Aug 25, 2014

Miniature Painting - No 58 - Running Horse

New small works painting. This one is of a galloping bay horse. Because of the warm tones and soft lighting, and the reddish coloring of the horse, I'm calling this one "Evening Fire".

 5"x7" oil on Multimedia Artboard
Original: SOLD
Prints, notecards, and phone cases available.

Aug 18, 2014

Goldfinch Art Clothing and Gifts

Someone purchased a set of Christmas greeting cards from me today featuring my painting of Northern red cardinals in a holly tree.

Wow! It's hard to believe I'm sitting here sweating in front of the fan on a hot August night and we're already starting to think about the fall and winter holidays! Are you writing out your gift list yet?

Well, if you are, I have some ideas to get you started. I recently edited my painting of goldfinches and apple blossoms, removing the background and the third bird. I think this edited version works better for use on items such as clothing. Since we all have to wear clothes, clothing is always a good option when looking for gift ideas, whether it's for the holidays, a birthday, or just to show someone they're important to you.

I've added this image to some women's apparel. I think it looks great on shirts and other clothing without the background. It really makes the birds pop, and the simpler image of just pink, yellow, and white makes it look clean and bright. Take a look!

But, after that, I didn't stop there. Seeing how good it could look without the background I decided I'd try it on some other products. It turns out this cut-out version looks quite well on a number of other items, from cake pans to coffee mugs. Here it is on a coffee mug.

....and on a throw pillow.........

...and a reusable grocery bag....

.....a silver necklace....

....and a kitchen canister that can be used as a flour canister, cookie jar, candy jar...whatever you want...

I know, spring flowers might seem odd for a Christmas gift. But by the time the shortest, darkest day of the year comes and goes, your friends and family will be longing for spring! Cheer them up with a preview of what's to come!

Click on an image above to find out more about that particular item, or visit my Zazzle store to see lots of other kinds of gift items available.

Aug 15, 2014

Wolf Valley Painting Finished!

Well, after many weeks of blood, sweat, and tears my wolf painting is finally done!

I'm calling this painting "Passing It On" to tell the story of how wolf packs can claim a territory for many generations. Here the proud mother wolf is showing her pups the beautiful landscape within their pack's territory, a territory they may inherit and have to defend when they grow up.

Oil on Multimedia Artboard

The mother wolf was painted from a photo I took years ago at the Triple D Game Farm just outside Kalispell, Montana. I loved the stance of the wolf, and the dramatic lighting. But the background of the photo was pretty drab. For a long time I wanted to paint the wolf but couldn't decide what to do for a background. Then one day I was flipping through a book on wolves. There was an image of wolf standing on a ridge and the book talked about how, for unknown reasons, wolves seem to like to stand on high ground and gaze out upon the landscape.

Researches aren't sure why they like to do this. Perhaps they are searching for potential prey. Maybe they're scouting for intruders into their territory. We always assume animals only do things for the purpose of survival. But what if they are just enjoying the view? Could it be that animals sometimes do things just for pleasure? We'll never know. But the idea that a wolf mother could be viewing the landscape simply from pride and joy makes a nice story for a painting, anyway. :)

Aug 6, 2014

Nature Is Cruel - Accept It!

I have been motivated to write this blog post because I am sick and tired of vegans/vegetarians telling me that I, as an animal lover and wildlife artist, should be totally opposed to the hunting and eating of animals, or any use of animal products.

So I am writing this to argue my case as to why I am not opposed to hunting and eating animals.

First of all, there is this wide-spread illusion that anything "natural" is "good" and we humans screw it all up with our Man-made things and behaviors.

Stop this BS first of all. There are boatloads of natural things and behaviors that are not really good. Arsenic, cyanide, rattlesnake bites, man-o-war stings, many mushrooms ...get the picture? Really. Not everything "natural" is good for you or the environment.

Next is this silly idea that everything humans do is "unnatural" and bad. Sorry but, I believe humans are as much a part of Nature as any other creature on Earth. Sure, our behaviors can be bad for other living things sometimes. But so can the behaviors of "natural" creatures. For example, we think humans are "bad" and "unnatural" because we don't kill only for food. We kill for a lot of other reasons and we think that's somehow unnatural.

But we really aren't the only ones.

Animals regularly kill for things besides food. They kill out of fear, they kill for territory, for resources such as water and shelter, or for breeding rights ... or even for reasons unknown. Take African lions, for example. Male lions often kill lion cubs when they take over a pride. By killing all cubs they induce the female to breed again. This way the new male leader doesn't have the burden of raising another male's offspring, and he can sooner get to breeding and raising his own.

Lions will also kill cheetahs any chance they get. They don't eat them. So why do they kill them? Scientists speculate it could be because they compete for food and territory. But lions don't seem to have this same hatred for leopards, which also compete for food and territory. So, no one really knows why lions have it in for cheetahs.

OK, so now back to the vegan/vegetarian issue. Many people also have this illusion that humans should not eat meat because it is more cruel to animals than Nature is. For some reason we think a human killing an animal is worse than a wild animal killing an animal.


Nature is horribly cruel much of the time! Several years ago I wrote a couple of blog posts about why hunting and killing animals is not more cruel than Nature. Read those posts here.

I won't go over the whole thing here. You can read those posts for details. But to summarize, I said Nature is NOT nicer to wildlife. The "natural" way most animals die in the wild is miserable. They die slow and painful deaths from disease, parasites, and starvation. Even if they are lucky enough to die "quickly" from a predator attack, it's never pleasant and peaceful, and not always quick and merciful.

Nature shows no mercy.

People believe we humans are more cruel to animals than Nature. Yes, sometimes we can be. But that doesn't mean Nature is nice when dealing its deaths. People say we shouldn't eat meat because slaughterhouses are cruel. Yes, they can be. But they aren't always. And Nature isn't necessarily any better.

Do you ever watch wildlife documentaries? If not, you should. They will open your eyes to the reality of Nature. Slaughterhouses can be stressful to animals, and sometimes animals are injured, or don't die as quickly and humanely as we'd like. But let's take a look at some of the ways Nature kills animals.

Slow and agonizing deaths through starvation, disease, and parasites have already been mentioned. But what about those "quick" deaths by predators? Sure. Nice and peaceful. Stress-free and pain-free, right?

WARNING: Descriptions get gruesome here. Don't read on if you can't stomach some grizzly details.

Let's start with those beautiful wild cats everyone loves. They only kill for food, right? And they kill quickly, so there is no suffering. Snap of a neck and it's instantly over, right? (Let's ignore the fear and stress of being chased and caught) Well, we already talked about how lions kill for other reasons besides food. But even if the animal is killed for food it's not always quick. Wild cats often bring a young animal, like a baby antelope, back home for the cubs to "play" with. The practice of hunting this live baby animal can go on for hours or all day, the poor thing repeatedly knocked around, scared, stressed, and injured. In fact, many such practice prey animals die from stress and exhaustion rather than actually being killed by the cats. A wonderful way to spend your last day on Earth, eh?

OK, let's next talk about crocodiles and alligators. You've probably seen images of them jumping out of the water to snap the head of a zebra or wildebeest crossing the river. We think, oh, that's it! Instant death! But this is often not the case. Crocs and alligators are not really very good at killing their prey directly. They usually just grab the animal and pull it down to the bottom of the river to drown before eating it. Drowning is not fun. Sometimes the crocs/gators don't want to wait that long for the animal to drown, though. They sometimes use a method of spinning their bodies around in the water while holding their prey, literally twisting and ripping the limbs or chunks of the body off while the animal is still alive.

And my personal favorite (yes, sarcasm here) is the African Wild Dog. This "beautiful" spotted dog is actually incapable of killing prey. So they don't even try. They routinely eat their victims while still alive. And the best part is, they love the entrails most. They go for those first. They just drag the live animal down to the ground and then they dive into the abdomen or genital area to disembowel the hapless creature. Imagine what fun it must be to have your intestines literally pulled out through your anus while you're still alive! Yes, a happy day in the park!

OK, so you still think slaughterhouses are more cruel than Nature? At least we humans have a conscience. Most of us do not want animals to suffer. Laws have been passed to reduce the pain and suffering of food animals. There was even a movie made about Temple Grandin, a woman who devoted her life to improving the conditions for beef cattle. There are many activist groups as well. Yes, more work needs to be done. It's not perfect. But, the point is, at least we humans try. Nature makes no such effort because it just doesn't care.

Humans kill their food by shooting it through the heart, decapitating, or hitting it over the head with a sludge hammer. Not pretty. There is no pretty way to die. But would you rather see a buck get a bullet through the heart? Or watch a baby deer get "played with" for hours by young mountain lions? Would you rather see a chicken get its head cut off? Or watch a zebra get its legs ripped off while still alive?

So for all you vegans who think we're more cruel than Nature, we're not. I'm not saying things are good. I'm just saying Nature is not nicer. Nature can be far worse than humans sometimes. And, in reality, humans are part of Nature. So what we do is, in a sense, is perfectly natural.

The reality is, things kill things to eat and live. It was this way for billions of years before humans arrived on Earth. It will be this way for ages after we're gone. We are not unnatural. We are not a fluke. This is Earth. Accept it.

Aug 4, 2014

Wolf Valley Painting - WIP1

I actually started this wolf painting a long time ago. But it got put on the back burner while I worked on my songbird series. I will definitely be doing more birds in the not-too-distant future but for now I'm taking a break from birds to work on a large wolf painting. This one, being bigger than my usual paintings, and having lots of detail in the background, is taking a long time. So it will probably be another week before it's done. But, in the meantime, I thought you might like to see how it's been progressing. Here are a few snap shots at various stages.

Work on the sky and distant mountains starts first.

Starting on the valley. Grass, trees, and a suggestion of fields of spring flowers.

More valley work. Trees closer in. And a river below.

Work begins on the ledge the wolves are standing on. Starting to block in the wolves too. River almost finished.

All of the background is done now, as well as most of the foreground ledge, covered in grass and flowers.

Next comes finishing up the wolves themselves. This painting should be done next week. So check back then to see the finished product!

Jul 28, 2014

Miniature Painting - No 57 - Whitetail Buck

Wow, I just realized I have not painted a single deer painting this year. My last painting that included a member of the deer family was an elk painting from Nov of last year! Since deer are my favorite animals, I decided I was long overdue to paint a deer. This is just a small one, painted in a day. But it scratched that itch I had to get a deer painting done! Here it is.

7"x5" oil on Multimedia Artboard
Available here.

Jul 27, 2014

Art Show Rejection - Don't Take It Personally

Most artists have been told they should enter lots of juried shows and competitions to build up their resumes while building their art career. Since I have never, ever been asked to show my resume before selling a painting, or being accepted into a gallery, I have some disagreement with this idea. But that's a topic for another post. Whether or not you think you need to enter shows, or just want to, it's' never fun when you don't win anything. What's even worse is when you don't get into a show at all. You get that dreaded "sorry, your work was not accepted in..." letter. To add insult to injury, you later attend the show and see artworks that were accepted that make you scratch your head. Sometimes it's even worse and you are literally shocked. You're thinking, "OMG .... THAT amateurish piece of junk got into the show while mine was rejected?"

Usually if you go complain to someone about how some piece of junk art got accepted and yours didn't, you get that look ... that look that the person you're telling thinks you just have an ego problem and you are bitter and jealous. Of course, they didn't actually see the junk that got in so they don't really know. Either that or they're thinking art is subjective, so all art is good in some way, and you just can't accept that some people may like that "crappy" art better than yours. I beg to differ. I know a stylized piece of art from a beginner's finger painting. (Read my post on Why Can't I Say Some Art Is Bad? for my opinion on that). My point is, you usually get no sympathy from anyone. They think the jurors surely picked the best art and you're just being a baby about it because your art was not considered the best. You know that feeling.

But you know you're not just jealous. You're sometimes shocked by what was selected and what was rejected in an art show you didn't even enter. You're sometimes surprised that what you think is a wonderful piece of art by another artist is sitting in the rejection room while another painting was accepted that looks like a dog wiped its bum across the carpet. Your personal art aside, you're baffled.

Regardless of what others think of your rejection, or the reason for the rejection, getting rejected from an art show sucks. I'm writing this post because there's one very important thing I've learned about being rejected from art shows: Don't take it personally.

The first thing we artists tend to do when we get rejected from a show is think that our art was not good enough. Our art sucks. We failed. Maybe we really aren't as good as we think we are and should just throw in the towel.

I'm here to say ... Stop! It's not about you. You weren't necessarily rejected because you're art sucked.

One thing I've learned over the past few years is this is not about my art. It not even about the best art. We are led to believe that jurors are objective, they have some totally objective rule book they use to select art, so only the actual best art gets in a show. We believe art shows are all about selecting the best art and that's it.

I'm here to say I don't think that's true.

I should now make my disclaimer. I have no inside knowledge whatsoever into how juried shows work. But I have talked with a several artists who have far more experience with them than I do. Whether they have the actual facts or not, I don't know. But what they say about how juried shows work makes a lot more sense to me than thinking jurors actually prefer crap art over good art sometimes. Here's what I've learned. The "rule book" for selecting art is not just to select the best art. Shows are a business. So sometimes it's about:

1. What attracts visitors. Art shows want to attract the most visitors possible, especially if visitors have to pay to get in. Variety matters. If a hundred artists submit landscapes and 10 artists submit florals, the jurors may reject 10 beautiful landscapes in order to include 10 crappy florals so they don't have all landscapes. They want landscapes and florals to make sure the show has variety to attract all sorts of visitors.

2.  What sells. Let's face it. Most of these shows are not out there for the sole purpose of helping artists get exposure. They're out there to make money. They want art that sells. You may have the most beautifully rendered painting of a dugong the world has ever seen. But there really isn't much of a market for dugong paintings. If wolves are the "hot" item then the juror may very well select a poorly crafted wolf painting over your excellently painted dugong painting simply because they know the wolf painting is more likely to sell.

3. Personal preference. We'd like to think jurors are objective. And I'm sure many try their best to be objective. But, they are human, and their opinions and tastes are going to influence their choices no matter what. People are usually surprised when I tell them I barely scraped by with a 'C' grade in one of my college art classes. The reason? My teacher did not believe realism was art. His opinion was, if you want it to look realistic just go take a photo. So I got a poor grade for making my paintings and drawings too realistic. It didn't matter to my teacher whether I did a good job or not. He just really believed my renderings were not "art" in the true sense of the term. I was a human photo-copy machine in his opinion. No style. No creativity. I sucked to him. OK, so here is this college professor, supposedly trying to teach art objectively, and could not separate his personal opinions from his judgment of my craftsmanship. So it is with jurors. Try as they might, if they love colorful abstracts and you submit a monochrome realism, they won't be able to entirely detach their personal dislike for monochrome realism. They are going to favor the colorful abstract.

4. Space. This is one I was actually surprised to learn about. But the truth of the matter is, sometimes it's just about space.The prospectus may say they accept paintings up to 5'x6', and you submit work that's 3'x4', but it gets rejected simply because it's too big. Technically it's within the legal limits. But the fact of the matter is they have a limited amount of space to hang artwork. They decided they want to hang 200 pieces of artwork and if they accept 3'x4' paintings then they'll only have room for 150 paintings. So they select some lesser quality 9"x12" paintings over yours so they can squeeze more paintings into the space available.

Really, it could be that simple. Your art is wonderful. They love it. But they simply don't have room for it. They don't tell you this though. I have never seen a show actually tell artists why their art was rejected. It would be nice if they did. But I think they don't because they don't want to tell anyone it's not always about picking the best art. That's what everyone believes, that art shows exhibit only the best art submitted. But it's an illusion. They don't want to admit it's sometimes about stupid stuff, like space. So I'm here to tell you that. Sometimes it is just about stupid stuff. Sometimes it's about wall space, or money, not about the quality of your art. So I hope after you read this you'll feel a little better next time you get that rejection letter.

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