Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Time for a New Post

Have I posted this old painting before? I don't remember. It's an 11x14" painting of a doorway that I saw in Angangueo, Mexico some years ago. I have never showed this painting anywhere.
Since I have been posting so many paintings lately, I wanted to do some wildlife photography. So I grabbed my camera and rode my bicycle along the coastal trail, past Westchester Lagoon and Spenard Crossing, then I did the entire uphill length of the Chester Creek Greenbelt up to, and through Russian Jack Park, then home.
A very ambitious workout for these old bones. With all that effort, what did I see? Just some eclipse, (ugly) plummage ducks, distant gulls, kingfishers, and geese, and almost nothing more. I did not take even one photo.
Another old, 16x20" painting of Sandhill Cranes that I may, or may not have posted before.
This 24x30", Bighorn Sheep painting is one that I'm sure has not been posted on the blog previously. It was painted close to twenty years ago, when I was doing oil painting, trying to emulate the old masters.
Eventually I came to realize that any effect that I could achieve in oils, I could do much faster in acrylics without the nasty odors, or cracking.

With this old 18x24" painting, I was trying to recreate the look of wet birds in a drenching rainstorm. The idea has merit, but it needs a better effort. This painting never saw the light of day.
Another 18x24" painting that probably should have never seen the light of day. I actually sold this one.
I used to enter the Federal Duck Stamp contest every year. At the time, I thought that this was one of my best efforts. I did not realize that the judges reject any entry that features eggs or babies. Like a dummy, I entered designs with both of those things. Now I just ignore the contest.
A very obscure subject matter, Scaled Fruiteaters in Ecuador. Someday I need to go back there because I missed seeing any species of fruiteater.
On my next trip, I want to go to Australia to hopefully see some Splendid Fairy Wrens like this one. It looks like I will have to knock over a few liquor stores if I want to go. Selling artwork is not doing the trick anymore.
You noticed that I changed the name of my blog. That is because I'm am going through one of my periodic life makeovers. It's all futile, but I try to re-invigorate my career, and entire outlook on life. A few days ago, I decided to quit painting altogether. It was a rash decision on my part. What else am I going to do? Time will tell if I can manage to make any noticeable changes at all. Anyway, I got nothing new to post until I can drum up some enthusiasm for my art.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Squeakers and Stinkers

For the last few days I have been working on a painting that is turning into a bit of a stinker. At this point, it is doubtful that I will even complete the thing. I got so discouraged today that I quit painting, gessoed over four older stinkers, and assembled these photos for this post. In some perverse way, I like to show my failures to show the contrast between good paintings and bad. The definition of a good painting tends to change over time as I change.
The painting above is a squeaker, rather than a stinker. The bear on it's kill did manage to avoid being recycled, and I actually sold it.
Another Bear painting. This one was only 5x7". It sold easily.
Another 5x7" Grizzly that also sold. All three paintings are based upon bears that I saw in Denali NP.
This 20x16" painting turned out to be a stinker. I was initially satisfied with it, but no-one else liked it. I eventually painted over it. It is nearly impossible to be objective about your own work.
Not a stinker, although I don't remember what became of this Goshawk painting.
This painting idea has some potential, but ultimately it is another stinker. I painted over it. It is based upon a Red Fox that I saw in Denali.

An 8x10" rendering of lightning in the Grand Canyon. Another stinker that met an ignomineous end. I am tempted to paint the canyon more often. So many great artists have done inspirational paintings of the canyon. I have done a few decent paintings of it as well. Not this one.

This one is almost good. I should revisit the idea again sometime. I believe that I killed this one also.

Archangel Pass, 8x10". I liked this one well enough. No one else did. Kiss it goodbye.
A 10x8" Bull Moose. I don't remember what became of this painting. If I see it again, it's going bye-bye.

A Boreal Owl that also met a bad end. The owl is not so very terrible, but the tree is not up to snuff. Maybe I should not be so self critical, but I have produced a whole lot of bad art in my career. Let the surviving art be only my best efforts.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Paint What You Know?

Paint what you know. That's a piece of advice that I heard long ago. I don't remember the source, and I definitely don't think that is very good advice. How will you ever grow as an artist if you don't jump into unknown waters?
This is however, the advice that I followed for this painting, and the last one. I know snow, and I know moose very well, so those are the subjects for my second prospective entry into the America's Parks art contest. The photo above was one that I shot at first light on an Audubon Christmas Bird Count several years ago.

Another photo from the CBC. I use this one as the screensaver on my pc. I used it also for reference in the painting that I finished today.

Another reference photo. One of the regular neighborhood moose. Mostly, I was only interested in the look of matted snow on fur.
Remember this photo from earlier this summer? I like this cow's pose.
Using the previous reference photos, this is the composition that I came up with. Deep Winter, 16x20". Is it better than the previous painting? I cannot tell. Should I enter it, or the eagle painting into the contest? How about both paintings, or neither? What do you think?
A slightly distorted macro shot of the moose. This painting was much harder to paint than the last one. I struggled to make the trees look natural.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

America's Parks Contest

Once upon a time there was the Arts for the Parks Contest. It was THE most prestigious art contest with the possible exception of the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. I entered it four times, and made it into the top 100 twice. Although I was out of the money, the top 100 entries got published in their annual book. When the world's economy, and the art market went down the drain, the Arts for the Parks contest was one of the many casualties.
Well the contest is being resurrected under the name, America's Parks, Through the Beauty of Art. It is open to all artists, and does not have to reflect any particular park. I have been trying to get a nice painting done that might have a shot of getting accepted into the show.
The photo above, taken in Portage, AK. is not much, but I like the misty mountains in the background, although it is too dark and brooding. It is the basis for the background of my first possible entry into the contest.

Remember this photo taken in Seward a few months ago? It looks like a good subject for a painting to me.

This is a close look at the painting I finished today.

The complete painting. It is 16x20", and does not have a title yet. I like the airiness of the composition. I have another good idea for a painting, so I'll try to get that one done in the next week of so. The best painting will be entered into the contest. Cd's of the images are due by Aug. 31st.

After completing the painting, I headed downtown with a friend, to a renewable energy festival for lunch, and maybe some energy enlightenment. The military landed a helicopter to thrill the children. Today was one of the warmest days of the year, perfect weather.

There was lots of live music, and some tasty food.

The only musician I had heard of, was the folk singer, Tim Easton. He has had some minor radio hits over the years. Sounds a bit like Bob Dylan, don't they all?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gull Trouble

About two weeks ago a local bird expert reported seeing a possible Iceland Gull at Cuddy Family Park in the middle of Anchorage. That would be a new bird for me, but I had too many other commitments, and could not go look for it. Soon the same bird expert and others reported that the bird was still present along with a 1st. Summer California Gull. I have seen plenty of California Gulls, just not in Alaska.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a bit of a hullabaloo on the AK Birding site, about the precise identidy of the Iceland Gull. Gull experts from far and wide have weighed in on the subject. I followed all this with interest, but still could not make time to go to Cuddy Park. It turns out that ornithologists consider the Iceland, Kumlein's, and Thayer's Gulls to be clinal variations of the same species. At least that seems to be the prevailing opinion.
The photo above shows a juvenile Herring Gull, (foreground) and what I thought was the California Gull. Turns out I was wrong. Any bird experts out there care to venture a guess on it's identity?
On Monday I finally made time to go to Cuddy Park and photographed this bird, and the previous photo. I thought that this was the 1st Summer, Thayer's/ iceland Gull. I was wrong about this bird as well. I posted these photos on the AK Birding Yahoo Group site, and was informed that I got both identities wrong. Any guesses about what this gull might be?
Well, what I thought was the California Gull was in fact, a 2nd Summer Herring Gull, and this is a 1st Summer Glaucous-winged Gull. Both species are very common around here, and I embarrased myself in front of the local birding community by mis-identifying these birds. I usually just ignore sub-adult gulls.
Today I made it back to the park to try my luck again. The bottom gull in the photo, yawning, is a typical, juvenile Mew Gull, and the top gull is the real California Gull. Compare it's markings to the top photo. Not much difference is there?
Another look at the 1st Summer California Gull.
Both Glaucous-winged, and Herring Gulls are distinguished by their large size. Thayer's Gulls are noticably smaller. This photo shows the 1st Summer Glaucous-winged Gull, (left) ad 1st Summer Thayer's/ iceland Gull on the right. Their plummage is virtually identical.
This is another photo of the Thayer's Gull next to an adult Herring Gull, (left).

This young Thayer's Gull deserves it's own portrait. So, I dont get to call this bird a lifer because I saw an adult Thayer's last Summer. I do get to add California Gull to my Alaska bird list.
Is your head spinning with all this mind-numbing detail about sub-adult gull identification? I'll end this post with a shot of a humble, juv. Mew Gull.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Real Snowbirds

Do you know what these are? My latest painting is 9x12". Throughout much of North America, and in Europe as well, certain bird species tend to form flocks during the winter months. Some of these birds come down from their breeding grounds in the north, others have been around all year, just being inconspicuous.  They are collectively called, Snowbirds.
I have heard the term 'Snowbird', applied to, juncos, Pine Grosbeaks, Common redpolls, Cassin's Finches, and more. The birds in the painting deserve the title, Snowbird. They are Snow Buntings. They live in Northern North America and Northern Europe.
Snow Buntings nest on the tundra, and winter in open areas, usually near the coast.
They seem to be gluttons for punishment. Around here they are found in the windiest, most exposed and barren areas during the winter. In the summer months, the males wear black and white plummage.
Some of the latest photos that I've taken are of the larval form of a small green beetle that plagues cottonwood trees. The adult beetles emit a noxious smell when touched.
Down along the coastal trail, the neighorhood Bald Eagle changed cottonwood trees. Perhaps it's habitual tree has too many annoying beetle larva in it.

At Westchester Lagoon, most of the ducklings are almost grown. This brood of Greater Scaup must have gotten a late start. Maybe this hen's first batch was taken by a predator. They need to grow big enough to fly before freeze-up in October. There were more ducklings out of the photo frame.
Last weekend there was a big, loud military airshow, Arctic Thunder, near my  part of town. These WW11 era planes were re-enacting a dogfight.
Many fighter jets swooped past my yard low and too fast to photograph. The noise was tremendous. These jets were flying higher. They are a precision flying team called the Thunderbirds.
This is the best photo I could get of a Thunderbird. During much of the year, big C-130's and Stealth fighters fly low, directly over my building. It can shake the fillings out of your teeth.