' Bear

A Big Ol' Bear
A Big Ol' Bear

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Journey to the Katmai

 Early in the morning last Wednesday I arrived at the float plane airport of Lake Hood in Anchorage. That is where I climbed into the co-pilot seat of a De Havilland, Beaver that was built in the early 1950's. The pilot was a seasoned bush pilot called, 'Hennie". The seats behind us were taken by a pair of young lawyers from Miami, two women who were friends, one from Seattle, the other from Anchorage, and the back seat was occupied by an Israeli man who barely spoke English. We were all excited to get into the air.
We were off and over the city. Then we headed West, over the mudflats, ( light green strip in the photo above) and across Turnagain Arm.
Shortly we were across Turnagain Arm and flying over the boggy flatlands of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge.
We pointed the floatplane in the general direction of Mt. Iliamna as we headed across Cook Inlet.
On the way we passed Mt. Redoubt, an active volcano that frequently coats Anchorage in a layer of ash.
A little over an hour later and we were getting close to Ilamna, which is also an active volcano.
The light brown color in the center of this photo is evidence of a recent lava flow.
Soon we were passing by Ilamna and headed into an immensity of wilderness.
There was no evidence that humans had ever traversed this grand landscape. The pristine mountains went on forever.
We stayed close to Cook Inlet, and its deep blue waters.
You cannot help but wonder about what lies hidden within the folds of these rugged  mountains? I could not tell where the boundaries of Katmai National Park began, or who owned the surrounding lands?
The pilot was not lost as we turned inland, away from Cook Inlet, and reassured us that soon enough, we would be arriving  at our destination. Did we dare to set down anywhere in this inhospitable land?
After about three and a half hours the rugged mountains receded and we could see our touch down point, Naknek Lake.
You will have to wait until the next post to see what we were doing at Naknek Lake. We were not there to fish even though the fishing there is considered to be world class.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Solitary Day

Today is another wasted Saturday where I should be doing something fun but I'm sitting around the house instead. I am even skipping a big BBQ that I was invited to. Sometimes it's just too much trouble to be sociable. I had a bowl of soup for lunch instead of the abundance of good food that I could have gotten at the BBQ.
Anyway I managed to finish, (tentatively) the Solitary Sandpiper painting that I have been working on. Not my best work; not by a long shot.
If you compare this post with the last post, you can see the many refinements that I made on the painting.
The painting is 11x14", and called, A Solitary Day.
I will fill up the rest of this post with photos of some paintings that were recently returned by an art gallery because they did not sell. I have been looking at these paintings with a critical eye to see if there is something I could do to make these paintings look better.
This Snowy Owl painting is 11x14". The only real improvement that I could make would be to either make the foreground grasses taller, or remove them altogether. I will think about it some more.
A 14x11" painting of, Black-headed Parrots. The original painting actually has a darker background color than the photo indicates. There are many changes that I can make, but I question whether any of them will actually improve the painting. Tropical subjects are not popular compared to more familiar North American wildlife. That is too bad. I would love to paint more tropical scenes.
Traditionally, Elk have always been one the most popular of subject matter. I have sold many Elk paintings that were far worse than this. I just need to make some structural changes to the Elk's body. This painting is, 16x20", called Thick Timber Elk.
This painting is my favorite of the bunch. I cannot see anything wrong with it. Cool Cat, 16x20". If I do anything to it, I will add more moss encrusted branches in the foreground.
Now I am getting ready to depart for my big Summer adventure. If everything goes according to plan, my next few posts ought to be more interesting than normal.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Solitary Progress

If you remember my last blog post, this is where I left off from the painting that I am currently working on; even if it is at a near geological pace.
This Short-billed Dowitcher is one of the main sources of inspiration for the painting. I like the setting and the lighting of it.
The pose of the Solitary Sandpiper in the painting is based upon this photo.
Here is as I have gotten on it so far. As you can see, this painting still requires a great deal of refinement and definition. Both on the bird and in the grasses. But at least it looks like something now.
 For one thing, the bird's eye needs to be bigger and the barring of the bird's pattern needs to be enhanced. I am not discouraged; I believe that I have overcome the biggest obstacles that I am likely to encounter with this painting. There are many flourishes that I still want to add to the composition, especially in the foreground.
A detail photograph. There are many other things going on in my life this Summer so it might take me awhile to finish this painting.
 I have sold many paintings lately and I am lagging way behind in my efforts to rebuild my inventory. This has been a good Summer so far. Even the weather has been exceptional.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Some Recent Happenings

One of my co-workers showed me where a pair of Merlins was nesting near his home. The nest was well hidden but I got a few mediochre shots of an adult against a bright, volcanic ash filled sky.
The distant volcano has since calmed down and we have no more ash to contend with. I believe that this is the female, but who knows?
The Arctic Terns are still at Westchester and various other places around town.
Seriously elegant birds.
A simple portrait of a Red-necked Grebe.
For about the last month or so I have been experiencing one of my frequent creative dry spells. I took one of my old paintings, 'Otter Lake Trumpeter',18x24", that sat unsold in a gallery, and decided to remodel it.
I had a few ideas for changes to make. First I thickened the neck a tad. Then I put in some atmosphere to create mood. That part did not improve it. I intended to add tall grasses in the foreground that will partially overlap the swan.
Before I got to that, I got burned out on this painting and decided to set it aside for awhile.
A detail shot of the head.
Last Wednesday I had the urge to paint something else. I got an idea for a Solitary Sandpiper. This is as far as I have gotten on it so far. I know that it does not look like much, but it actually is proceeding well. I have the advantage of knowing what the painting is intended to look like. You can only see these foundational layers to judge it by.
The head that I sketched before applying paint.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Beauties From Southeast Arizona

All of the photos on this post were taken by Maggie who lives in Tucson. This Red-faced Warbler was on Mt. Lemmon, which is a Sky Island above the desert city of Tucson.
Red-faced Warblers are different from most other species of warblers because they nest on the ground. This photo reminds me of an experience involving Red-faced Warblers that I had on the slopes of Volcan de Fuego in the Mexican state of Colima. I was with Scott and Jean and we saw some Red-faced Warblers in a small ravine. There were Painted Redstarts with them which occupy similar habitats. We also saw a red breasted, Slate-throated Redstart with them. (incredible bird)
A little further up we saw the near mythical Red Warblers on the same day. Four of the most beautiful of all warbler species right in the same area. I remember asking myself which of the four was the most beautiful?
In my mind, the Painted Redstarts take the prize; not only for their looks, but also for their magical dance. They must be seen to be believed.
Another warbler from Mt. Lemmon, the Black-throated Gray Warbler.
Like the Red-faced Warbler, the Yellow-eyed Junco has a restricted range north of the border. Only occurring on the Sky Islands, (isolated mountains surrounded by desert) of Southeastern Arizona.
Going back down to the desert; the rest of the photos of this post were shot by Maggie in Sabino Canyon outside of Tucson. This is a Black-necked Garter Snake. 
An adult female, Desert spiny Lizard.
This is a younger version of the photo above. Just look at those beautiful scales.
A big male, Desert Spiny Lizard.  These guys can display some incredible colors in the right conditions.
See what I mean? This is a pair of Desert Spiny Lizards. They belong to a large family of New World lizards, (sceloporus) also called fence lizards or swifts. They are known colloquially as 'blue-bellies'. Not all species have blue bellies, some have, pink, orange, or yellow bellies. Spiny Lizards are the largest of the bunch.
Another interesting lizard, Greater Earless Lizard. That's right, no ears. just incredible speed. It also has a strikingly marked underside.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Meeting the Master

A few weeks ago I was on the coastal trail with Chris and Betty looking for a Red Knot that had been reported. Another birder told us that Lars Jonsson was sketching a Short-billed Dowitcher at the slough next to Westchester Lagoon. Both Chris and Betty knew who Lars Jonsson was, but he was not one of their heroes like he is one of my heroes. I have admired his artwork for many years. 
I was very impatient to get over there before he left.
Lars Jonsson is a very well respected Wildlife Artist from Sweden. He is greatly admired in the wildlife art world for his talent at sketching and painting, (watercolors) birds from life. He has illustrated bird guides and many magazine articles etc. He is most famous for his superb book, 'Paintings From a Near Horizon'.
There he was sketching a bird right in front of me. I was thrilled.
I have sketched wildlife and scenery from life before but it is not my usual method of working. It was so fascinating to watch one of the best at work.
He was very methodical, observing the bird in the spotting scope for 10 or 20 seconds, then sketching for a similar amount of time. He was willing to chat with us while he worked.
The Short-billed Dowitcher that was the subject of his sketches.
He did not hesitate to use an eraser as much as a pencil and he made little notes as well.
 I wanted to hang around him like a stray puppy dog but we still needed to find the\Red Knot and I did not want to pester the man with endless questions.
We did find the Red Knot; too far away for photos so I'll include photos of some of the other things we saw like this, Green-winged Teal.
I am not sure whether this is a Greater, or Lesser Scaup.
I am pretty sure that these are Lesser Scaup although Greater Scaup tend to far outnumber the Lessers around here.
A nice look at a male, Gadwall.
The mama Mallards are towing around a bunch of eagle snacks these days.
There is a nesting pair of Bald Eagles at Westchester Lagoon and it is thrilling to watch them snatch a baby duck or gull chick every so often. The adult birds try to mob the eagles when they fly past but their efforts are ineffective. The duck broods gradually shrink in number as the season progresses.