Friday, March 25, 2011


It always amazes me just how many artists are truly gifted and are so shy about their work, most are not salesman, myself included.

When you meet a gifted person we should all try to draw them out away from their fears and timidity, most won't even look you in the eye I have found because they are so sure they are going to be rejected emotionally or artistically.

What I enjoy though is picking at their surface and asking questions about their art and usually they begin to open up and explain the process and you see a spark. That spark allows you to see their true passion, it is not the person then that you are looking at and questioning it is their passion and they can talk about it til the cows come home.

I have learned a lot about myself in these conversations, how not to be and how to really share the passion that is art. That is who we really are and people need to see that. We see life as unique, shapes, colors, textures and desire so badly to share that with everyone but often fail to necessarily vocalize it well.

I feel too that patrons need to feel that passion also and feel our need to convey that emotion in clay, paint, pen or whatever medium we use to express that emotion. So I have come to the conclusion that next time I feel shy or run into someone that does wonderful work I will remember just how unique artist are and be proud.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Piercing the Silence

Piercing the Silence

 Piercing the Silence was done out of my respect for the most important animal in my life. Elk have been a reason to get out of bed at 3:30 in the morning and drive the hour and a half to witness one of the most exciting moments in nature. Granted there are a lot of moments but this one actually sends chills down my spine just hearing an elk bugle and stalk around in his majesty.

You arrive in the dark at your chosen spot and pull over and park, you naturally have your coffee or in my case hot chocolate ready to await the dawn of that particular day. It is a magical moment and you are actually afraid to make noise for fear that it will break the spell.

Then you hear it, that awesome shrill and whistle or scream whichever way you want to describe it, even in the dark it is incredible.  As it slowly dawns and you are able to pick out shapes and distinguish between bushes and the elk themselves you see the herd of an incredible bull.

Often they may capture up to 20 or so cows to be their harem.  These magnificent bulls, often 6 x 6 or 6 x 7 which is counting the antlers on either side, are overseeing their herd and completely blind to anything other than a challenging bull or escaping cow.  I have been able to get many great photo's and store many emotional moments peeking into the dawn, awakening my senses in an intense way. Sometimes you are laying on the ground shaking you are so cold that you are sure that your camera is not going to focus but then you realize you are not cold but excited. I have hundreds of photo's but would not throw away one because they mean so much to me as not only memories but research material.

In this incredible moment all humans are trying to be respectful and stay within the limits of approach of these truly wonderful animals. Some cows have calves still at their sides even though they are ready for breeding again, my favorite picture is witnessing a cow nursing her calf among the confusion.

The bugling is most intense in these early morning hours but it continues until around 9:00 a.m. when they all begin to move either into the trees or up into the valley.  Some bulls may not have but five or so cows but as you look to the more experienced bulls and larger bulls you will find a considerable difference. To witness a fight over the cows is fantastic, most large bulls will not even put up with the challenge of a much smaller bull and just chase it away but a perfect match of horns may spar for quite a while and it is serious business. Often an older bull will find it does not have the stamina and back off after becoming injured, these will be the ones to either die slowly from their injuries or have a tough time once winter sets in again.

In Piercing the Silence I have tried to capture such a bull, proud, stately and in constant movement trying to keep his cows from escaping or other bulls from stealing one away. It is this time that I often wish I was a painter so that I could catch DAWN. The mist and fog that hangs over the mountains and trees and lifts from the valley floor as it warms is part of the fascination of my early adventure.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book work

One thing I can not do without is the collection of books I have acquired over the years to help in the research of animals.  I don't care how many pictures you take or sketches you draw, when it comes down to the final clay you want to have a reference that is laying right in front of you and is anatomically correct.

My favorite two books to constantly dog ear or turn to are Animals in Motion by Eadweard Muybridge and The Atlas of Animal Anatomy by Ellenberger and Baum. Animals in Motion take you through high speed shots of 34 different animals, action pictures frozen in time that really give you the ability to see muscles in action.

The Atlas of Animal Anatomy is interesting because it breaks up the animal anatomy to where you can see the development of the animal from bone to hide. That gives you the advantage over someone that does not even look at the influence of bone and muscle under the skin of an active animal. The only way to really do an animal correct is to understand the anatomy and then you have to understand the animals personality and traits. Posture is impossible without structure.

I also haunt the library sales where often I can find old books with either information that I need or pictures that give me further incite. You not only use as much out in the field observing that you can but you also find as many other sources to aid you as possible.

Two subscriptions that I adore are Ducks Unlimited and North American Hunter, I know they are meant for hunters which I am not but the information gleaned from them is immense. Even though I learned  about ducks picking up dead ones for the Division of Wildlife from a botulism die off I still caught myself referring to photos in Ducks Unlimited.

Hopefully as a patron you will appreciate the trouble most artist go to in order to develop the skill needed to capture a moment in the life of a beautiful animal. I never even knew elk could jump gracefully from a standing position until I witnessed it myself...little things bit by bit collected become a work of art.