"Silent Skies" is an international collaborative super-mural mosaic featuring all 678 endangered species of birds of the world. The installation forms the artistic centerpiece of the 27th International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver in 2018. The original mural will go on international tour to select cultural and scientific venues and a limited number of canvas giclee editions of each will be available for sale. Proceeds will support bird conservation and environmental education.
- from the Artist for Conservation Web site
Each original piece is 8" X 8". I chose the Chatham Island Shag, endemic to the Chatham Islands of New Zealand.
The last horse was more a challenge than I expected. The color seemed pretty straightforward - a golden tan. Once I stepped back from what I thought was the finished horse, it looked really dull. The coat did not shine like the other two. Taking a note from the last painting, Track Team, when I pushed the color, I started mixing what felt like outrageous combinations. When blended with the still wet paint, it worked.
With the last horse painted, it was time to revisit the background trees on the left side. Though there were some nice passages of light, I felt they needed more depth. Dark greens, browns, and navys were added to enhance the trees.
Note: The far left background has detail which is not showing up in this photo
The last step are the grasses. I could add streams of dust but these Pryor Mountain horses are in such good shape because of the abundance of grasses even in the dry months. Much of my time with them was spent watching them eat, hearing them crunch on the varied low growth vegetation.
Below is the finished piece scanned before it is varnished. Once the spray varnish is applied the darkest darks will be more pronounced.
One thing I particularly appreciated about seeing these wild Pryor Mountain horses was the variation in the color of their coats. The three in the painting are quite different from one another and the painting was inspired after seeing them together.
For the artists reading this, don't know if this happens to you but it does to me.
Hitting the ugly stage of a painting. All of a sudden a good plan becomes a mess.
The brilliant execution flounders. There is no hope of recovery.
Well, maybe there is. I've been doing this long enough to know that if I keep working at it I can move through it. But there is always that lingering doubt.
On this piece it happened on the left to middle background trees. I could not see the forest for the trees or maybe it was the other way around. Rather than stop and take a photo (and you would have been able to see the mess) I kept working it. No food, no distractions, no stopping, just trying to quiet my intellectual hesitations and let the painting happen.
It took a while but I believe I came out the other side. The background now speaks more to my experience with the horses than I originally envisioned.
Heading home from seeing the eclipse in Wyoming (totality was awesome) I had a chance to spend time with the Pryor Mountain Wild Horses. It has been decades since I have seen wild horses. Ever since a chance encounter in Nevada, I have wanted to see them again.
Through the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center in Lovell, Wyoming (http://www.pryormustangs.org/) I was hooked up with Kristen who, through her contact with the Cloud Foundation, knows these horses by name. http://www.thecloudfoundation.org/
A rugged almost two hour trip by ATV to one of the high points in the horses' 38,000 acre range was worth every bump. In total I saw about 50 different horses! They were eating, running, drinking, splashing in water, mock fighting, mating, resting in the shade, and nuzzling each other. I could not have asked for more. Though I took over 2500 reference photos, I had plenty of time to sit and watch them especially at the spring-fed pond. I must admit I was expecting more mangy looking animals. Hardly. These horses looked like they had just come from a groomer - gleaming coats, toned muscles, and full of energy. I saw a colt, a gorgeous 21-year old stallion and every age in between. The horses' range is in and near the Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area. (Note: the recreational area is in Wyoming and Montana and quite a scenic drive on route 37.) They are descended from Spanish Colonial horses which arrived in the 1500's and herds have roamed the Pryor Mountains for more than 200 years.
What to paint first? I knew I wanted to start with a large painting. The experience was too overwhelming for a miniature as my first piece. I worked up numerous compositions and then one seemed to stand out. Once I changed the setting to a more interesting section we hiked I had my idea.
Pronghorn are considered the second fastest land animal after the cheetah. They can reach speeds up to 55 mph and maintain it for 1/2 mile. This speed demon can run 35 mph for 4 miles. Either speed would clearly outdistance any of North America's current predators. One theory suggests they evolved their fleetness to outrun the extinct North American cheetah and prehistoric lions and jaguars. Regardless of the origin of their speed, a slate of pronghorn would make for an impressive track team.