Untamed Land

Untamed Land
Untamed Land

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Taste of the Philippines etc.

Gary has a friend, a former Alaskan who now lives in the Philippines. He has been tempting Gary with tales of the fabulous bird diversity on the islands (like this Scaler-feathered Malkoha). Gary wants to go. His wife says no, she hates to travel and hates it when he leaves her alone to contend with harsh Alaska winters alone. He only gets to travel about every other year. Last winter he went with Tom and his brother to South Africa.
Another Philippino jewel, Red-crested Malkoha. 
In the meantime Tom wants to go to Borneo, but is willing to go anywhere exotic. My heart is set on Australia this winter but I cannot afford it now and I cannot get the time off work. I would happily go to the Philippines or Borneo instead. Same challenge with time and money.
This White-throated Kingfisher would be another tantalizing incentive to make Gary and I want to go to the Philippines but we have already seen a number of them in Thailand and Cambodia. Tom has no doubt seen them as well on some of his many travels, but all of us would certainly like to see them again. Will we get to go anywhere this winter? Tom will, he spends part of every winter visiting his son in New Zealand.

Now back to some critiques of old paintings. This 12x24" canvas of a Trumpeter Swan was so close to being good. I spent a lot of time on it, and I held on to it for a number of years before reluctantly painting over it. The idea is worth revisiting but I will need to take more care in painting it. This photo looks better than the actual painting ever did.
I really like the perspective of this 8x10" Trumpeter Swan. That is all that I like about it. 8x10" is too small for this complex of a composition. It was rushed and painted it very carelessly. The idea deserves to be repainted, larger, and with more TLC.
Another 8x10" Trumpeter Swan painting. Not so bad. Still too small for the subject. It could do with something in the foreground to anchor the swans. I do not remember what I did with this one.
This 9x12" Coyote was a disaster from the get go. What was I thinking? Right now I'm working on an 11x14' Coyote on commission. I sure hope that it does not come out like this train wreck.
Another painting that was a bit of a train wreck. It was 16x20". I put it on the wall in a hand-crafted furniture store. The store ownership changed hands, my paintings came down off the walls, (understandable). When I went to collect my artwork, no one knew anything about them. I suspect they went into the dumpster. No great loss.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A New Painting and Random Photos

This photo is a close-up of the painting that I have been working on for the last month. Can you tell what it is?
Another photo of the same painting. I'm guessing that you know that these are terns, but what species?
I'll give you a hint. There are only two species of tern that regularly occur in Alaska, Arctic, and Aleutian. These are one of those two species.
A full body shot of Arctic Terns.
The third tern in the painting.
This is the complete painting. It is 18x24". I have not come up with a title yet. I have some really good photos of Arctic Terns. They are very elegant birds and I have wanted to paint them for a long time. The problem for me has been that I cannot seem to come up with an interesting setting to place them in.
As you can see, I have not managed to come up with a composition that does them justice. There is not much that I can do with the birds themselves, they look fine, and I cannot alter the background without ruining the whole painting. It is obvious that I need to do something with the rocks.
This painting needs to be set aside until I can come up with some inspiration for it. I am fairly certain that I will not paint over it. For now, I have a few commissions to get out of the way. Maybe I'll get back to the terns when those paintings are completed. 
I'll flesh this post out with some seasonal photos. These are juvenile Tree Swallows.
So cute all puffed up like this.
Green-winged Teal sifting the mud. These are probably juveniles. The adults have already migrated south.
The Sandhill cranes are just about gone as well.
The snow is creeping lower and lower down the mountains. I mourn the loss of summer, and dread the coming of the relentless winter.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Learning the Hard Way

The subjects of this post are a few of the many near misses I have had with my paintings, and the lessons I learned from them. The first example is this 16x20" Moose painting. I do not remember whether I painted over this one or gave it away. I just knew that it was all wrong when I finished it. The problem was that I did'nt know how to fix it.
Being subjective about your own work, especially after putting so much thought, time, and work into it, is almost impossible. With time, usually a few years, I can often see the glaring defects of a painting. With this painting I can see that the color of the mountains and trees don't match the rest of the painting. I few simple Burnt Sienna and orange glazes would have remedied this one. Putting more definition in the Moose and foreground would have also helped.
This 16x20" Moose painting is a little more difficult to critique. It is meant to be a dramatic standoff between a bull Moose and some wolves. A problem with this one is that I could not decide whether to emphasize the drama of the animals or the grandeur of the mountains. at the very least, this kind of painting should either be much bigger or the animals should be the dominant feature and the mountains much smaller in relation to them.
This 16x20" Canada Goose painting came so close to being good. I love the setting with the glowing mist above the dark water, and the warm tones. I should have done a better job painting the geese, and I should have done something better with the snow. Making it more prominent with a more natural shape would have made this one extra good.  A Burnt Sienna glaze would have pulled it all together as well. I either gave it away or painted over it. I do not remember. So it goes.

This 12x16" Canada Goose painting is more recent. I regret that I painted over it. The painting that covered it came out much worse. It could have been improved by adding more grasses in the lower left corner that would partially cover the lower part of the geese. That would have placed the geese into the context of their environment more convincingly. 
With this 16x20" painting I was trying to make a bedraggled Bald Eagle patiently enduring a rainstorm. This idea could be improved by making the eagle and the foreground rocks bigger and darker. Less blue in the background.
Another near miss. This 20x16" Arctic Grayling is almost good. A better arrangement of the rocks below the fish would have helped. I tried to fix it and I hopelessly messed it up.
If you read this blog regularly you know that I can get hyper-critical of my own work. This 20x16" Wilson's Snipe illustrates that. The only problem with this painting is that the inner parts of the body, head, and neck of the bird need a slightly darker glaze to help it harmonize with its setting. An easy fix. Too late, I painted over it. I am beyond stupid.
When I came up with this 16x20" wolf painting I was undergoing a series of eye surgeries. I just could'nt see well enough to paint properly. This painting was doomed from the first brush stroke. I hope that I never have to repeat that experience.
This 12x16" Red-tailed Hawk has many nagging issues. The bird's beak is slightly too big. The foreground rocks leave much to be desired. They need to be more distinctively shaped, and they should stand out from the background with stronger lighting. This one went away also.
Another doomed 16x20" painting.  It could have been adjusted by making less contrast between the background trees and the sky. Also I should have had a more prominent  foreground shoreline and especially I should have made the trees much bigger and more distinctive. Too late now.
The reason that I take a hard view of past artwork is to help me improve as a painter. My guess is that some of you see obvious flaws that I have overlooked. I welcome critiques, even if they make me squirm in discomfort. I have more of these paintings and their defects to come.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Dan's Yellowstone plus

A beautiful fritillary butterfly visits a clover flower. There are many similar species of frittillary. Who knows which species this may be?
Judging by the size of this butterfly in relation to the clover, this one is dwarfed by the fritillary. Like the fritillaries, there are many species of blue butterflies. This one is particularly tiny. It may be a Western Pygmy Blue.
A ubiquitous swallow in much of North America; the Violet-green Swallow. It is very similar to a Tree Swallow, but the white eyebrow distinguishes it from the Tree Swallow. There are also white patches on the  upper sides of its rump which the Tree Swallow lacks.
American White Pelicans are the largest of Yellowstone's birds. 
Not a chipmunk. This is a young, Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel. 
Who can guess which geyser this is?
That's it for Yellowstone. Dan did'nt give me enough photos of the place. He does not take very many photos. This week I made it over to Westchester Lagoon and the Coastal Trail for the first time since May.
A Belted Kingfisher. Too far away for a good photo. Notice that the leaves behind it are starting to turn yellow. Fall is definitely in the air.
Mallards and other ducks are in their eclipse plumage. Most species of duck have already migrated out of here.
An attractive American Widgeon.
I love the speckling on the head of this female/ immature bird.
A pair of trumpeter Swans at Spenard Crossing. Too far away, and in dim light so the quality of the photo leaves much to be desired. At least it was not raining while I was there. There has been near constant rain around here for weeks. Typical for this time of year.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hot Tubs and Hairy Things

Some of you may have seen this very mineral spring. I have not. All of these photos were taken by my friend Dan. The water is too hot to swim in, but its real pretty to look at.
There are many mineral springs in the area that is the subject of this post. I bet that most of you have already guessed where these hot tubs are located.
Some of them are quite colorful.
Some of the hot tubs like to blow their tops on a regular basis. Of course the place is Yellowstone National Park located parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. It is the premier park in the USA, or is it Grand Canyon NP?, or Denali NP?
I cannot say which is best because I have not been to all of the national parks. Which is your favorite?, and why?
 My favorite US national park is Grand Canyon NP, my favorite outside the USA is Kruger NP in South Africa. The indescribable scenery makes Grand Canyon the best especially at dawn and dusk, and the abundant wildlife makes Kruger the best.
The biggest of the many hairy things in the park are the Bison.
They know which mineral springs are too hot to enter, but they often congregate near them in the winter for warmth.
The calves  tend to be lighter in coloration than the adults, fuzzier too.
Bison are mostly pretty mellow in temperament but can become aggressive when approached. In that respect they are like Moose, especially if they have babies to protect.
Earlier this summer I was riding my bicycle along a paved bike trail about six feet wide. There was a cow Moose standing on the path, on the far left side of it. I slowed down and would have gone around it but the vegetation was too thick to ride through. The Moose was completely relaxed and I felt that it would move aside if I approached carefully.
It looked at me but never moved an inch. When I committed to go past it and was too close to stop, its calf came out of the brush from the opposite side. I had no alternative but to go for it and I slipped between them in a flash. The mama Moose never moved at all although I was so close that I could have reached out to touch her.
Would I try that if she would have been a Bison? I know that I would not have done that if she would have been a bear. I was a fool anyway.
I like the colors and texture of this Bison's horn. More to come from Yellowstone.