Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, August 20, 2011


This all started with a visit to Palmer Hay Flats, a wildlife refuge about 35 miles from Anchorage. Pre 1964, the place was farmland where hay was harvested. During the big 8.9 earthquake of 64 the land dropped by about 4ft, and became too boggy for farming.
In a short time, waterfowl and shorebirds started utilizing the newly created habitat, so it was eventually turned into a refuge. Both Anchorage Audubon, and the Matsu Bird Club hold annual field trips there in the springtime at the height of migration. We see swans, 3 species of geese, numerous duck species, Sandhill Cranes, and various shorebirds. There are raptors like Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, Peregrines, Short-eared Owls and more. Passerines like Lapland Longspurs, redpolls, sparrows, etc.
I have used the photo above as a setting for several paintings. The best of them was a 24x48" canvas of Snow Geese that sold for a tidy sum. Unfortunately I have no digital photographs of that painting.

I do have a photo of this small 8x10" Caribou painting called Distance. It uses the same backdrop as the Snow Geese painting. It sold for a much more modest sum.
These White-fronted, and Canada Geese were at Spenard Crossing in the spring several years ago. Both species are also seen at the hayflats along with the Snow Geese.
A nice portrait of a Whitefront. They usually do not allow such close-up views.
In 2007 I painted this one, using the same backdrop. It took a lot of work to paint all these whitefronts, but I was never happy with the painting. Since I put so much work into the painting, I really wanted to find a way to make it look better.
First I decided that the bird's reflections did nothing for the painting so I made them go away by raising the hieght of the sedges. Then I put a pale wash over the background and geese. It's still not right.
Since I felt I had nothing to lose, I decided to be a little bolder with my washes. Not good. Oh well.
I'm tired of remodeling old paintings. Now I'm working on something new.
I'll end this post with a nice photo I shot in the field next to my place last fall. Maybe it will be the inspiration for a future painting.

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