Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Final Stages

The office has been closed a lot for the holidays and that gave me the opportunity to put in some serious painting time. The photo above shows the completed first bird, a Crested Auklet.
Now the main bird, a Tufted Puffin is most of the way finished.
A close up of its head, not quite finished.
The other Crested Auklet, also not quite finished.
The three completed birds together and some of the vegetation.
The completed painting, (at least for now). It is 12x24" The actual painting has much more vibrant colors and detail than the photo indicates. The tentative title is, Summer in the Pribilofs.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Communique From the North Pole

The main thing that I like about Christmas is Christmas dinner at my nephew Dan's house. His wife Angie is a great cook and she knows exactly what I like. The main thing that I hate about Christmas is the harsh cold. It is merciless and goes on month after dreary month. I cannot get enough time off work to escape this Winter. I just endure.
Lately I have been shooting a few photos of the season, all places near my home.
The view from the field next door. It will soon be a thing of the past. New homes are being built, and the open spaces will soon be gone.
The beautiful domes on the  Orthodox church across the field.
Downtown Anchorage looks best from a distance. At night it is not a place that you want to be. Too many unruly drunkards.
The office where I work is tucked into a nice patch of forest far from downtown. 
No one has used the back steps of the office in quite a while.
A seed head of Cow Parsnip cradles some ice crystals.
Ice sculpted Polar Bears.
This Walrus pushes up through the ice.
Today I managed to put in a few hours of work on the current painting.  I am almost ready to start on the birds. I intend to put lots of vegetation on the right side of the painting after the birds are painted although I may add an imposing rock instead.
Merry Christmas to all.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Progress Report

Time for painting is always at a premium these days with a busy schedule and short, dim days where there is little decent light. The photo above is a small part of the painting that I am currently working on. I am lucky to find more than a few hours a week for painting. That is fine with me. It satisfies my creative drive without getting me burned out.
The painting is based on my visit to the Pribilof Islands this past Summer. The photo above is a small research station at the far end of St. Paul Island.
This photo is the village of St. Paul on the opposite side of the island from the research station. The weather is always bleak. I would have a hard time living on the island. It's bad enough here in Anchorage. We are experiencing a nasty blizzard here today.
Most of the shorebirds on the Pribilofs are Rock Sandpipers.
I like this photograph of Northern Fur Seals. Especially the one in front that is scratching its neck with a hind flipper.
Now back to the painting. This is to be a Tufted Puffin.
This photograph is the main inspiration for the new painting.
This is the painting as it looks so far. It is 12x24".  It is still in a very rough stage, but I have some ideas for it. Who knows how it will turn out.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Owls Move South

Lemmings and voles are cyclical, like many rodents, Their populations fluctuate according to food abundance. It typically works like this; A relatively small rodent population feels heavy pressure from the local predators, however there tends to be an abundance of edible vegetation. The rodents breed prolifically and soon overwhelm the predators by sheer force of numbers. Predator populations rise along with the rodents, lagging behind by a year or two.
The rodent populations stay ahead of predator populations because they reproduce faster than the predators can eat them. The local vegetation cannot keep up with rodent populations and every five or so years the rodents start to go hungry.
Lemmings especially are known for forming large groups that move out, looking for something to eat. The predators have an orgy of feasting on lemmings until the lemming population crashes. Followed by a crash in predator populations a short time later. 
The pressure on the local vegetation is lifted and there is a short period of luxuriant plant growth. The cycle starts over. Similar cycles happen all over the world but they are easily recognized in the far North.
Predators often do what the lemmings tried to do, they disperse to new areas in search of food. Raptors have the advantage of flight, so they can travel much farther than four legged predators.
These photos of two different Snowy Owls were taken in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, by Gary's brother Doug Lyons. He is a much better photographer than Gary is. His superior camera equipment surely has a lot to do with that.
Right now there is an owl invasion into the Northeastern USA.
This heavily marked individual is a sub-adult female.
The same individual. The top two photos are of an adult female. Males tend to be all white with few markings or none at all. Many of the owls that head south on invasion years do not survive the journey. Hopefully these owls will make it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cat Walk

A golden bush with tiny white flowers set among some salmon colored rocks. This is one small  part of the painting that has occupied my attention for the last several weeks. My last painting was the Coyote which also had a similar color theme. I knew from the first few brush strokes that this painting was destined to be better. It just felt right.
This painting certainly did not come without its challenges. I knew that I wanted to paint a Southwestern theme with dramatic, glowing rocks and sweeping vistas. That is easy to conceive but difficult to translate into natural looking shapes. I felt that I was a little lost while I sketched it out. Just a bunch of random shapes without a strong concept of how it would look when I painted it. Would there any any balance or accurate perspective? I was not at all sure about that.
I had one minor flash of inspiration when I decided to put a window in the rocks.
A cat's paw.
A lovely mouth.
Because I had no reference photos of Cougars in the position that I chose for this painting, I had to do many minor adjustments to the cat's anatomy to make it look right to my eyes.
A vertical look at a horizontal painting.
Hopefully it all comes together when you see the entire painting. The actual painting looks much different. For some reason when I photograph a painting it always comes out over-exposed. I adjust the brightness in photoshop, but when I put it up on the blog, my adjustments sometimes go away.
The shadows of this painting are much stronger than the photo indicates, especially on the left hand side.
This painting, Cat Walk, 18x24" is one of the best things that I have done in a long time.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fun Without Color

Several years ago my nephew Dan and I had this idea to produce and market a series of small prints in black and white. We assumed that quality black and white prints would be much cheaper to produce, so we would be able to sell them at a low cost.
The photo above is a tight close up of a larger piece.
The complete painting. I enjoyed doing the series of black and white paintings. It was an interesting change of pace from my normal work. I forget the name of this one and the rest as well.
Another close up of the next painting. 
The complete painting of the wolf family.
So our intention was to do a series of small prints of popular Alaskan wildlife and sell them at art shows and in local gift shops that cater to tourists. We quickly found out that we would not save all that much money doing these paintings in black and white as opposed to color.
Another close up of another in the series, a Dall Ram.
Another Dall Ram from the same painting.
The complete painting.
Anyway we worked out the cost of printing, and the costs of matting, foam core backing, and shrink wrap. Then we figured that we could sell each print for $15, or $20 dollars. The gift shops take half of that leaving us with a thin profit margin.
Every tourist who comes to Alaska wants to see a Moose. Every hunter dreams of bagging a giant Moose like these.
The painting is set in Denali National Park. No hunter will be able to get these guys.
A close up of Trumpeter Swans.
The funny thing about this painting is that the leaves look to me like they have a trace of color although I only used black and white acrylic paint.
From the experience of doing many art shows together, Dan and I knew that we would only be able to sell a limited number of prints in a given show. We realized that it would take years for us to recoup out initial investment in making these prints. So we dropped the idea for now.
A grizzly cub.
Mama Grizzly.
The complete painting with Mt. McKinley in the background. There was another painting in the series that was far superior to any of these but I sold it before I could photograph it.