Thursday, December 31, 2009

Late Season in the Pennsylvania Woods

With the temperature outside hovering near freezing and snow pouring from the sky, it was time to take my bow and head to the timber. I love hunting with snow on the ground. The opportunity to read tracks and other evidence of wildlife activity fascinates me. Something about the wet falling snow makes the experience even more appealing.

Today, I crossed the track of a fairly large deer deep in a red brush thicket. The track was only an hour or two old and I knew it was a buck by the size of the track and the telltale dragging of his feet. I back-tracked to see what the deer had been up to earlier in the day (hint: to learn about undisturbed wildlife patterns, follow tracks backwards. It's unlikely you will see the animal, but you will get an uncensored version of the day's events without spooking the animal). After only about 50 yards of back-tracking, the trail took me to a bed in the snow where the deer had been since early that morning. It was snowing hard and the tracks leading into the bed were all but gone... so I turned around and began to carefully follow the track in the "right" direction.

I moved slowly... taking a few steps... then pausing to watch and listen. I found a bedding area I wasn't aware of, several giant buck rubs, and stopped to photograph a few of the rubs and tracks for my reference files. Of course, while I was screwing around with the camera and taking the shots you see here, I was a little preoccupied. I was just putting the lens cap back on the camera when I could see deer moving nearly 100 yards away. I tucked the camera away as quickly as I could, ducked into a small brush pile, and knocked an arrow. I could only see a glimpse of a deer from time to time moving out in front of me. They weren't getting any closer, so I got my grunt call out and gave a few soft grunts. I could see one of the deer clearly and it stopped to look. I knew they heard me, so I put the call away and waited.
It didn't take long. One by one, the three deer worked their way through the thick brush a filed past at less than 15 yards. First a big doe, then a nice 6-point, and finally a small spike. None were deer I wanted (or for that matter, could legally shoot), so I let the pass unmolested. Yet there is something indescribably satisfying about successfully calling in a deer... any deer.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Teton Procession" 6x13 acrylic

With large groupings of animals, the biggest challenge always seems to be their arrangement in the space of the painting. For such a small piece, this ended up being fairly complicated and I could literally go on for pages (but I'll try to keep it short) on why I placed each of the elk where I did. Multiple subjects create several points of interest and the viewer's eye can be jostled about the painting... never settling on a singular major focal point. I was fortunate to photograph this herd early one September morning as they moved accross a platue in Grand Teton National Park. The low backlighting offered a unique opportunity to create that singular focal point by making use of the sunlit steam the herd generated. The easy and predictable solution would have been the bull and his massive antlers, but I've made him a secondary element in the painting. By looking back out of the painting to the right, he gives the impression of the herd being larger than what is seen in the frame of the painting, with more animals bringing up the rear. I wanted the major focal point to be the cow elk in the painting's center (something usually try to avoid, but in this case, because of the strong secondary presence of the bull... it works). So by using the steam to create the area of highest contrast around her head, the viewer's eye comfortably settles here.

This is truly one of my favorite small works. I may use the idea for a larger painting in the future.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Ruby and Lucifer" 8x10 acrylic

There hasn't been much happening here at the studio as of late. I've been too busy to paint, but not busy enough to feel like I'm getting anything accomplished. Finally... I was able to start this small painting a few days ago and work it through to completion. If you work much in acrylics, you know rendering large areas of red can be a chore. It looks sloppy and rough unless layer upon layer is applied.
I once heard it said that paintings that include something red are easier to sell. Hmmmm.... I guess this piece will test that theory.
It was also nice to work on something that reminds me of summer. It's been cold here for the last week or so!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Show Tomorrow!

Wow... I'm really late posting this. If you happen to be in the area, stop in for a mug of cider and say hi.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Mountain Meadow" 8x12 acrylic on masonite

I've always felt it necessary to pay very close attention to the habitat in my art. Of course some settings are more spectacular and paintable than others, so I choose carefully when constructing my compositions. The contrast between the blue-green sage and the multi-colored grasses both attracted and concerned me. The low light of early morning allowed me to mute the colors a bit and push most of them toward the cool side of the spectrum. Too much color would likely have resulted in and almost cartoon-like feeling. While striving for a reasonable amount of accuracy, the words of John Banovich kept coming back to me, " Don't paint every blade of grass, but paint the essence of the grass." Interestingly enough, when I attempt to painstakingly paint every blade, my grass looks stiff and very unnatural. Essence it is! Not only is this quicker, but my foliage ends up having much more depth and accuracy.

The muley doe feeding peacefully along the hillside is another one of those "can't miss" subjects. The well defined features and relatively light pigmentation of her face immediately draws the viewer's attention to the focal point... her eye. Her posture as she carefully nips a leaf from a prickly bush adds to the serenity of the scene.