Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Big Changes in a Week's Time

Last Thursday I went back to Spenard Crossing, Westchester and the Coastal Trail. There was plenty of ice, and only one Trumpeter Swan at Spenard Crossing.
There are at least three sub-species of Lesser Canada Geese that show up in Anchorage. Some are very small with very short necks. Some also have white rings around the base of their necks. You can see the size differences between these resting geese.

Today, (Thursday) was the warmest day of the year so far, 57f. I went back to the same places that I went to last week. Stuff was melting rapidly. The photo above shows the rotting ice around Fish Creek. The ice turns dirty brown as it melts because dust and soot trapped in the snow and ice over the course of the Winter gets concentrated in the shrinking ice. It was still mostly white last week.
The snow and ice was gone from parts of the mud flats, and there were lots of geese feeding there.
Amoung the new arrivals was a pair of Sandhill Cranes on the mud flats. They are one of the most highly anticipated species along the coastal trail.
These cranes were in a different part of the mud flats than where I usually see them. They were close to the trail and in good light until some fools let their dogs run loose. I was not happy. This is a wildlife refuge where dogs are supposed to be on leashes.
Meanwhile at Spenard Crossing, nearly all of the ice was gone. Along with the Common Goldeneyes, there were a few pairs of Barrow's Goldeneyes the male above. Shovelers and Buffleheads were other new arrivals.

A sleeping Red-necked Grebe.
The Bald Eagle was back in it's customary tree near Westchester Lagoon. All is right with the world.
I usually ignore Black-capped Chickadees but migratory passerines have'nt arrived yet so there's not many small birds to photograph.
They are a bit challenging to photograph when they are not visiting a bird feeder.
Greater Yellowlegs, 8x10". I first painted this in 1999. Over the years I sent it to two different art galleries and placed it in numerous art shows. It never sold. Darn it, this is a good painting and it does'nt deserve to be painted over.
A few days ago I added the grass in the foreground and updated  the year next to my signature.
The only shore birds I saw today were a few Greater Yellowlegs. The main push of shorebirds will be here in about another week. I can hardly wait.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pika n' Stuff

The latest painting, Collared Pika, 8x10". There are two species of pika that I know about in North America, and other species in Europe. A cute painting but a little boring.
This photo I shot a few years ago at Independence Mine near Hatcher Pass, is the only reference photo that I used for the painting.
This is the only other pika painting that I can remember doing. It is also 8x10", and based on a different photo of the same pika from Independence Mine. It languished in a gallery for a few years until they sent it back. Oh well. I like it too much to paint over it.
To flesh out this post a little more, I'll add photos of some more old paintings. This is a 16x20", Trumpeter Swan painting. I hate the gnarled trunk in the foreground. I sold the painting anyway.
American Dipper, 16x20". I think that this is the only dipper I have painted. I like it well enough, although it is a strange composition. I'm glad that also it sold.
Another painting that sold easily. It's a 6x4" Rock Ptarmigan. I know that I should do more miniatures like this.
This was an odd sized comission for a retired couple who were leaving Alaska. They seemed pleased with the painting. Not so sure that I am.
12x16", Speckled Tanager from Costa Rica. One of the tropical paintings that I was able to sell in Gary's Homer gallery, The sea Lion.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Stately Birds

This is a detail of the painting that has kept me busy for the last week or so. Know what it is?
Another of the birds in the painting. These are the Alaska state birds. Hence the title of this post.
This is the full painting, The Stately Birds, 16x20". They are Willow Ptarmigan in Fall plummage. I always have high expectations for my paintings when I start on them, and I'm almost invariably disappointed by the results when the painting is completed. I'm not terribly let down with this one.
This is an old 18x24" Golden Eagle painting. During a moment of discouragement, I painted over this one. I probably should'nt have acted so rashly. The following paintings also came to an unfortunate end.
Another old, 24x18" Golden Eagle painting. Either I painted over this one, or gave it away. I can't remember.
A real departure from my usual subject matter. This 11x14" Alaska native village was stolen from me along with about 15 other paintings. I was'nt too devastated because I already had a large inventory of unsold artwotk.
I spent a lot of time painting this 24x36" canvas of a Wolf with Mt. Mckinley in the background. At first I was pleased with it. Over time I started to hate it more and more. Eventually I painted over it. Too bad.
Another doomed painting that got recycled. This 16x20" Canada Goose composition deserves a better effort.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Two Days in the Sun

After the snowiest winter ever, more than 11ft in Anchorage, 40ft in other places, we have had bright sunshine for about 5 days. I got to spend some quality time outdoors yesterday and today. The photo above shows Scott Christy above the Matanuska River near Palmer yesterday afternoon.
Another view of the Matanuska River Valley, looking in the opposite direction. It was hard to photograph because of the blinding, white light.
Scott, Jean and I played around Palmer, went to dinner there, then a Matsu Bird club meeting. Afterward we went in search of a male Eurasian Widgeon that was reported at the meeting. We got to the area at around 9:30 pm. It was just getting dark. This is Pioneer Peak above.
The only real sign of Spring around here is the open water, and the presence of waterfowl, like the Trumpeter Swans on the far right. See them? There were some American, and one Eurasian Widgeon in the water as well. The Eurasian Widgeon is my third lifer for the year.
There are 7 swans in this photo. See them all?
One last bird before dark, a Bald Eagle. The trees will not start to leaf out for about another month.
Today was too nice to stay indoors and work, so I visited Westchester Lagoon and Spenard Crossing. The Common Goldeneyes were once again very photogenic. This time with stronger light.
They are just too cute.
I could hardly hope for a better photo op.
This female Common Merganser was also being exceptionally cooperative.
Most of the ducks were the ubiquitous Mallards, but there were a few Pintails. Other ducks that I saw but did'nt photograph were some Greenwings, a scaup, a widgeon, and a male Canvasback. There were gulls and one swan, plus several Canada Geese.
Camera shy.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

3rd Time's a Charm, (maybe)

This painting has already been featured in a blog post of mine. I'll repeat a little of that earlier post, and add the latest alterations to the 16x20" painting. The photo above is the first version of this Coyote, called, Golden Light, at the time.
The only thing I really liked about the painting was the Coyote's head. The background was fine and the dog's body was acceptable. I really hated the foreground.

For the second incarnation of this painting I decided to do a radical makeover by painting over the entire setting around the Coyote.
At this stage I have painted in the new background, and roughed in parts of it's body. The background at least looks good.

When I reached this stage of the painting I ran out of gas and put the painting away. Eventually I moved the painting into the recycle bin.
A few days ago I pulled it out and decided to give it one more try. In this new incarnation, the painting looks better than it ever has. Is it finished? Who knows. The actual painting is not so dark.
I suspect that the Coyote's head would look better if the light was coming from the opposite direction. I'm stubborn and trying to make it work as it is.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Big Break-up

You can guess by the photo above that this post is not about the break-up of a marriage.
Today I managed to make a quick visit to Spenard Crossing. There has only been a little open water there for the last three or four days. Waterfowl have not hesitated to occupy the patches of open water.
Right now Alaska is experiencing Break-up, when the snow begins to melt, and ice on the lakes begins to disappear.
It always amazes me how the birds manage to show up virtually on the very day that the ice starts to melt. The Mallards have somehow persisted here right through the winter. The Canada Geese have only been here for a day or two. There is no exposed grass for them to feed on yet. What are they eating? My guess is that they are gleaning Birch seeds from the snow.

The only ducks at Spenard Crossing today were Mallards and Common Goldeneyes like this hen. More duck species will show up in a day or two. The light was very flat for photography, but I was able to get very close photos.

Another perspective of the same duck.
A nearby male, Common Goldeneye. There were two or three pairs present today.

The goldeneyes did not spend much time on the water's surface. They were constantly diving for fish or aquatic insects.
I got really close to this male.
It was a real surprize to see a pair of Trumpeter Swans at Spenard Crossing. They prefer larger bodies of water, but if this is the only open water around, they take what they can get.
I have never been able to get such close photos of wild swans before. Too bad the light was so bad. They are huge birds.
The whiter swan in the back is an adult, while the grayer bird is most likely one of last year's brood.
Another look at the younger bird.