Monday, February 28, 2011

Today's work . . .

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Installment number 2 of the current work on the drawing board.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I must be in bovine mode as here goes yet another piece with cows as the prime subject. Well, in the same manner as a good artist friend of mine who swears she is going to paint every egret ever seen on the planet, I might be heading in the same direction with cows! Not that I intend do draw every cow on earth, I guess I just happen to be plugged into this inspiration at the moment and you have to go with the flow as they say! There might be some fluttery creatures thrown in later on just for good measure.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

With a tweak here and a tweak there this morning, this one is complete after a long day in the studio yesterday. This one's image size is just shy of 11" x 17" and is the last of the new works that will be going to McBride Gallery in Annapolis for a new show opening on March 20. Now, I think it is time to think about Birds in Art submissions, a work or two for this year's Maritime International and something interesting for the Member's Annual of the Society of Animal Artists, not to mention new works for my other galleries and then there is my '10 taxes yet to do . . . no rest for the weary!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Birds all done, cows on their way to being done, block wall to be done and I think this one will be finished this weekend.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

And today, here is the entire composition as it stands at this hour. With 71 degrees outside my studio window, it beckons me to a late afternoon walk! So, until manana . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A couple more characters have joined the cast today.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A few more 'characters' have joined the fray today . . .

Monday, February 14, 2011

There is a new work taking shape on the drawing board. I'll post little snippet puzzle pieces of it as I go until all the pieces fit into place! Mooooo!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An interesting online site is opening today in conjunction with this year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Science Art - Nature will host a virtual exhibit of art works with connections to the various topics of discussion at this year's conference in Washington, DC. There are some fine art works shown on these pages, including several of mine! As the site notes, "This virtual exhibit will serve as an example of how Science Art can expand the interest in and understanding of science discussed at meetings and conferences." Take a look and also check out last year's virtual exhibition which also included a host of fine art works.

Friday, February 11, 2011

An aside today as I wanted to make some observations regarding a question posted, to the blog, a couple of days ago by a visiting fellow artist from Spain. He asked if I would kindly give him my opinion about this question, " Do you think a work created from direct observation in the animal´s natural environment is better than a work created from a picture taken by the author of the work himself? " The gentleman also noted that, " This question has sometimes come up in discussions . . . and I think that photography techniques shouldn´t be underestimated as a means to get good works of art. "

I thought about his query for a bit and then emailed a response back to him, privately, later that day. As I have thought about this over the last couple of days, I thought it might be beneficial to post a bit of what I said to him as this certainly is a question that has come up quite often when chatting with artist friends and others over many years. It seems to be a 'hot topic' to many and I wanted to offer my personal feelings about it.

I began my response to him this way . . . " If you've been reading my blog postings for any length of time, you have already realized that I make use of photographic reference a great deal of the time. But, that is not to say that I don't also spend a great amount of time in personal observation and field study . . . "

I have always felt that photography is just one of many tools that an artist can use to further his or her understanding of a subject, but its use does not, at the same time, necessarily eliminate the importance of first hand, personal study of a subject, whatever it may be, within its own natural surroundings.

I went on in my email response to say . . . " When I first started out as a wildlife artist, it was only after I had returned from Africa on the first of many subsequent visits to that continent over the following 28 years. Previous to that experience, I had not had the desire to work with animals as my major subject matter and had been a very abstract painter in my youth. Upon my return from that first African experience, I was so overwhelmed with all aspects of that almost month long trip that I realized, rather quickly, that my creative soul was telling me something and I had to make an effort to follow through on those emotions. Thus began my venture into making art with animals as subjects and initially, in particular, animals in the environment that I had just experienced so deeply and emotionally in Africa. "

Of course, the photographs that I had taken on that first trip through Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were the basic sources of my artistic inspiration for those first, tentative forays into becoming an animal artist, but not the lone sources. The physical experience of being on African soil, observing, making notes of the variations in landscape, trees and environment, and distinctly being able to recall sounds and smells and sights and other nuances of such a new experience for me, played a huge roll in my desire to make art that would first, expand upon my personal memories and encounters, and second, allow me to show others how that experience had changed me in ways that not having been there, could not have.

I certainly could have made use of zoo animal reference, had I been desirous of using African animals as subjects for my work, and perhaps done a descent job of portraying them, but by not having had the advantage of standing at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro or experiencing, firsthand, the utter vastness of the Serengeti, I feel the depths to which I could have delved both emotionally and creatively within my art, would have been diminished. And then too, the motivation to draw elephants and lions and gazelles might never have happened had I not had such a life changing experience on that first adventure in Africa.

This is all certainly not to say that there aren't many fine artists whose work I respect and who do wonderful and evocative works based solely upon captive animals, but for me, the physical aspect of sitting and watching the interactions among a herd of elephant in the wild for an hour or more, not only does wonderful things for my personal well being, but offers so much more insight and inspiration for future works of art. Of course there have been subjects, for example colobus monkeys, that I have not had such close up observations of in the wild nor usable reference material to later pull from, and in cases like that, observation, photography and study at a zoo has always been helpful to me. But again here, having driven through the actual environments in which colobus live in the wild, offered great background information and 'location knowledge' from which I can always establish accurate compositions.

Times spent in field observation in the western states of the US, the coast of Maine and several extended trips across the Canadian Rockies have helped to continue to broaden my subject files with photographs of moose and elk and bighorn sheep and the all important landscapes in which they reside, as well as sketches and notations of specific environmental elements. All of these 'tools' combine to form strong reference material to be pulled from for years to come.

As I continued on in my email response, I spoke of more recent times since my move to Maryland and how having been once established here . . . " in the rural farm and agricultural area of central Maryland, I rather quickly became excited about the new environment in which I had dropped myself, " and how . . . " prior to locating myself right in the heart of cattle farms, neither the thought of nor the inspiration of using cows as a subject for my work would have ever entered my mind. Having just spent the last twenty or more years of my studio time doing works with lion, moose, elephants and mountain goats as the major thrust of my work, I was rather astounded at how quickly the domestic life just outside my windows became so important an inspiration to me as an artist. " And it was, again, a matter of combining daily drives out into the farm lands near my home and spending time just sitting and watching cows move, making notations of their body structure and anatomical features and photographing the animals in all sorts of poses and gestures that enabled me, I feel, to finally have the understanding to add cows and horses and sheep and chickens and such, to my artistic vocabulary.

So for me, personally, there are many 'tools' I utilize to build an understanding of and basis for using a particular animal as a subject for a work. Photographs are just one of the many ways in which I develop a level of comfort in tackling new subjects. My recent week long stay in Florida enabled me to spend a great deal of time watching, sketching, studying, photographing and ultimately feeling comfortable about possibly drawing any number of bird species with which I had no major experiences before. And then too, there was the aspect of discovering an entirely new landscape and environment within which I could find new inspirations as an artist which, had I simply looked at images in a book or on the Internet, I would not have felt the all important 'kick' of personal emotion that I find so important as a creative soul.

To this end, my personal reference photographs are just that, starting points or material to be referred to, considered, altered, adjusted or intermixed to suit my compositional ideas. In general, a work or idea will develop, for me, out of a personal experience in the field and once a sort of basic composition comes to mind, I then try and figure out what sort of subject or subjects will best suit that balanced assemblage of ideas. Photographic reference allows me to dig through all sorts of possible gestures and movements, contrasts of light and shadow, expressions and overlapping arrangements. The photo reference does not dictate how things will be, it just facilitates the building up of my compositional concept. In the end, my compositions are a blending of direct observation, an emotional response or impact and sketched and/or photographic notations; one form of these reference 'tools' being no more important to me than any other.

I personally feel each artist is different as to their own needs and leanings in a creative way and they have to pursue those self-important goals as they must. To make a general statement that relaying solely on gathering and working from photographs as a means of reference and insight might be seen as too much of a crutch or lacking in 'truth' to some, cannot I feel, be a completely accurate statement. Conversely, to say that one can only be 'truthful' or a work of art to be 'better' when working directly in the field and from personal observation, is just as inaccurate to my way of seeking those personal artistic goals. It has always made sense to me that these several ways of attaining reference, understanding and knowledge of a subject complement one another and by combining all means of study, gives one the strongest and most all encompassing knowledge base from which to produce a pleasing, accurate work of art.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Another work based on material gathered on the recent Florida journey, completed about a half hour ago. This one's image size is 5 1/4" x 7" and is a study in subtlety. It will be going to the Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport Museum on the Connecticut coast for their upcoming spring show, Modern Marine Masters.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A few weeks back, just before my trip to Florida, I had a visit from a young artist who I'd spent some time with over the last couple of years, talking about art, critiquing her work and offering suggestions and advice. She's been attending MICA in Baltimore and our visit of mid January was the first time I'd seen her and her new work in well over a year and a half.

When she walked in with her large portfolio, I was eager to see what she had brought. One of the first works she pulled out and we spread out on my dining room table, was the work shown above. I was immediately drawn to the work for any number of reasons, not least of which its immediacy and the way in which it almost instantly brought the smells and sounds and singular memories of my times in Africa right back to me.

Her stunning portrayal of three school girls, dressed in their school uniforms so ubiquitous throughout my many journeys across Africa, took my breath away. The composition was intriguing. Her use of greens and pinks and other unexpected hues not only took me by surprise, but once registered in the overall quality of the work, seemed such perfect choices as to leave little doubt of their well thought out arrangement. The balance of the work was nay on perfect in my estimation and I found nothing wanting in its totality. It was a rather large work, if memory serves about 24" x 36", but exhibited such a very intimate nature through her modeling of the gestures and placement of her subjects, I was, indeed, ready to pull out my checkbook and make an offer on it!

Though not included in the portfolio which accompanied her, the work below, which she later emailed an image of, she mentioned as having been acquired by one of her teachers at school and I could see exactly why.

As I was cleaning out temporary document files on my computer this morning, I ran across these images and just had to stop and spend some time with both once again. I am still so taken with this young lady's talent and looking again at these images continues to surprise and delight me, conjuring up new discoveries just the way a fine work of art should; eliciting emotional responses, calling to mind personal memories or simply causing one to pause and reflect.

As an artist myself, I am always excited to make a new discovery of a talent that tugs at my emotions and this young person's art does that unquestionably. I don't know where she will be in five, ten, or fifteen years. I don't know what endeavors she will pursue as she matures, but with a talent like this and a whole lifetime ahead, one can only believe great things will evolve for her.

Friday, February 04, 2011

OK, I'm biting into that ton of Florida reference material for this new work. For someone who does not particularly enjoy depicting water, this one is almost all about the water. So far, I am having fun with it, though there is still a lot of it to go! We shall see how it turns out.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Finally completed last night, image size is 6 1/2" x 19 1/2". It will be one of a number of new works to go to McBride Gallery for an end of March opening of a special show. More on that, later on.