Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Bear 2 Lynx

A few weeks ago I was going through some of my paintings with a critical eye, looking for something that I could improve upon. I came across this 16x20" Black Bear inspired by a scene above Goose Creek. I did a post or two about it while I was working on this painting. I remember it well because it gave me fits trying to make it look right. It partly represents the beginning of the great creative  downfall that has plagued me for the last few years.
First the trees just would not come out the way that I wanted them to. Then I could not paint the bear right to save my life. Finally I left it as is, feeling utterly defeated. I never sent it to an art gallery or showed it anywhere. It was just good enough to avoid being painted over entirely.
This time I decided to change species. I added another tree to help cover up part of the bear and roughed out the shape of a lynx.
A detail of the alterations that I started to make.
The next time that I found some time to work on the painting I refined the new tree and the lynx's body. Then I sketched out the cat's face.
At the next sitting I started to refine the cat's dour face. So far this lynx has been so much easier to paint than the bear ever was.
I also decided to refine the forest floor in the foreground.
Yesterday morning I finished the new version. The title of the painting has changed from, Goose Creek Bear, to, The Rabbit Hunter. It looks better to me, and perhaps more importantly, I felt some real enthusiasm for painting. I can only hope that the feeling lasts.

Although this is a closer photo, it does not show the real detail of the painting.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Moose and Monteverde

Before I get started on the photos that Dan shot in Monteverde, Costa Rica, I have to show a few shots of the visitor that showed up at work yesterday.
The young bull sauntered up to the main entrance to the Boy Scout office/store, and casually began licking the residue of salt off of the porch. (Salt is spread on the slippery boards to melt ice in the winter.) There were customers wanting to get in and others wanting to leave. Everybody had to wait. 
This is the third time that I have seen a Moose block entryways in buildings, this office, an elementary school, and a nature center. My co-worker Andrew shot these photos using his ipad.
One last shot through the window in Andrew's office. What the photos don't show is the horde of mosquitos hovering all around this poor guy.
Monteverde is located in the Cordillera Central of Costa Rica. Most of the original forest has been converted into cow pasture. There are a few protected areas like Monteverde National Park, and this area that I photographed near the Fortuna Waterfall.
Little birds like this White-winged Tanager can be difficult to pick out from among the chaotic tropical vegetation.  Dull colored birds are that much harder to spot. This photo, and those that follow were all taken by my friend Dan.
One incredible species of woodpecker, Chestnut-colored Woodpecker. There are at least two other similar neotropical woodpeckers that I know of, Cinnamon Woodpecker, and Chestnut Woodpecker. The bird above is probably eating termites or ants off the ground.
The ultimate prize for birders traveling to Costa Rica, the Resplendant Quetzal.
This photo almost shows the male's glowing red belly.
A large pheasant-like bird that is heavily hunted in unprotected areas, the Crested Guan. It is a relative of the chachalacas.
Another heavily-hunted game bird. These are Spotted-bellied Bobwhite. They are quite tame in Monteverde.
An unidentified species of anole.
Another very tame animal in monteverde. So long as you don't try to touch a Coati. They have large canines.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Final Flourish

If you remember the post from a few weeks ago I took a perfectly good painting and pretty much ruined it because I was too lazy to start a new painting. I glazed over a 12x24" canvas called, The Sandhill Strut. When I changed the overall color of the painting, all of the previous detail work was covered over and I was faced with the task of filling it in again. The photo above is a detail shot of the finished painting. Much of the previous fine detail of the first version of the painting is gone.
This is an example of the detail work that I attempted to recreate with a completely different tonal value.
This stage of the painting is where I decided that there was adequate detail on the cranes and it was time to build up the dark tones in the foreground. They are not really all that dark.
Next I started to insert some reeds around the birds.
It was really tedious work but easier than painting the cranes. Now things are starting to come together.
A close up of the two cranes on the far right of the painting.
And the cranes on the left.
Compare the original version of the painting.

This is the final stage after one last glaze using Burnt Sienna. Did I ruin the painting by making such radical changes? Is the second version any better than the first? Judge for yourself, but at the current time I am pleased with the results. I do like the soft, warm tones of the painting.
I'll probably change the name of the painting. I don't know what I'll  call it yet. I'm just glad that I finally painted something that does not make me want to cringe.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Wild Tarcoles

The Tarcoles River is found on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica. It is right next to Carara National Park. The run down village of Tarcoles is located on the river's south bank where the river meets the Pacific Ocean. The river has no rapids along most of it's length and is in fact, a very short river. Carara NP is about the size of a postage stamp, although it is a spectacular place, chock full of wildlife.
What really makes the Tarcoles wild is it's abundance of huge, American Crocadiles. Many are in the fourteen to fifteen foot length. That's about five meters.
By the way, I forgot to mention that all of these photos were taken by my friend Dan Holayter, who is currently on vacation in southern Europe. Anyway, tourist's can take affordable boat tours along the river to see monster crocs and much more.
Tourist's get very close to the mostly mellow crocadiles. Dan says that the tour guide actually got out of the boat and grabbed this crocadile by the tail. The long-suffering croc barely reacted.
A much smaller reptile grabs a big meal. The lizard is a Brown Basilisk. I cannot tell what the prey is, possibly a worm or a snake. This lizard is somewhere between two, and two and a half feet in length.
A big fat Common Iguana lounging on the river bank. Probably about six feet in length.
There are many birds all over the area. These are White Ibis. I should mention that the area around the river is far from pristine. It is mostly an agricultural zone.

Most of the wading birds along the Tarcoles are the same species that can be found in the southeastern United States,  like this Tri-colored Heron. There are also tropical birds like tiger herons and Sunbitterns. Many raptors, parrots, and tropical passerines as well.
An abundant neotropical species, Great Kiskadee.
Far less colorful, but even more abundant, a female, Great-tailed Grackle.

The most unique thing about Tarcoles and Carara is the abundance of wild Scarlet Macaws This is probably the easiest place to visit to see wild macaws. They are not shy.
There are also several species of toucan in the area, like this Keel-billed Toucan.
Monkeys too! Here is a Howler Monkey. There are other mammals that can easily be seen, Agoutis, Coatis, and other possible surprises. I saw many wonderful birds when I visited the place some years ago. That is what I remember the most.

Monday, June 3, 2013

What to Paint Next?

For about the last week or so I have been kicking around ideas for the next painting. I really want to do better than what I have been doing lately.
It occurs to me that I have not really done justice to the subject of Sandhill Cranes.
The challenge is to come up with an interesting composition. Because I tend to get bored of my own work, it is difficult for me to muster enthusiasm for painting.
I have many, many photographs of sandhills to use for references.
Instead of starting a whole new painting from scratch, I pulled out this 12x24" painting, and tried to think of a way to improve it.
An image popped into my head and I got busy laying down a foundation of warm tones that I could build upon.
I almost obliterated all of the earlier work of the original version of the painting. There is just a ghost image of the cranes remaining. Oh no, what have I done?
One thing that I thought would help to achieve the effect that I am hoping to create, would be to darken the cranes just a bit.
After adding the dark tones, I began adding some highlights to the birds. I still have not completed this stage of the painting. My idea for this painting is to weave a lot of tall reeds all around the cranes.I will try to put in some strong highlights in a few selected areas to direct the viewer's attention to a center of focus. Will I improve this one, or have I already ruined it? We shall see.