Aug 30, 2007

Uncommon Wildlife Art Subjects: Manatee

This morning, while enjoying the fleeting summer sunshine up here in WA, I sat out in the backyard with my dog, a cup of coffee, and the sound of chickadees at my bird feeder, and did a little reading. Reading is something I seem to have way more of then time for since I have a bad habit of collecting more books and magazines than I'll be able to read in a lifetime. But I managed to grab a few minutes this morning to pick up an unread issue of National Wildlife Magazine. It was the April/May 2007 issue and contained an article about manatees entitled, "Smarter Than They Look" and talked about how manatees, once thought to be rather stupid creatures, are actually quite intelligent.

"Far from being slow learning, manatees, it turns out, are as adept at experimental tasks as dolphins, though they are slower-moving and, having no taste for fish, more difficult to motivate."

It was a very interesting article, actually, and this made start to think about how many truly fascinating creatures there are in the world that, because they aren't the prettiest, no one wants a picture of them on their living room wall. Well, few people anyway. It got me thinking about uncommon and unusual subjects of wildlife art and I decided to take a look and see if I could find artwork of manatees. Everyone has their animals that appeal to them and surely someone, somewhere, must like manatees, homely as they are, and has drawn, painted, or sculpted one, right?

Well, you certainly won't find as much artwork on manatees as you would elk or tigers but there are some. So here some images I found of artwork of manatees, my first subject in my "Uncommon Wildlife Subjects" blog series. Enjoy.

Don Ray

Gloria Hopkins

Linda Thompson

Rick Cain

Edward Hobson

Diane Muratore Bruckner

Barry R. Ingham

I tried to find a painting of a dugong could only come up with a couple of illustrations, not what would be considered fine art. If you know of a painting of dugong let me know and I'll add it here. To help you identify them here's a chart of the various specious of the order Sirenia from Sirenian International. The most obvious difference is the tail, the dugong having one shaped more like a dolphin or whale while the manatee has a round paddle-like tail similar to a beaver. (Click the image for a larger view)

sirenia poster

Aug 28, 2007

Cute and Funny Pictures of Deer

I recently created a page on and while browsing pages of others who like animals I kept finding site after site of cute and funny animal pictures. Most of these are pictures of beloved pets such as dogs, kittens, and bunnies. There seemed to be an endless supply of websites dedicated to cute pet pics. It's only natural since we're emotionally attached to them but they're also easier to photograph than wild animals. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't cute pictures of wild animals out there, they're just a bit harder to find. I decided to pick a favorite wild animal (deer of course!) and see if I could start a collection of cute deer pictures. Here's what I've come up with so far.

Source: AGPix, Erwin and Peggy Bauer

Source: Animal Intelligence


Aug 26, 2007

Wildlife Art and Wildlife Conservation ... Why the Gap?

I have been a supporter of the National Wildlife Federation since I was a teen (and that was a long, long time ago!). I've subscribed to their magazines for eons. I've purchased many a gift item from their catalogs and contributed to many of their fund raising efforts. I'm sure there are many, many other wildlife artists who contribute to their favorite conservation funds, too.

It seems only natural, right? And yet, I scratch my head and wonder why there is so little wildlife art offered by wildlife conservation organizations. Browse the online catalogs of organizations such was National Wildlife Federation or The Nature Conservancy and you will find all sorts of nature items, from books to bedspreads, but you will find surprisingly few wildlife art prints or posters and absolutely no original artwork.

I almost feel betrayed.

This lack of artwork is most puzzling to me since wildlife art and conservation seem a natural partnership. Wildlife artists have done so much for conservation efforts. Artists such as Robert Bateman have made huge contributions to conservation awareness and efforts. He was been honored with the Governor General's Award in Quebec City for his contribution to conservation in Canada, the Perkin’s Partner in Conservation Award presented by The Wild Canid Center, the U.S. National Audubon Society One of 20th Century’s 100 Champions of Conservation, and the Roland Michener Conservation Award presented by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, among others.

And yet, I have never once seen a print of his work offered in a conservation organization's catalog. Why?

Of course Robert Bateman is not the only wildlife artist who contributes to wildlife efforts. There's a whole group of wildlife artists dedicated to this effort, Artists for Conservation. As of this post member artists have pledged $13,943,109.79 to conservation funds. And yet, no conservation organization that I know of offers even a reciprocal link to this website.

Am I crazy, or is something wrong here?

Aug 21, 2007

Save a Deer, Shoot a Hunter!

No, of course I don't want to you really shoot a hunter! I got your attention, though, didn't I?

But, seriously, we should protect wildlife by banning all hunting, right? Hunting is a cruel and unnecessary sport and hunters are just evil people who enjoy torturing animals and watching them suffer, right?

Well no, actually, I don't think so.

You're thinking, What!? You're a wildlife artist! You love wildlife! You love nature! You contribute to wildlife conservation! You care about animal rights! How could you possibly not support a hunting ban!? How could you not think hunters are horrible, cruel people!?

It's quite simple really.

First of all, the sad reality of this world is that it revolves around money. Wildlife conservation would not exist without money and hunters make huge contributions to wildlife conservation efforts through hunting licenses and through the support of organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Like it or not, without hunters there would be a whole lot less wildlife conservation going on.

Secondly, hunters aren't horrible, cruel people either. Well, not all of them anyway. I'm sure there are some bad apples out there just as there are in any group. But many hunters care very deeply about nature and wildlife. Now, I personally can't understand how you can love something and then kill it but I have met and talked with hunters enough to know there are such people. I don't know understand it but I know other people can feel that way somehow (just like I can't understand how anyone can like brussel sprouts but I know some people do!). I can tell by the looks in their eyes and the sounds of their voice when they talk about it that they love nature more than anything. These particular types of hunters are ethical and compassionate and have no desire to cause pain and suffering to the animals they hunt. Many are willing to let "The Big One" get away rather than hit it with a sloppy shot and they abhor sloppy, unethical hunters as much as we do.

I'm all for the ethical and humane treatment of animals but when attitudes become extreme then logic becomes flawed. While I appreciate the intentions of IDA, for example, something they said in an article about how to better reduce and control the deer population seemed a little absurd to me.

"Hunting does remove some animals from the population, but it does not keep deer populations at a continually reduced level. Immediately after a hunt, the remaining animals flourish because less competition for food exists, allowing the remaining animals to live healthier lives, and resulting in a higher reproductive rate."
"In Defense of Animals believes that sport hunting is not only an ineffective wildlife management tool, but a cruel and unnecessary practice. Sport hunting should be banned, allowing deer populations to regulate themselves naturally." (source)
I have to wonder if they've given any thought as to how nature regulates deer populations "naturally." Some people feel that "natural" is always better. But if you think about it you'll realize that nature is often more cruel than humans. What IDA is saying above is that they want to see an end to the hunting that allows some animals to "live healthier lives" and instead let the populations increase until nature causes all the deer to suffer, since nature regulates populations through starvation and disease. This is an odd choice for an organization that supposedly cares about animals since starvation, malnutrition, and disease cause far more pain and suffering than a bullet. I don't know about you but if I had to choose I'd much rather take a bullet through the heart than die a slow agonizing death through starvation.

So try not to hate hunters, at least not the ones who are ethical and support wildlife conservation. They're doing more good for wildlife than they're doing harm to it. They're human like you after all and, whether you want to believe it or not, humans are part of nature too.

Aug 15, 2007

Do You Squidoo?

I've recently created a Wildlife Art group for Squidoo members. If you're a Squidoo member and have a Lens related to wildlife art I'd love to have you join my group. Of course it's for wildlife artists, but you don't have to be a wildlife artist yourself. Your Lens can be about a wildlife art gallery, a wildlife art publisher, or just your ramblings as a wildlife art collector or admirer, just as long it's primarily about wildlife and art in some way.

You can join through the group page here: Squidoo Wildlife Art Group

Ok, so ... for those of you who are scratching your heads going, "What's a Squidoo?" and, "Why would I want to be a member anyway?" .... well, I don't have a very clear answer really. I'm new to Squidoo myself and still trying to wrap my head around it. The closest thing I can describe it as is something akin to MySpace. It's basically just a place to show your stuff, share your interests, and network. The big difference between it and MySpace, however, is that it is more ... how shall I say it ... elegant? It's also more customizable and organized.

Another distinct advantage is, you can actually make money from having a Squidoo page (called a Lens). You can keep the money yourself of donate it to your favorite charity through their donation program. Here's what Squidoo has to say about making royalties from their site.

"It's simple. You make a lens. You recommend great stuff. Sometimes these you'll [sic] recommend a product from Amazon or eBay or CafePress or one of our hundreds of other commerce partners.

"Since Squidoo is free to use, we have to run a few ads on your lens in order to keep our doors open. So you'll see a few Google ads and SquidOffers on your lens.

"Now, since you're the brain behind the lens, you should get a cut! And better than a cut: you get HALF. That's right. Any time someone stops by your lens and buys a product you recommended or clicks on a Google ad, you get 50% of the royalties."

It's not just about showing off what you have to sell. If you have anything at all you like to talk about make a Lens on Squidoo. Do you have a passion for tropical fish? Make a Lens about that. Share your experiences with keeping fish. List your favorite books about fish, and your pet stores for buying fish, etc. Do you love sci-fi? Make a Lens about that and list your favorite books and movies. You might just make some $$ by doing it.

It's definitely worth checking out:

Check out my lens

Aug 12, 2007

Artist's Book of the Month

I just recently updated my wildlife art website and on that site I have a Book Recommendations page. While considering which books to add to the list I decided it might be fun to write an occasional blog post about one of the books on the list and talk about why I recommend it. So here goes.

We'll start this off with Problem Solving for Oil Painters: Recognizing What's Gone Wrong and How to Make It Right

Now, before all you watercolorists and colored pencil artists start yawning just hang on a second. One reason I want to talk about this book is because I thin the title is a little misleading. It really should be titled Problem Solving for Artists. There's very little in this book that doesn't apply to 2-D art of any medium. The artist/author, Gregg Kreutz, discusses things such shape, value, light, shadows, color, and depth, things important to consider whether you're using oil paints or pencils. He often shows comparison paintings of the same subject to clarify the differences he's talking about, which is very helpful.

Overall it's a great book for beginners and intermediates, although that doesn't mean some advanced artists won't find a few helpful points as well.

Aug 9, 2007

The 12-Step Program to MySpace Obscurity

I've recently created a MySpace page for my wildlife art to help promote my artwork. I've been spending a little time each day networking MySpace. I've come to realize it's a lot harder to find other artists to network with than I had originally thought. Apparently many artists who create MySpace pages don't want to be found, or at least don't want to network with anyone interested in art. So if you're like those artists here are some tips to make sure you, too, won't be found, or made Friends by, anyone interested in art:

1. Don't post any images of your art. Definitely don't put any pictures on your main page. Force visitors to click on your Pics link and when the do show them pictures of all your friends, family, and pets but not your artwork. That will bore them enough to leave your site very quickly. If you do decide to post some art images make sure they're private so no one can see them ... except, of course, your friends and family who have already seen them.

2. Avoid a consistent theme. Have pictures of a wide variety of your interests. Include pictures of Elvis, your dog's obedience class graduation, you and your friends at the last Star Trek Expo, or your favorite Playboy centerfolds (not that you'd ever see those last two together!). That will keep your page from looking at all professional.

3. Avoid anything related to your artistic interests. If you like to sculpt marine animals or paint seascapes be sure not to have any pictures that have anything whatsoever to do with the ocean or water. Show only images of your hamster's first birthday party instead.

4. Post your mug shot rather than art as your avatar. After all, someone interested in art who is browsing profile thumbnails might actually click on your thumbnail if they saw a picture of artwork. Make sure your thumbnail doesn't stand out among the millions. Additionally, make sure it's a poor quality image, the darker and blurrier the better. For extra obscurity make it a picture of you at your last bowling tournament with the whole bowling league in the background. With all that stuff in the picture no one will ever identify you or your artwork in that tiny 40x40 pixel thumbnail listing. Better yet, use the generic clip-art provided by MySpace.

5. Make your MySpace page difficult to read and navigate. Stylize your page to be so busy no one can find their way around. Make sure there are so many background colors that the text won't be visible on some part of the page no matter what color text you use. Or, you can go the other extreme and make your background all one color, then make your text match the background color. Green text on that lovely image of the rainforest works great. Or dark gray text against that stormy sky image is another wonderful way to get people to give up any hope of reading what you wrote.

6. Be sure to leave the About Me and Interests sections blank so no one will have a clue what your page is about. If you must put something there you can use obscure pictures, without descriptions, that leave it unclear as to why those images are there. Is that picture of palm tree on the beach a picture of your work? Or is it a work by an artist you admire? Perhaps it's a postcard from your last Hawaiian vacation? Or is it just a picture you found while surfing the web that you thought would add some nice decoration to your MySpace page? Keep viewers confused so they'll be sure not to relate your artwork to you.

7. Be sure to use poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You want to keep it unappealing and unprofessional. Be sure to include some fowl language, too. One particularly impressive site (for unappealingness) had in its About Me section, "The word 'f__k' is a regular part of my vocabulary..." (No, I didn't make that up) I'm sure that lack of professionalism will keep those big, bad, scary art galleries, dealers, and collectors far, far from her door.

8. Don't use any keywords on your page that might actually have you show up in a search. If you are a portrait artist be sure not to use either the word "portrait" or "artist" anywhere on your page. In fact, to be really safe, don't use any words at all. Search functions can't find you with just obscure images and and broken video links. And be sure not to use your name anywhere. You wouldn't want anyone to actually learn your name, or be able to search your name, or you might become a known artist.

9. Don't network. Don't add Friends, don't join Groups. Keep the existence of your MySpage page known only to you and your immediate friends and family who already know about your art. And, if someone should somehow accidentally stumble across your page they'll be sure to be turned off by the fact that you have exactly 1 Friend on your list, your mother. Additionally, require that people know your last name or email address in order to add you to their Friends list and be sure not to let either your name or address be known.

10. Music! Be sure to add loud annoying music to your page. Everyone loves your favorite song as much as you do, right? Of course not. So adding music, particularly if it's loud and irritating, is a sure way to get anyone clicking their browser's Back button in a hurry and get off them your page as quickly as possible. At the very least you'll get them reaching for the Mute button on their speakers and leave them in an unpleasant mood while they look over your page.

11. Don't blog regularly and don't write about anything interesting, especially anything related to art. You don't want people coming back for more! And you definitely don't want them thinking you have any interest in art despite your claiming to be an artist.

12. Decorate your page with ugly and obscene images. Having background images of gothic horror or artwork by Sorayama Hajime is sure keep your page from being family friendly. You'll eliminate a huge portion of the art market this way.

So there you have it. Do all, or at least most, of those things and you can be sure few people will get to know you and your art, or want to add you to their Friends list. At least you know I won't.

Aug 7, 2007

Dazzle Your Snail Mail with Zazzle

It would have been a better subject title if I could have found a word for "mail" that rhymed with "dazzle", wouldn't it? But try to find one. Yeah, go ahead!

Anyway, I just got some postage stamps today....

You're thinking, yeah, so what?

Well, they're not just ordinary postage stamps. I got some postage stamps no one else in the entire world has. What's so special about my stamps, you ask? They have my artwork on them. :)

I got them printed up on Zazzle. Take a look!

Of course, there are lots of sites where I can have my wildlife art printed on coffee mugs, calendars, etc. But those things don't go anywhere where other people besides my immediate friends and family will see them.

These are real stamps I can use on real mail. Isn't that cool? :)

Of course it's not limited to artowork. Any image at all (well, within reason) can be uploaded nad turned into a postage stamp. Do you have an upcoming wedding? Send invitations with postage featuring the happy couple! When it comes time for mailing Christma cards send your cards this year featuring the happy face of your child opening gifts or sitting on Santa's lap.

Fore more info click on the Zazzle logo below.

In association with

Aug 4, 2007

Artists for Conservation

Whether you're a wildlife artist or just someone interested in wildlife art here's an organization you should know about, Artists For Conservation (AFC) (formerly Worldwide Nature Artists Group).

If you a wildlife art collector this is a great place to look for your next purchase. Artist membership to this group is limited and requires a review process. Only artists whose work is of high quality are accepted and allowed to display their work on this site so you can be sure you will be browsing some of the best wildlife art out there.

If you're an artist it's a great tool to help increase exposure, sell your art to a targeted market, and help contribute to wildlife conservation in the process. They advertise their website regularly in publications such as Wildlife Art Magazine. They keep a listing of upcoming events of interest to member artists as well as offering opportunities to participate in co-op advertising, member shows, and their Flag Expeditions.

Artists For Conservation is launching its fifth Flag Expedition this month with artist Alison Nicholls who will head off to Zimbabwe where she'll get to spend 6 weeks drawing and painting African Wild Dogs:

"In late August 2007, Nicholls will embark on a six-week expedition to Hwange National Park in northwestern Zimbabwe to locate Painted Dogs and create a detailed artistic field study of the dogs and their natural habitat. The name Painted Dog is derived from the Latin name for the species Lycaon pictus. African Wild Dog is the more commonly used name, but ...."
For more info on the expedition visit their expedition page here.

Aug 1, 2007

Wolf Art, Art Wolfe, and the Art of Photographing Nature

Ok, so I'm not really here to talk about wolves in art specifically. But I would like to talk about Art Wolfe and his TV series, Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe. Probably anyone who is even halfway interested in wildlife has heard of Art Wolfe and his amazing nature photography. If not, I'd be interested to know what rock you've been living under. ;)

Art Wolfe is truly an exception nature photographer not just because he is good technically but because his images are also very artistic. Artists can learn a lot from good photographers. After all, the basic rules of what makes good image regarding composition, lighting, and design are pretty much the same.

This TV series has some great film footage as well as snapshots of Art's images. In some areas the show also airs in HD (high-definition) so if you have a HDTV you're in for a real visual feast! (Check out the web site for information on when the show airs in your area.) Also, Art Wolfe himself is entertaining in the show. His passion, enthusiasm, and sense of humor make him amusing to watch. But besides that he's also informative. He talks about how and why he picks particular shots and what excites him about it, whether it's the lighting, color patterns, or the underlying abstract designs. If you have a DVR and can pause it be sure to do so when he talks these things. It helps to stop the DVR and analyze the shot he's referring to fully appreciate the artistic value. Imagining it as a painting, thinking about how you'd do a painting using similar ideas of light, color patterns, and design can be a great learning experience. This is definitely a must-see series for anyone interested in any combination of art, photography, and nature.

I'm also reading a book, The Art of Photographing Nature, by Art Wolfe and Martha Hill, former photography editor of Audubon magazine. It's a great book for both photographers and artists who want to photograph nature subjects to use in their art. Many examples in the book use multiple shots of the same subject to compare in order to discuss what makes one image better than the other. Both give their opinions on what makes the better image. Most of the time they agree, sometimes they don't. In either case it gives you a lot to think about and learn from.

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