Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Blonde Bear etc.

This is the latest painting, a blonde, Brown Bear, 11x14". This is another re-make of a painting originally painted in 2005. I disliked the first version so much that I never even photographed it. Something about the basic composition does not quite work. I did my best to fix that.
This is a scan of the painting, rather than a photo. I was trying to make the painting glow with the light of a slightly hazy day. The blue of the water is not quite as bright as what the scan recreated.
Once upon a time I painted with much tighter brush strokes. I can no longer constrain my brush in such a meticulous way. Remember that this photo is bigger than the actual head, which is only about an inch and a half wide in life.

I'll flesh this post out with some older tropical paintings that I have posted before. This is a 12x9" painting of parrots visiting a clay lick in Peru. This was a very popular painting.
An 11x14" painting of a Bay-headed Tanager. I only wish this painting was as popular as the former.
Bay-headed Tanagers live in Central, and northern South America. In life, they are stunningly beautiful. This bird deserves a better effort on my part.
16 x12" Laughing Falcon. I really like the setting for this raptor, but the bird does'nt match the background. I especially messed up it's feet. It is set in Costa Rica, and I did see Laughing Falcons there.
Leaving the Neotropics, this is a 10x8" Cape Sugarbird from South Africa.
A Splendid Fairy Wren from down under. I seriously want to see one of these birds someday, hopefully soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Evolution of the Brown Bear

Back in the day, there was a strong demand for my bear paintings. I painted so many that I reached a level of burnout as I churned out one after another. This was an 8x10" study of a Coastal Brown Bear. It was'nt the worst bear I ever painted, but not quite up to par. I showed it around at a few shows, no interest, and then sent it to a gallery in Fairbanks.
Eventually they sent it back when it did not sell. I figured that I could improve upon it. That is the newer version that you see in the photo above. I toned down the grass and bear with a few glazes, and I refined the bear's facial features. Then I sent it to Homer.
It still did'nt sell. What gives? This is not a bad painting.
When I got the painting back a few days ago, I decided to give it another makeover. More refinements on the bear's head, and I raised it's shoulder hump a little. This photo does not do the painting justice. It rivals any of the small bear paintings that I have done. No more alterations. It's a classic bear study by my standards.
A detail of the bear's head. The real painting actually looks pretty good to me. Much better than the photo indicates.
Right now I'm working on a an 11x14" Brown Bear. We'll see how the new one turns out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Comission and Earthquake Damage

About two weeks ago I was comissioned to do a portrait of a male American Widgeon, based on some excellent photos taken by the client. I was very enthusiastic about finally having a comission, and I dived into the painting too fast. This is the second version. I messed up the first one because I was in such a hurry. The painting is 12x16".
I have not informed the clients that the painting is finished. I'll do that as soon as I post this blog entry. I hope they like it. One thing that really concerned me was whether the drake's pale blue bill would show up against the water behind it. I think it's fine.

Remember this painting from several months ago? I spent a whole lot of time on this complex piece.
Well about a week ago I was jolted awake in the morning by an earthquake. They are a common occurance here. The only thing that happened was that a stack of paintings leaning against the wall fell over. I righted them, thinking it was no big deal.
This morning, Gary from the Sea Lion Gallery dropped by to pick up some new paintings for his gallery. He specifically mentioned that he was most interested in  the waxwing painting.
I retrieved it and was dismayed to see this 4 inch rip in the canvas. What a bummer. I think that I can repair it to some extent by gluing a swath of canvas onto the back with acrylic medium. Then I can fill the torn canvas with gesso, then paint.
The painting will have a noticeable scar, and it will have to be sold at a substantial discount. I am glad that I had the painting professionally photographed before the damage happened. Nevertheless, it is a lot of labor down  the drain. Boo hoo.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Two Short Field Trips

On Thursday I went to a place I had never been in south Anchorage called Carrs/gottstein Park with Betty and Aaron. Aaron Bowman is the field trip leader for Anchorage Audubon.
The photo above is the view from the bluff looking south.

We descended from the bluff (on the left) down to the mud flats. The mud flats are much more stable here than they are along the coastal trail. You can barely see Turnagain Arm, (the water in the distance) on the right hand side of the above photo.
Our reason for coming here was to see some newly arrived shorebirds. There were Whimbrels (not in photo) and many Pectoral Sandpipers above. The little guy is a Least Sandpiper. We also saw lots of Bald Eagles, a Northern Harrier, (first of the year), Sandhill Cranes, widgeons, greenwings, mallards, C Geese, gulls, terns, magpies, ravens, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Pectoral Sandpipers can be very trusting, like many sandpipers, if you approach them slowly.
Pectoral Sandpipers look very similar to the more widespread Least Sandpiper, but Pectorals are about twice as big as a Least.  Pectorals also have a straight divide between their streaky breast and clean, white belly.
Hudsonian Godwits, Short-billed Dowitchers, and Lesser Yellowlegs stay all Summer to breed, but Pectoral Sandpipers show up, feed like crazy, and move on. They probably breed somewhere close by, but I'm not sure where.
The second short field trip was this evening, (Saturday) at Westchester Lagoon. It was also led by Aaron. The weather was cool and windy, typical Alaska Summer. The trees are finally starting to green up.
The lake was dominated by Greater Scaup. There were a few Lesser Scaup, Mallards, Widgeons, Red-necked grebes, Canada Geese, and a few Buffleheads.  The usual Bald Eagles nesting across the lake.  Less than normal for this time of year.
In the slough below the lake we saw some Lesser Yellowlegs, one Greater Yellowlegs, and a Pectoral Sandpiper. Along the coastal trail were many godwits, Whimbrels, one Wandering Tattler, lots of gulls and Arctic Terns.

Passerines were Hairy Woodpecker, (above) Downy Woodpecker, Starlings, Magpies, Chickadees, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. Not much to speak of, but typical.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some Old Art, and New Bird Photos

Brody stands on a ridge overlooking some of the Independence Mine buildings near Hatcher Pass. This is an old 8x10" painting. Brody moved out of state last year. Too bad, I really enjoyed white water rafting with friends on his raft. I hope he took this painting with him when he left.
11x14" Short-eared Owl, I think that this was my first Short-eared Owl painting. I'm due to paint another someday, they are so elegant.
Golden-crowned Sparrows in Fireweed. I forget the dimensions of this old painting.
Another painting with much room for improvement, 10x8" Pine Grosbeak. A subject that deserves a better effort. I guess that it's not too terrible.
Short-billed Dowitchers, 11x14". I thought this one would never sell. So many paintings that are so much better have not. It did sell, thank goodness. I saw Short-billed Dowitchers today, as you will soon see.
Lately I have been visiting the coast twice a week. That's because the main push of migrating shorebirds could come through any day now. The local bird experts say that they are late this year. The big shorebird numbers have been visiting other Alaska locations, just not here. We hope that they do not overfly our part of the state.
There were some Hudsonian Godwits with the Mew Gull above, and a few other things.
The male is taking a bath while it's mate looks on.
A nice looking female godwit.
Another nice female.
An impressive male godwit. You can identify godwits from most other shorebirds by their two-toned bills.
I was just pressing the shutter button on my camera, trying to photograph a Short-billed Dowitcher when this Greater Yellowlegs landed next to it. A lucky shot.
The short-billed Dowitcher has a long, straight bill like a godwit. However it's bill is all dark, and droops very slightly where the godwit's bill is slightly upturned. It is also somewhat smaller than a godwit, with shorter legs.
Short-billed Dowitchers are found predominately near the coast while Long-billed Dowitchers tend to be inland. I'm lazy, and just assume that all the coastal dowitchers are short-billed. They look nearly identical, and bill length is not always a reliable field mark.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Remodel, a New Painting, and Other Goodies

Four or five years ago I painted this 16x20", Red Fox called, Daybreak on the Meadow. I liked it well enough but nobody else did.
This is the new version. The actual painting is not any darker than the original version.What I did was brighten up some highlights on the trees, and some of the grass. Then I lengthened the fox's snout by a bit, and thickened it's tail and haunch. The photos leaves something to be desired, but I think the painting looks much better.
Another inadequate photo. The painting looks better, but is still nothing to crow about. It is a 9x12" Vermilion Flycatcher, my newest painting.
Last evening I attended the Matsu Bird Club meeting. This is the view of the town after the meeting. As we were coming into the outskirts of Anchorage, we spotted a Grizzly Bear standing right next to the highway. We zipped past it before I was able to get a photo but it was a thrill none the less. The first Grizzly that I have seen in about a decade.
This morning I went back to the coastal trail to check out the migrating shorebirds. There were mostly just Hudsonian Godwits like the female above. There were four Short-billed Dowitchers as well. Other first of season birds for me were, White-crowned Sparrow, Tree Swallow, and Yellow-rumped Warbler.
When the tide is too high, it causes the birds to disperse. Today I timed it just right to get fairly close to the godwits. This is a male in prime breeding colors.
Another male, Hudsonian Godwit. I shot well over a hundred photos of godwits today.
Besides the many godwits, I saw some yellowlegs. This is a Greater Yellowlegs in prime breeding plummage.
Today at Westchester, there were not many Common goldeneyes, but I did see a few pairs of Barrow's Goldeneyes.
This is possibly the best photo that I have gotten of a pair of Barrow's Goldeneyes. They will clear out of here in a short while to get down to raising a family.
Another nice portrait of a Bonaparte's Gull.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring Without Green

The title of this post refers both to the lack of green vegetaton, and green dollars in my pocket. Although the birds are showing up in big numbers around here, cold nightime temps are preventing plants from greening up yet. This is typical for this time of year. Things will start greening up within a week. It would be nice if my bank account started doing the same.
Yesterday morning I headed to the usual haunts in time to witness the highest tide that I have ever seen around here. That did'nt seem to affect the local waterfowl like this Am. Widgeon and C. Goose, relaxing at  Spenard Crossing.
Although I already have a bunch of good widgeon photos, when a wild duck poses so well for me, I have to shoot it's portrait. When I lived in Arizona, the only ducks that would allow me to get this close were Mallards. Around here many ducks will allow me to get within touching distance with just a little patience.
A bunch of Greater Scaup have arrived at Westchester Lagoon since I was last there on Thursday. They will allow for closer approaches as the season progresses. Yesterday the drakes were busy squabbling amoungst themselves. There was a pair of Lesser Scaup as well.
Last Thursday I saw a Common Loon on Westchester. Yesterday it was a Red-throated Loon, too far away for photos. That was the only RT Loon that I have ever seen on Westchester, although they are often seen on the coast just below Westchester.

Along the flooded coast, there were some birds like this distant Arctic Tern. Within about a half hour of taking this photo, the receding tide left this log high and dry.
Mew Gulls are by far the most common gull in this area. In other places, Black-legged Kittiwakes are the common gull. Glaucous-winged gulls in yet other coastal communities. Glaucous Gulls on the North Slope.
Another common summer gull, the attractive Bonaparte's Gull. They have a particularly unpleasant scream, so do Arctic Terns.

Bonaparte's Gulls are often easy to approach, like most gulls. I really like them except  for their voice.
Muskrats are particularly active at this time of year. Exactly why that is, I don't know. Something to do with reproducing no doubt.
As the tide receded, I watched this Sandhill Crane arrive on to the mud flats. Where was it during high tide? Who Knows. I saw some new, (for the year) shorebirds yesterday, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe, and Spotted Sandpiper. Hopefully, I will see more soon.