Jun 30, 2012


This is a great little free tool you can use on your website or blog, StatCounter.com. (No, I'm not affiliated in any way so I'm not trying to advertise here.) I just started using it on my website not too long ago and so far it's been pretty interesting. It's not just a counter. It gives you all sorts of info on where visitors are from, referring sites, search engine keywords they used, where you ranked in that keyword search, if they found you through an image search, etc. This is helping me optimize my site by using more of the popular keywords. I'm finding out, for instance, that a lot of people land on my blog searching for hyena art and brown pelicans, which I find odd. I would not have thought of those as popular search subjects.

I think it's worth the time to watch the Keyword Analysis and Recent Keyword Activity on your site. Pay attention to what search terms seem to come up frequently and use more of those keywords in your blog posts.

One thing that seems to make a difference is naming your image files with the keywords. Don't name your barn painting with something generic like 'image01.jpg', for example. Be sure to name it what it is, plus some extra keywords, even if the name is long. Name it something like 'landscape-farm-red-barn-oil-painting.jpg'. I've gotten more visits through Google image searches since I change my file names. Even though it was a big pain to change all my file names and the corresponding HTML, I think it's worth the effort.

Other interesting information you can gain is finding out where people are coming from. If you post in several forums, for example, and include your website or blog in your signature, you can see if visitors are coming from those forum posts. If you notice more visitors coming from certain forums, and fewer from other forums, that can help a lot. It tells you which forums to spend your time and energy posting in, and which to not waste your time on.

There's tons more info you can see from this site, like which of your site pages are most popular, what images they've downloaded from your site, what countries they're from, even what browsers they're using. Lots of info! Worth checking out.

Jun 29, 2012

Wolf Pups Coloring Book Page

Here's another one for the kiddies! This time it's a coloring page of a couple of curious and cute wolf pups investigating a small animal burrow.

As with the previous coloring pages, have your kids download it, print it out, and color it or paint it any way they want, realistic or wild and crazy! (Click on the image to see a larger version. Then right-click on the larger image and select "save image as..." to save it to your hard drive.) If they want to color it realistically they can use the image below of my original painting as a reference and try to match the colors.

Tell me what other wildlife subjects your kids would like to color!

Jun 28, 2012

Wolf Portrait Mini Painting Finished

I finished up my wolf portrait mini painting today. Here it is!

Wolf Portrait Mini Painting
5"x7" oil on Gessobord

For comparison here's the Work-In-Progress (WIP) image I posted a few days ago.

I have not yet named this piece. If you have any suggestions for a title, let me know!

Jun 26, 2012

Are Insects Wildlife Art?

Do you consider painting of bugs "wildlife art"?
I created a wildlife art group on FineArtAmerica.com and when people submit images I sometimes have a hard time deciding whether or not to accept them into the group. Horses, for example, are borderline. It depends on if they are portrayed as domestic animals or wild horses. Hunting and fishing scenes are generally accepted in the art world as "wildlife art" although to me it depends on whether the focal point is the animal or the hunter/fisherman.

One thing I have a hard time with is insects. Is a butterfly on a daisy considered "wildlife"? Probably, because we like butterflies, we'd say yes. What about an ant crawling up a blade of grass? Hmmm. Maybe. What about a stagnant pond swarming with mosquitoes? Is that "wildlife art"? I don't know. It seems we decide if insects are accepted into the "wildlife art" genre largely upon whether or not we like that particular insect or if we're repulsed by it.

Yes, technically insects are wildlife by definition. But talking more about the way we categorize art. There are just some fuzzy areas there. Fish in a pond is another example. If it's a perch it would be considered wildlife art. But what if it's a koi pond? Are they considered domesticated? They're not really pets. More like zoo animals. But zoo animals are considered wildlife, not domesticated. So they're not really wild ... but they're wild animals.

And what about some birds? Parrots are wild, but also pets. Parrots are generally portrayed in art as wild birds. But what about parakeets? They are wild but we generally associate them with being caged pets.

Mice? Rabbits? Lizards? All can be wild or pets. Where do they go in the art world and what do you do to make the distinction?

Jun 25, 2012

White Tiger Painting -WIP

Here's something currently on the easel, my first white tiger painting. I'm painting it from a reference photos I took at the Triple D Game Farm. It's a bit interesting because the photo is of a yellow Siberian tiger and I'm trying to make this one a white Bengal tiger. (There's no such thing as a white Siberian tiger, as far as anyone knows)

Yeah, I know sometimes it looks like I jump around a lot. A wolf half-finished one day, a tiger the next. But I work in oil paints and sometimes you have to wait for one layer to dry for a day before you can apply the next. So it's good to have several paintings going at once so there's always something to work on. I'll probably jump back to the previous wolf painting tomorrow, since it should be dry by then, and hopefully finish it up soon.

Jun 24, 2012

Observing Animals in the Wild

I was recently in a discussion with some other wildlife artists about the importance of observing wild animals in their natural habitat. Some believe you cannot paint or draw a good piece of art if you have not spent considerable time observing your animal subject in real life, in the wild.

The arguments were you can't paint from photos because they lie and distort. You can't paint from zoo animals because they are overfed, out of shape, and don't accurately represent their lean, fit, and war-torn wild counterparts.

While these arguments may have some validity, it doesn't mean an artist can't paint or draw good wildlife without observing an animal subject in its natural wild habitat.

How can I say this, some of you may think?

Well, how many artists who paint snow leopards, for example, have actually observed them in the wild? Even if you get the opportunity to travel to Tibet (which few artists probably do) the chances of seeing a snow leopard in the wild are extremely low. I'd bet money most artists who paint snow leopards have never seen one in the wild. They are most likely zoo or game farm animals. That doesn't mean the art can't be good. There are plenty of beautiful snow leopard works of art.

There are many other subjects of rare animals artist paint frequently that I have a hard time believing have been observed in the wild first-hand by that artist. White tigers, okapi, the red wolf. These are all animals I've seen in art, some by artists who argue observing animals in the wild is necessary. These animals can easily be seen in many zoos, but I seriously doubt these artists have painted them plein air from wild specimens. Not that they're making such claims. But they imply it's necessary, yet paint subjects they probably have never seen in the wild themselves.

I don't think the argument is valid. Or course it would be great if we could all spend lots of time watching and sketching animals in the wild. But the fact is, most of us can't. Not all of us have wildlife in our backyards. Not all of us can run off on African safaris. When I was working full time I never had time to go to Africa. Now that I'm not working, I don't have the money. Many artists are in the same boat. You either have time or money but rarely both. Does that mean you can't paint?

For those of us who are unable to spend much time, for whatever reason, observing animals in their natural habitat, I think zoo and refuge animals can still be very useful, despite what some may argue. I also think watching lots of documentaries helps. You just have to make a little extra effort bridging the gap between these artificial settings and the wild world. You can learn a lot about movement, anatomy, and behavior by watching these shows. Observing animals in real life in the zoo, then looking at how wild animals in documentaries differ in their leaner and more haggard look can give you a lot to go by.

And don't forget your pet. You can't learn everything about a wolf by watching your dog, but there are some similarities. The same is true for your cat, horse, and bird. Watching pets and farm animals, watching documentaries, visiting zoos and wildlife refuges, reading books, and researching online can do a lot to bridge the gap between you and the wilderness.

Jun 23, 2012

The Importance of a Good Title

I wanted to share with you tonight the artwork of Jim Clements. His artwork is not only amazing just for its sheer beauty but for the stories it tells. While browsing his art one image in particular struck me. This piece is called 'Last Roundup' (posted here with the artist's permission):

Does this piece invoke an emotional response? Absolutely! But how much of that emotion is the result of the image itself and how much is from the title of the piece? Imagine if the piece had been titled something generic like "horse and rider". Would you have had the same response? I would have still liked the piece simply because it's beautiful and well executed. But would it have stirred me emotionally? Maybe not as much.

I believe it was a Pixar animator who once said, "My job is not to move the character so much as to move the audience". I think that applies to still art like paintings as well. We, as artists, often paint because we feel an emotional response to the subject. When we paint our subject, aren't we trying to share that emotion? Of course, we want much of that emotion to come across in the artwork itself, but why not help it with a good title?

Too many of us, including myself, struggle with finding a good tile for our work so we often neglect it. My art speaks for itself after all, right? So why do I need to worry about a title? Well, as you saw in Jim Clements' art, a good title can speak so much more and make a huge difference.

I see so many wonderful artworks with generic and uninteresting titles like "moose" or, even worse, "untitled". Don't do this to your art! Viewers can't read your mind. They don't know what you were thinking and feeling when you created that piece. They can see the art and may feel an emotional connection to it. But if you don't help them out they may not feel your emotional connection to it. Wouldn't you like them to know what that is? Tell them with a good title!

And while you're thinking about all that, please take some time to go browse some of Jim's other wonderful artworks! Jim Clements Art

Jun 22, 2012

Wolf Portrait Mini Painting

I'm working on a new mini painting of a wolf portrait. I just finished up the first layer of fur today and thought you might like to see how it's progressing so you can see how I paint fur. I generally start with the darker under coat layers and work up to the lighter tips.

Wolf fur is one of the more fun animal furs to paint because of the way it clumps sand separates. Clumpy fur is more fun to paint than fur that is short and even because it has more visual interest.

Now that the first layer is done I'll have to wait a day or two for it to dry before I can apply the lighter upper layer so the layers don't just blend together in a mush.

Check back soon to see the finished painting.

Jun 21, 2012

Bothell LiveARTS Festival

I'm happy to announce that my artwork, Love's Golden Touch, a painting of a mother giraffe caressing her baby, has been accepted into the Bothell LiveARTS Festival going on this weekend. It will be on display June 23-24, and will be available for purchase there too.

Love's Golden Touch
Oil on wrap-around canvas

(For those of you not from the area, 'Bothell' is pronounced like 'brothel' without the R. Unfortunate, I know. Not a pretty word to rhyme with. But better than the more commonly mispronounced version of 'bot hell' I suppose.)

Anyway, if you happen to be in the area this weekend, please stop by and enjoy all the wonderful art, live music, and food! I plan to spend some time there this weekend, although I don't know what hours yet. I'll likely post the times here when I'm ready to go. Maybe I'll see you there!

Jun 20, 2012

Art Show Practices

I must admit, I'm not very experienced at entering art shows or understanding how they work. Even years ago when I was doing my wildlife art full time I did not spend much time entering shows or exhibitions. I mainly spent my time painting, selling originals through a local retail gallery, and working on publishing and licensing deals. I really didn't give much thought to art competitions or exhibitions.

This time, I decided to try things differently. Everyone seems to say you need to enter shows and win awards to build up your resume. Entering's the easy part. Winning's another story. But, I digress.

My purpose for this post is to ask, do many shows ask to submit originals just to enter?

I've only entered a few shows this year. Usually they ask you to submit some digital images via email or CD. Then they notify you if you are accepted into the show. If you are accepted then you deliver the original artwork to the show.

Sounds good.

Now, recently, I entered a local show where things didn't quite go that way. They actually ask you to deliver your original artworks just to enter. First, this seems odd to me for them to spend all this time and energy handling and storing originals that won't end up actually in the show. Why not save themselves the hassle and eliminate unwanted artwork via digital preview like many shows seem to do nowadays?

Then, to make matters worse, they only notify you if all your submitted pieces are rejected. If you enter 3 artworks and 1 is accepted and 2 are rejected, you hear nothing from them. So I guess you assume "no news is good news" in this case. But, even if no news is good news, you don't know which pieces that you entered have been accepted. This can be a bit frustrating for the artist. I'd imagine most artists would like to announce ahead of time which pieces of their art have been accepted into a show. They would like to inform their fans and clientele so they may go view that art at said show. To think an artist has to actually attend the show to find out which of his/her pieces are in it seems ridiculous to me.

On top of everything else, the rejected pieces of art cannot be picked up until after the show. So, even if all your submitted works are rejected, your originals are tied up for the duration of the show. You cannot submit them to other shows, you can't sell them, you can't show them anywhere else. This seems a heavy price to pay to enter a show you may not get into.

This seems completely backwards to me. Am I wrong? Is this weird? Or is it common? Let me know.

Jun 18, 2012

Adobe Photoshop for Fine Artists

I know when most people hear the word Photoshop they think of computer graphics. But tools such as Adobe's Photoshop can be quite helpful for the fine artist too.

This post is not a Photoshop tutorial. There are a thousand sites out there dedicated to learning Photoshop already. What I'm going to talk about here is why Photoshop can be useful to the fine artist as well as the digital artist.

As you may know from reading my previous posts, I recently finished a mini painting of a stalking Siberian tiger, shown here:

As I also mentioned previously, I had been toying with the idea of flipping the colors, doing a white tiger in yellow grass. But how would that look? It looks good in my head. But it doesn't always match on paper. So, first, I have to get it out of my head and somewhere I can see it.

I could draw it with colored pencil. Or I could do a rough paint sketch. But, an ever faster way to get an idea of what it would look like is to mock it up in Photoshop. Here's the first iteration.

Hmmm. Now that I actually see it outside my head I'm not so pleased. It looked better in my head! Amazing how beautiful things are in my head vs reality!

But, my point is, this Photoshop image took all of about 3 minutes to create. Crude as it is, it gets the idea across. I don't like it as much as the first image. And it would have taken me 10 times longer at least to draw or sketch that same image, only to find I don't like it.

OK, so now that I see it, what's wrong with it? Why is it not as strong as the first image? I think, in the first image, we have yellow in the background tying in with the yellow of the tiger. In the second image, there is no white in the background to tie into the white tiger. OK, let's play around in Photoshop some more and see if we can fix that.

Here, I've added a little snow within the grass to connect the white tiger to some white in the background.

Better, but still not as strong as the first image, in my opinion.

But again, the point is, this second iteration only took me another few minutes. Overall I spent less than 10 minutes playing around with white tigers in yellow backgrounds in Photoshop. It would have taken me an hour or more to do this with colored pencils or paint. Or, worse, I could have spent days or weeks painting an actual large painting of this white tiger in yellow grass only to be disappointed with the end result.

I know, many of you are not too tech-savvy and prefer the old-fashioned way of doing things. Who has time to learn all that software stuff?! It's only 30 minutes of sketching anyway, right, so who cares? But, those 30 minutes add up over the years. Think about how many more hours you could spend actually painting good paintings if you spent less time on concept sketching, experimenting, or just plain old messing up! It's a good investment of your time!

Interesting Animal Facts - American Robin

Since we moved to a more rural setting last fall I hear a lot more bird sounds. I'll admit I don't know my bird calls very well. So when I started hearing a particular song just before dawn each day I was curious to know which bird was performing this (very early!) morning serenade.

It was, of course, the "early bird" American Robin.

I started listening to the audio clips on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website and reading the song description. I found it interesting that the Robin sings a different, faster song at dawn than at other times of day. I couldn't really find any information as to why this is. Perhaps they have more energy first thing in the morning and later their songs just naturally slow down as their energy levels drop? Do you know?

Jun 17, 2012

Bald Eagle Coloring Book Page

Here's another of my paintings converted to a coloring page for your kids to print out and color. This time, our great American symbol, the bald eagle.

(Click on the image to see a larger version. Then right-click on the larger image and select "save image as..." to save it to your hard drive. You can then print it out and your child can color it in with crayons, colored pencil, or whatever he/she likes.)

And here's the full-color original as reference. Have your children try to copy it exactly, or go wild and do their own thing! The most important part is to learn and have fun!

Send me your child's finished picture and maybe I'll feature it here in a future post!

Jun 15, 2012

Stalking Siberian Tiger Finished!

It's done! I like the way it turned out. So I think I will do a larger, more detailed version with some slight modifications ... like more detail in the background trees and grass.

Stalking Siberian Tiger Study
5"x7" oil on Gessobord

I'm still toying with the idea of doing a white tiger in yellow grass instead. What do you think is more appealing, a white or yellow tiger?

Jun 14, 2012

Siberian Tiger Painting WIP

I did a little more work on the stalking Siberian tiger today. A bit more work on the tiger's face, shoulders, and front legs, as well as some work on the rocks and snow. He's getting more stripes! Stripes are the fun part!

Here's the image from the previous post again for easier comparison.

I should have this guy finished up tomorrow if nothing gets in the way!

Jun 13, 2012

Cutest Deer Picture Ever!

Deer are one of my most favorite animals. I've loved them since I first saw Bambi as a child. I drew a million pictures of them as a child with anything I could get my hands on, crayons, chalk, whatever. So, I naturally have "cute deer" radar. I love pictures of cute deer, especially fawns, so when I saw this I just went nuts. OMG! I've seen a lot of cute deer pictures but this has to be one of the cutest fawn pictures I have ever seen. Don't you just want to grab it and hug it?!

I came across this image on a FaceBook post. Unfortunately, as is the way with Facebook, few people who share images bother to say where they got them, or give credit to the artist or photographer. I would really like to know who took this picture so I can give them credit. If you have any idea who the photographer is, please let me know!

Jun 12, 2012

Siberian Tiger Painting

Another mini tiger study I'm doing. I don't normally like to post works in progress but that's usually because, the way I paint, my WIPs don't look like anything until they're nearly complete. But in this case I think you can pretty much tell where the painting's going even though it's far from finished. It's quite obviously a tiger (Siberian) in the snow.

Stalking Siberian Tiger Study - WIP
5"x7" oil on Gessobord

This is from a photo I took when I went to a wildlife photography workshop with Paul Burwell at the Triple D Game Farm a few years ago. This is a really great experience if you ever get the chance to go. I took thousands of pictures of animals in natural settings, including tigers, wolves, lynx, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, cougars, black bears, otters, and raccoons. I have enough reference to keep me painting for a few years.

I'd like to go back again soon, though, for the winter photography workshop when they have subjects such as snow leopards and arctic fox in the snow! Wouldn't that be wonderful!? But, ugh, Montana in winter?? Yikes! I'm a wimp. I admit that sounds miserable! But it would be worth it.

But I digress. Back to the tiger painting. I love this particular shot because of the intensity and the pose. He's stalking. He's focused. He looks like he's spotted you, the viewer, and now you're his target. The curves of his body, the power of his muscles are exciting. The lighting is also dramatic. (Btw, at Triple D you gotta get up at 5:30AM for that morning lighting! Be prepared!)

When I first decided to paint this image I was toying with the idea of making him a white tiger in yellow grass, instead of a yellow tiger in white snow. What would you think of that?

Check back soon to see the finished painting!

Foal in Flowers Painting

Here's a quick little study, a mini painting, I finished recently of a foal standing in a field of yellow flowers. I know the pose is a little typical, but it was a good opportunity for me to just refresh my memory of horse anatomy. I think the roundness of a foal's belly and rump, and curves of its back, neck, and face are what make a foal so cute. This pose shows off all those adorable features.

Foal in Flowers Study
6"x6" oil on Gessobord

Jun 11, 2012

Saving Money on Art Supplies

Ok, I'm working on a lot of small "studies" lately, which means many wet paintings at one time. I hang larger paintings on my studio walls to dry, but I don't want to tack up a dozen mini paintings. So what do I do with all these works in progress while they dry?

I was looking online for vertical art storage units and the Safco Art Rack came up a lot.

But, wow, almost $400 for what's basically a box with dividers? That seemed a little on the expensive side for what it was.

Sure, I could probably make a box myself with $20 worth of materials from Home Depot. But, frankly, I'm not very handy that way. I'd more likely staple my thumb to the floor than create anything useful.

So I started looking around for other ideas. Certainly there are other storage units that are not specifically geared toward art that would serve the purpose, aren't there? Yes, there are. You just have to think a little outside the box.

Good old Office Max has a variety of vertical and horizontal letter and folder organizers that work great for smaller paintings. This is what I picked up for only $15:

Much better than $400!

Of course, this only works well for smaller paintings. The paintings shown there range in size from 5"x7" to 8"x10". But I'd imagine there are other solutions out there for larger paintings. If you know of one, share it with me!

Jun 10, 2012

My Past Life

For anyone curious about what my "day job" was before I recently lost that job when the company shut down in April, here it is.

This is what side-tracked me from my wildlife art years ago. I worked doing computer art for video game companies, most recently a studio called Zipper Interactive, owned by Sony. I modeled environments in a software program called Maya. So when you're running around in a video game, the streets and buildings you run through may have been modeled by me.

Unfortunately, Sony decided to close down the Zipper studio and about 100 people lost their jobs.

I have mixed feelings about this. In the early years I really enjoyed working on video games. I was, after all, still ding art. It was fun and I made good money. In later years, though, I longed to get back to my wildlife art.

The company shutting down left me in a state of mixed emotions. Concern about losing my steady income and benefits. Sympathy for those who lost their jobs. Sadness from knowing I'll never work with some of those talented, funny, and inspiring people again. Joy at my new-found freedom. Excitement about the possibilities. Fear of an unknown future.

I'm trying to view this as an opportunity, not a tragedy. The call of the wild has been echoing in the back of my mind for many years. Maybe this is what I needed to heed that call.

Jun 9, 2012

Learn Wildlife For Kids - Color Book Fun

A good way to get kids interested in learning is, obviously, to make it fun. To get kids interested in learning about wildlife, and wildlife art, I thought it might be fun for them to color some wildlife art images. This will encourage them to take a closer look at the animals than they might do otherwise. When coloring in an image the child will need to observe more closely the animal's color, anatomy, and habitat.

Here's one of my deer paintings, Startled, a picture of two whitetail deer running in the snow. I've converted to a line drawing so kids can color it in for fun.

Click on the image to see a larger version. Then right-click on the larger image and select "save image as..." to save it to your hard drive. You can then print it out and your child can color it in with crayons, colored pencil, or whatever he/she likes. If your printer can handle it, you might even try printing it out on watercolor paper so your child can explore painting as well.

Here is the original full-color painting your child can use for reference. He/she can try to match my colors or explore new colors. Try coloring several pages, each with a different color theme. Try to be realistic or go wild! But, most of all, have fun!

Let me know if your child enjoys this and I'll post more in the future.

Jun 8, 2012

Whitetail Deer and Waterfall Painting

I recently finished this painting of a whitetail doe and buck walking along a stream with a small waterfall, titled 'Follow Me'. This is a little different from my usual more realistic style. I wanted it to be a little more painterly with softer colors so it had an almost romantic fantasy feel to it. Even though deer may not really fall in love I wanted this painting to have the feel of romantic lovers wandering off to be alone together.

Follow Me
18"x24 oil on canvas

Water is not easy to paint. I've had a hard time painting calm water before so I thought the flowing water here would be even more difficult. Actually, it turned out to be easier. With moving water you don't have to worry about all the ripples and how they affect reflections like you do with calm water. The waterfall actually turned out to be quite fun to paint.

I plan to do some more waterfall with wildlife paintings in the future. What other wildlife subjects would you like to next to a waterfall? Bears? Otters? What else can you think of?

Jun 5, 2012

Tiger Eyes Study Mini Painting

I haven't painted a tiger in years. So, as a warm-up to a larger painting, I'm doing a series of small tiger study paintings. Here's the first one hot off the easel today.

This is a very small 5"x7" painting, probably the smallest painting I've ever done. I deliberately made it small to prevent myself from trying to paint too much detail, as I tend to get obsessed with detail, and I wanted this to just be a quick warmup exercise.

(This painting is available for purchase. Click here for details.)

Jun 2, 2012

The Difference Between the Way Artists and Non-artists Perceive Color

In my previous post I showed some quick Photoshop drawings of various color schemes for a potential horse painting. Having a hard time deciding which one to go with, I presented the choices to others and asked their opinions. I asked a group of artists and a group of non-artists. I expected the total votes of both groups combined to present one clear winner. Interestingly, the artist group's "winner" was very different from the non-artist group's choice. The artists overwhelmingly preferred the palomino while the non-artists almost all chose the blood bay with the green background.


Blood bay:

Of course I expected different preferences from different individuals, but I still expected the overall preference of both groups to be similar. In fact, they appear to be polar opposites. The artists seem to prefer the more harmonious combination of yellows and creams. The non-artists talked about the appeal of the lively and vibrant color contrast between the reds and greens.

I'm not sure why the difference in preference. I guess as artists we tend to want color harmony most often, while non-artists tend to be drawn to more eye-catching images. Of course, my little color test here was with small groups of people and far from scientific, but the opinions seemed different enough to be worth thinking about. If we want our paintings to sell, do we paint to please ourselves and other artists? Or do we try to appeal to the more likely buyer, the non-artists?

Of course, in the end, you have to paint what's in your heart. If painting vibrant colors makes you nauseated then it will show in your work and it's probably not a good idea to do it. But if you like the idea of challenging yourself it might be worth giving something different a try and see how it appeals to your audience.

Have you ever experimented with opposite of what you normally do, whether in color, style, or subject? Did you find it fun or frustrating? What was the response from others?

Shop Art Supplies

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...