Archive for March, 2009

This past weekend (Mar 27 – 29) I spent, with friends, at the world-famous – or at least Montana-famous – Freezeout Lake. This shallow string of ponds is located on the Rocky Mountain Front, near Choteau, Montana (about 40 miles from Great Falls). The “Front” is a dramatic and unusual landscape: the rolling wheat-basket plains of eastern Montana run hard and abruptly against the Rocky Mountains, making for a rich and unique landscape. It’s the only place in the lower 48 where grizzly bears still venture out of the mountains onto the flatter ranching country.

Getting to Freezeout from Missoula takes about 2.5 hours on the beautiful two-lane MT 200. But – why go there?

Freezeout is a major snow-goose staging area on the spring migration route from California (I have photos of the wintering geese at Sacramento NWR) to their summer grounds in Alberta and Saskatchewan. There can be gazillions at Freezeout, but just for a few days each spring; there will be some thousands present over several weeks, but the huge mass of the birds only stops over for 3 or 4 days.

The bulk of the migration comes at the end of March; MT FWP (Fish Wildlife & Parks) has a hotline with the current estimate of bird numbers present. During the 48 hours we spent at Freezeout, there were approximately 110,000 snow geese; we also saw tundra swans (a first for me), wigeon, pintail, mallards, mergansers, redheads, goldeneye, canvasbacks, and I can’t even remember what else. We had some sunshine but it was mostly bone-chilling wind (typical of the Front), and on Sunday a blizzard of snow moved in, making for hair-raising moments driving home. And the majority of the geese had already flown by the time we left – such an ephemeral thing.

I shot, oh, at least a thousand images (thank heaven for digital!!!). A couple:

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The lake itself, with snow geese by the thousands on its surface, and – over the mountains of the Front – countless more thousands migrating northward.

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A blizzard of snow geese – spooked up by a golden eagle.

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Pintails in flight – they’re like a squadron of fighter pilots, they move so swiftly and turn so abruptly.

There are so many reasons I love Montana, and the weekend at Freezeout added to that list.

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So am I the last person on the planet to know that there’s now an online wildlife art magazine? I was surprised to receive an email from the editor/publisher about a week ago:

Dear Artists & Collectors:

The March/April Issue of Western & Wildlife Art Magazine is now available. Please note our new website address: www.WesternWildlifeMag.com

As in the past this leading publication of the wildlife art industry is available to you at no cost.

Enjoy

Western & Wildlife Art Magazine
The International Journal of Western, Wildlife Art & Conservation
Christopher J. Gervais, Editor & Publisher
P.O. Box 347
Ardmore, PA 19003
www.WesternWildlifeMag.com

www.WildLifeArtShows.com

If you didn’t already know about it, then heck, I’ve done my good deed for the day.

A short post this time – off to the famous Freezeout Lake, on the Rocky Mountain Front, for the snow goose migration. I’ll report next week.

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Bruno Dillen, who runs the art history website Artinthepicture.com, recently emailed me to tell me about a new animal art section on his website. I’ve not met Mr. Dillen before (ah, the power of the internet!). While the site appears to make its living by selling prints and ‘hand painted reproductions’ of the images, it has a wide selection of animal-themed work from the 1400s to the 20th century. Some of the masters that one would expect to find – Stubbs, Durer, Rosa Bonheur – are here, shown alongside work by M. C. Escher.

The stylistic and interpretive range is great fun to explore. It’s fascinating to compare a 1763 George Stubbs zebra to a 1944 modern art interpretation of one. Some personal favorites on the site: Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Artilleryman Saddling his Horse”; Rosa Bonheur’s “Doe & Fawn in a Thicket” [these look like red deer to me]; and of course Stubbs’ famous “Whistlejacket”.

The site lacks reference to recent masters of animal art, such as Kuhn, Rungius, and Kuhnert, so it’s quite incomplete in that area. But for surfing animal imagery in general art history, it’s interesting. One big plus is that there are a lot of Bonheur paintings on the site; since she’s been rather ignored by the generally chauvinist wildlife art historians, it’s nice to have a chance to explore more of her work.

To get there: www.artinthepicture.com/paintings/tags/animal/. Once you’re here, there are other tags at page bottom to continue your animal-art explorations (eg, clicking on “horse” got me to a Lady Godiva painting … for all you guy types out there).

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The Nicolaysen Art Museum, located in Casper, WY, sent me a letter a few months ago, asking me to give them something for their “Postcards from the Wild Wild West” (PWWW) show/auction. Anything sent would be a complete donation.

Normally, I’m rather against just sending something off as a full donation – I think we artists tend to undermine the value of our work through this generosity. It’s easy for museums and other organizations to profit from our hard work while we think ourselves lucky just to have been noticed and asked for the contribution.

However, in this case, I think “the Nic” is doing it right: they just want something no larger than 5″x7″ and they’ll take care of all the framing. Well, heck – it’s an excuse to play a bit, especially since the Nic has a more contemporary focus. And for some reason, I feel that in these economic times it behooves me to support other artists and arts organizations. We all care deeply about what we do, and since art is a discretionary purchase – and therefore one of the first things to be dropped from someone’s budget – I want to do my part to keep all of us afloat.

In any case – it was a challenge to work so damn small, but I still found a way to put palette knife to Yupo and make something kinda wild happen.

runningwild2.jpg

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Anybody ever get into this mode?

This was the term we used at HP (back in my previous life as an engineer) for getting mired down by over-thinking something, to the point that you can no longer take action. Of course, given the cautious, analytical tendencies of many R&D engineers, there was always a natural tension with the gung-ho marketing types (e.g., me).

In any case, I’ve been getting stuck here lately. I came home from my winter workshop and whipped off two lovely little miniatures that I find enormously satisfying. Then I go to do something larger, and I’m paralyzed by trying to re-create the freshness and appeal of those little pieces; I agonized over subject matter and composition for several days, changed my mind about 50 times, made up my mind, got prepped for a painting, THEN changed my mind again. I finally DID another painting – but I’m not happy with it. The miniatures that I like so much had very little investment in prep or study sketches; they just popped into my head as ideas and I rolled with the inspiration.

So – WTF?? is up with this kinda thing?!

I’ve learned that if I DON’T take my time on compositions and study sketches for larger pieces, the results can really suck. And boy, am I good at beating myself up for wasting canvas, paint, and time on a painting that doesn’t work. But – where’s the right balance between prep and over-work?

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