Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Friday, August 28, 2009

Salmon, Mushrooms, N' Such.

These are Spruce Grouse. The hen, and a few of her brood. There were five in all that I saw standing in the road.

The Spruce Hen.

Not many people know that Alaska is a mushroom paradise. They are everywhere in the late summer. I'm too lazy to try to look up what kind of mushrooms these are. I just like the looks of them.

The following, and preceding, photos were recently shot at Goose Creek, between Willow, and Talkeetna, in Alaska.

Spawned out Pink Salmon, still wanting to display to each other.

This Pink Salmon still has quite a bit of life, left in it.

A rotting Pink Salmon. Still alive, like a zombie salmon.

Dead Pink Salmon along the shore. At this time of year, the whole creek stinks with the stench of decomposing salmon.

Compare this 8x10" Pintail Hen with the subject of the, Paint by Numbers, post. It was inspired by the same photo. This time I have set it near the mouth of Chester Creek, which is one of the best places to see waterfowl in the Anchorage area. I first painted this in 2004, but it never sold, and did'nt look quite right. Today I re-worked the water behind, and in front of the duck. Now it looks much better.

Above the Salt River, 16x20"

I'm kind of proud of this one. It is set in the Salt River Canyon in Arizona. I spent a lot of time exploring that place when I was younger. My home for 19 years was about 100 miles away. The Salt River Canyon is a smaller version of the Grand Canyon. The difference is that there is a highway running through it.

One of the main reasons for this post is to write about Artists for Conservation. It is a prestigeous, non-profit organization that promotes both conservation causes, and nature artists. I have wanted to be a part of them for years, but was too intimidated to approach them.

Finally I submitted some of my artwork to them, and was overjoyed to be asked to join their ranks. The best of the best artists are part of this organization. Please visit their website, and look over my little pages, alongside the great ones. It's http://www.natureartists.com/

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Painting is Hard.

When I was younger and had more youthful enthusiasm, I would frequently be awakened by some brilliant idea for a new painting. I lost a lot of sleep, working like a madman to paint the next masterpiece. Now I have painted about all the great things I ever invisioned. Nowadays I get more sleep.
Most of the ideas that fired my imagination lost their magic once they were actually painted. Sometimes I painted way above my skill level, and could'nt believe that I had actually done it. Several days ago, a really great image woke me from my sleep. It was a strongly atmospheric image of a backlit, female Red-winged Blackbird. I was sure it was going to be one of my finest paintings, and I could'nt wait to get started on it. Just like the old days.

This is the quick sketch I made right after the image popped into my head. I dont have any photos of female Red-winged Blackbirds but I felt a sparrow would work just as well. Sparrows have long been one of my favorite subjects to paint. Not that I like sparrows more than other birds, I thinks their subtle patterns are interesting to paint.

This is the photo I decided to use for the painting. It's a photo of a photo. That's why it looks so bad. It's a White-crowned Sparrow that I photographed above Eagle River.

I usually dont bother to make a preliminary sketch.

A simple line drawing.

The first layer of paint is a warm undertone that will mostly be obscured by subsequent layers.

The background has been built up some more.

I put in some indistinct branches.

I have toned down the branches by adding a glaze using the same colors as the background.

I put in some soft grasses.

Muted leaves have been inserted behind the bird.
The basic colors have been blocked in

Further refinements on the sparrow.

More details added.

The bird progresses.

The sparrow is finished. There's only the twig, and feet left to paint.

Completed painting, White-crown, 12x16"

Sparrow up close.
I had such high hopes for this one. I sketched it out, and thought it through ahead of time. Even though I carefully painted this one, I'm disappointed that it did'nt turn out better. One consolation is that the painting itself looks much better than the photographs above. It just does not look like the image in my head.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Duck Stamp Time.

It's getting close to the deadline to enter the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. That is the contest to choose the design that will be on next year's Duck Stamp, which hunters must purchase before hunting ducks in the fall. It's known as the richest art contest in the world because there is a demand for prints, and other products using the design. Once upon a time, winning the contest netted the artist over a million dollars. Apparently times have changed but the contest can really bolster an artist's place in the hierarchy of Wildlife Artists. I forgot how many times I have entered the contest, and never got higher than 6th place. It's been a number of years since I've entered. Not that I have'nt done designs, I just did'nt enter them because I realistically knew they had no chance of winning. Many of my entries were better than the winning entries in my opinion, but the judges have different parameters for judging than I do.
I used this duck because I liked it's pose, even though it's either a hen, or imm. male Widgeon, going through it's annual moult. I took this photo, (originally a slide, made into a print, then photographed with a digital camera.) at Potter Marsh, at the same place I photographed the Pintail in the Paint by Numbers Post.

Another photo of a photo of a photo. A drake American Widgeon at Spenard Crossing in Anchorage.

The finished design. A drake American Widgeon.

So I'm not sure if I'll send this design in. The competition is daunting, and it costs $125.oo to enter. I have til Saturday, August 15th to decide whether my painting really has a shot of winning. There are no runners up in this contest. I almost forgot to mention that you can see more of my art, as well as the work of other accomplished artists at a great online art gallery, www.traditionsfineart.com.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Creepy Crawlies of Peru

i'm still just a big kid, and I have always loved spiders and snakes. So I pay attention to all the little critters wherever I go. It's too bad that there are no reptiles in Alaska where I live. Just one small frog, Wood Frog. These are some of the most interesting things I got to see in Peru this Jan. and Feb.
This is the only reptile I found outside of the Amazon Basin. It was about 8 " long, and lived in the barren desert of Paracas Nat. Park.
A fisherman caught this Anaconda in his net, and brought it by the lodge on the Cumaceba River, I forget the name of it, to show the tourists.

I think this was a male Anaconda, very unfriendly.

Some kind of Amieva, very common everywhere in that part of the Amazon.

A huge Cicada that has just emerged from it's larval stage. Notice the termites on the right. This Cicada was about 4 inches long.

There was a pair of these treefrogs living in my bathroom in the lodge on the Cumaceba River.

Smokey Jungle Frog. This is about the biggest frog I have ever seen.

Fishing Spider? The lodge on the Cumaceba River was set amid flooded Varzea forest. I have never seen so many spiders, and bats in my life. We explored the jungle by canoe. As we pushed through the thick vegetation, we disturbed thousands of spiders. It was impossible to keep the many spiders and ants from crawling all over us. The spiders did'nt bite, but my eyes stung from all the formic acid that the ants released whenever I brushed them from my face.

The tree trunks on the Cumaceba River were the home territories of many large, beautiful, and tractable, Pink-toed Tarantulas.

My guide Lenin with a huge Tail-less Whip Scorpion. Completely harmless.

We explored the flooded forest at night to find baby Spectacled Caimans. It was eerie moving amoung the twisted tree trunks by canoe. There were huge numbers of bats, and flying insects. Spiders all over us. The guide up front, kept getting stung by huge wasps. He doubled up in pain after every bite. I was relieved to get back to the lodge, although there was no shortage of critters inside the lodge. At least we had tight fitting mosquito nets over the beds.

A small caiman, sunning on a log at Laguna Quistacocha.

mystery mammal in the flooded forest.

The ubiquitous Leaf-cutter Ants.

Millipede, ugly but harmless.

A large Walking Stick.

I visited a small, isolated village on the Cumaceba River. This Fer De Lance was crawling through the middle of the village in broad daylight. This is unusual behavior for a nocturnal snake. Fer De Lance's are responsible for more human fatalities in South America, than all other snakes combined. The villagers were completely unconcerned about the viper.

This guy was not the least bit pugnacious, but many snakes change their personality after dark.

Several of these things are species I am not familiar with. If you know the names of any of these that are not already named, I would appreciate any information you may have about them. Thanks for looking.