Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Way to Hope

 If you drive from my house in Eagle River, to the picturesque little, hamlet of Hope on the Kenai Penninsula, you will pass several nesting Trumpeter Swans. At least in the summer months. Most of them can be seen, (with luck) around the Portage area, at the end of Turnagain Arm.
Trumpeter Swans were once near extinction, but are a conservation success story, and their numbers are on the rebound. They are a common sight in this part of Alaska.

I finished this painting this afternoon. It progressed along smoothly, and there were no major snags associated with it. The painting's title, The Way to Hope, 16x20",has two meanings. First, you can see them on the way to Hope, and their recovery gives one hope for other species in need of protection.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lair of the Skunk Bear

Sometimes I spend more time trying to decide what to paint, as I do painting it. This time I set out to paint a Spruce Grouse. They have a complex pattern that makes their plummage very cryptic. This is what I like to paint. I selected some nice reference photos of grouse, and habitat photos, all taken this past summer at Goose Creek.
Then I sketched it all out on a 16x20" gessoboard. All well and good, just boring to look at. I set the drawing aside and gathered photos of Bohemian Waxwings. They are strikingly beautiful, and I have numerous photos of them. Mostly I shot the photos in the Mountain Ash trees growing alongside my driveway. I made a nice sketch on another 16x20" gessoboard... boring.
Next I erased the grouse sketch, and started playing with ideas for a wolverine painting. A friend of mine, Bart Quimby, took some decent photos of a wolverine, as it clambered over the rocks, high in the Chugach Mountains. He gave me permission to use his photos however I wished to do so. I also amassed some additional habitat photos that I have taken in the Chugach Mountains.
In no time I had a sketch on the 16x20" gessoboard that originally was a Spruce Grouse. This was not so boring.
The first part of the painting came off without a hitch. It went smoothly, and very rapidly. I got very enthusiastic about this painting. There were  a few minor problems, painting the wolverine itself, but I soon worked them out to my satisfaction. The rocks in front of the wolverine just did not look as good as the rest of the painting. I re-worked them a few times, and then just added some Birch limbs in front of them. Good enough.
Lair of the Skunk Bear, 16x20" This photo does not do the painting justice. It does replicate the colors fairly well. I also photographed the painting in different light. only the close-up photo came out well.This photo shows the painting  better than the first photo, but the rocks in the painting are not this color. All in all, I am happy with this painting. Given time, I will grow to hate it because I invariably hate all my paintings. Although some hold up better than others. It's the thrill I get while I am planning, and painting that gives me a sense of well being. Not so much the finished product. This one gave me a thrill.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Being Green

One of the blogs I follow, Wild Australian Art, by Peter Brown, inspired this painting. He is working on a painting of a Reef Egret called, Launch. It was the addition of the branch to that great painting, that reminded me of a photo I shot in Nayarit, Mexico, years ago.
This branch looks nothing like Peter's branch. I have no idea why this photo jumped into my mind. All I knew was that I wanted to paint it.
 However I was not real enthusiastic about including the White Ibis. So the search for a suitable subject to place on the branch began. I sorted through my photographic files from Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand, and Cambodia. I considered various raptors, parrots, trogons, bee-eaters, and wading birds of many species. They all seemed to be good subjects to paint, but I have painted so many birds lately.
Then I decided to try adding a cat of some kind. That would have worked just fine, but it's so cliche. Then I thought about doing a painting of a monkey. I have good photos of many species of monkeys, and I don't remember ever painting a monkey. For whatever reason I could not get enthusiastic about the idea.
I love reptiles, and have many, many photos of them. I looked over photos of Boa Constrictors, and I even drew in an iguana. Instead I settled on a male Green Basilisk.This is a lizard I photographed at Cano Negro, near the Nicaraguan border in northern Costa Rica. They are locally known as Jesus Christ Lizards  because of their habit of running across the surface of the water. They always hang out on branches overhanging the water. To escape danger, they rise up on their hind legs, and sprint across the water's surface. I have seen them run across wide rivers in a split second. They are beyond cool.So this is what I came up with. Being Green 12x24"Yet another painting that will probably never sell. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed painting this one. I did sell a small painting last night. A Red-backed Vole, (mouse), amoung fallen leaves.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tropical Stuff

Last night brought the first smattering of snow for the season. With the coming of the endless Alaskan winter, my thoughts invariably turn south.
Almost every year I escape the coldest, darkest part of winter by travelling to some exotic location. This year it will be South Africa, but that wont be until the end of January. That means I have to endure the brunt of the nasty. At least it is beautiful.
Over the years I have accumulated an immense collection of tropical reference photos. They make compelling subject matter for paintings. I have become very familiar with certain tropical habitats, and wildlife.
The problem is that most art galleries in Alaska want only Alaska subjects. That means endless paintings of bears, wolves, eagles, and moose etc. Most art buyers want some memento of theit Alaskan adventure. A bear symbolizes Alaska better than anything else. That is why I have painted hundreds of them, and I want to cry everytime I'm about to start a new one. Once I'm into the process it's not so bad.
Ocassionally I just have to paint a tropical subject. These paintings are very hard to sell. I'm hoping that the internet will one day become a steady marketplace for selling these things. I would paint many, many more of them if I could sell them.
The reason I am posting this so soon after my last entry is because I am bored, and it's a way to set up my next blog post which will be a new tropical painting. The following are a few old paintings. Most of which have still never sold, and never get displayed anywhere.
Laughing Falcon, 16x12" This painting is set at the Fortuna Waterfall, near the Arenal Volcano.
This is my favorite part of Costs Rica. Too bad so many other tourists have discovered the place also.
Another Costa Rican subject. Speckled Tanager, 12x16" This painting is set on the property of Alexander Skutch. He was the pioneering ornithologist, and author of the Neotropics. He died at age 100. I had the priveledge of meeting him twice, and getting him to sign his field guide for me.Chestnut-crowned Antpitta. 10x8" These birds occur near Mindo, in Ecuador. The Mindo cloud forest is as good a birding destination as anyplace on earth. Another Ecuadorian bird that is found around Mindo, is the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan. 11x14"

The White-throated Toucan, 12x9", occurs in the Ecuarorian Amazon.Also found in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Black-headed Parrots, 14x11"Ocelots are another Neotrpical inhabitant. 8x10"The big cat, Jaguar, 9x12". I have only found their tracks. One day I hope to be fortunate enough to see the living cat in the wild.
Painted Mud, 12x9" These Macaws, and parrots visit a clay lick in the Ecuadorian Amazon. How is it that this painting has never sold? What the hell is wrong with people?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Another Bad Painting

The problem is that I'm lazy, and I dont take the time to properly plan out a painting. I just get up in the morning, eat some breakfast, and sit down to paint. It's a mindless habit. That's how I get mediochre results like this painting. Last summer I photographed a Spotted Sandpiper on the banks of Goose Creek.
I liked this photo, but the light was very flat. The overall composition, with the vertical stalks of grass seemed intersting to me.
                               This is the pose that I liked the most.

In the photos, the rocks compete too much with the Spotted Sandpiper, so I decided to darken the rocks behind the bird. Now I'm not so sure that was a wise decision. The grass hardly shows against the background rocks. Worst of all, the overall painting looks flat, and gloomy.

This is a close-up of the sandpiper. The painting is 14x11" I' think it's really boring, and beneath the level of artwork that I should be doing at this point in my career. Now that I've set the bar so low, the next painting is bound to be better. Ho hum.