I recently pulled out about a dozen paintings that for one reason or another I’d never gotten to “work” and can now see what I need to do. As I finish them I’ll be posting them here on my blog and also in my Fox Studio Facebook group.
“Moving On (Takhiin Tal Takhi Family Group)” was one of them. Spent my work day yesterday fixing it, which turned out to be an almost total repaint except for the horses, who just needed some tweaking, and the mountains in the background. In takhi/Przewalski’s horse family groups, as with American feral horses, the group (once called “harems”) they are led by the senior mare. She decides when and where they move to. The stallion brings up the rear which means he can keep a watchful eye on everyone, ready to defend them from predators like wolves, which are common in Mongolia.
I saw this family group of takhi at Takhiin Tal which is located at the upper eastern corner of the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, not far from where the last wild takhi was seen at a waterhole in 1969. I had permission to get out of the car and approach them, which I did slowly in a zig-zag pattern. They kept an eye on me while I took photos and finally moved off, giving me this great example of wild equid behavior.
“Moving On (Takhiin Tal Family Group)” oil 18×36″ price on request
Very pleased and proud to announce that “In His Prime, Gobi Argali Ram” 22×28″ oil on canvasboard, has been accepted into the Artists for Conservation “International Exhibition of Nature in Art”, which will debut in Vancouver, B.C. Canada in September and go on tour to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona from January 18 through March 30, 2020, with an anticipated return to Lanwan Museum in Qingdao, China.
You can visit my personal page and gallery on the Artists for Conservation site here. A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of listed paintings will be donated to selected conservation organizations.
In June of 2005, I spent some time in Yellowstone National Park, doing what most visitors do….driving around wildlife spotting. On this day I’d gotten going fairly early in the morning so when I pulled into the parking area at Sheepeater’s Cliff, I had it all to myself, at least as far as other humans.
I got out of the car with my camera and had started to walk towards the basalt cliff formation when I saw movement. A yellow-bellied marmot! I hadn’t seen one in the park before, much less been able to get good photos. And not just one, but three! A mother with her kits. All I had to do was slowly sit down and watch the show. Here are some of my favorite shots from that special morning.
The youngsters started to play and they were a riot! I was in plain sight but they just carried on as if I wasn’t there.
They heard something and ran back up to mom.
But almost immediately started up again.
Back to the ground for a wrestling match.
Back up onto the rocks and a little tidying up.
This is when you mentally say “Thank you” to your model.
Back down to the ground and time for some King of the Rock.
Then I heard a car pull in behind me. Fair enough. Heard a door close and footsteps. And some guy walks straight past me towards the marmots with a dinky point and shoot camera. And in an instant they were all gone into the rocks, leaving the guy standing there apparently too dumb or uninformed to realize what he’d done. Needless to say I was pretty irritated at him for interrupting and scaring them off because he couldn’t keep his distance and didn’t take a cue from what I was doing. But at least I’d already gotten a bunch of great photos.
The rule of thumb in watching any wild animal is that if you do anything to alter its behavior you’re too close. Period. Non-negotiable. We can come and go as we please. The places where people see wildlife are the only homes they have and it and they need to be respected. I understand the temptation to want to get close, but anyone who has done any amount of animal watching knows about “the one step too many”. Please don’t take it.
An artist marching for “Science”? Why would do I that? Well, I’m as dependent on science as almost everyone else on the planet. None of us can live what we would call a civilized life without it. For me as an artist, chemistry created the paints, mediums and solvents I use. A researcher invented the glue that holds my canvas-covered hardboard painting panels together. A number of different sciences create the materials and technology for the cameras I use when gathering my reference images. I store my 149,000 images on a hard drive connected to my iMac, neither of which would exist without research and development done by scientists and engineers.
To put it in simple terms “science” is how we humans discover verifiable facts. It has nothing to do with opinions, feelings or politics. or how one would like things to be. As Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson says, “”The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” The fact that science, i,e. knowledge, is under attack these days is appalling, particularly when the people doing so benefit from it every day.
So I will be marching tomorrow here in Humboldt County, California, where the organizers have planned a whole day of events, starting with a science expo, activities for kids, then a rally which will be followed by the march. It being Humboldt County, home to Humboldt State University in Arcata, I expect it to be quite a show of enthusiasm and creativity. http://www.madriverunion.com/april-22-is-march-for-science-day-in-arcata/
Not all good tales come from exotic locales. You don’t have to have a passport to get to somewhere worthwhile. And good adventures don’t all have to be exciting, much less life-threatening. Just getting out into nature wherever you live or travel to can yield fun, amusing and interesting stories. I’m known for my adventures in Mongolia, but I love to get out in nature and animal watch wherever I am. For instance, last March I spent over a week exploring southern Georgia and also some of the northern Florida barrier islands like Amelia Island and the town of Fernandina Beach, Florida, which turns out to have a wonderful and clearly much-loved community amenity, Egan’s Creek Greenway, a park braided with trails that run right through the town. Kudos to the townspeople who had the will and vision to set aside this natural area. You can read more about my March 2016 trip here and here.
We live in a rural coastal county in northern California, where the biggest reptile one is likely to encounter are large but harmless gopher snakes or a watch-your-fingers-cause-they-bite Pacific giant salamander. So it was a bit of stopper to see this sign upon entering what is essentially a town park…
It was late afternoon and the light was getting better minute by minute.
The trail split. I followed the one to the left, saving the one along the stream for the way back.
It was March but a few wildflowers were already blooming.
I really liked the three different textures of the grass, water plant, and trees.
I saw a movement around twenty yards ahead. I had my long lens so was able to get some good photos of what I believe are marsh rabbits (Silvilagus palustris). I noticed that they stayed in the shade, which makes sense for a prey animal. They are similar in appearance and size to the brush rabbits we have here in Humboldt County.
Turtles! This was a big deal for me since I’d never seen any in the wild before other than sea turtles in Hawaii. They are yellow belly sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta).
These were to the right of the ones in the first photo, all catching some last rays before sundown.
I had learned about this trail while chatting with my Airbnb host and this was my only chance to check it out. I couldn’t have come at a better time since the light was great and there was almost no one else around.
I came upon a great egret in soft cool light.
It took off and I got a good shot of it in flight.
After that sign at the trailhead, this log stopped me for an instant.
I came to another open area adjacent to a deep water-filled depression where the trails went off in different directions, I was getting pretty close to being back to where I’d started. I happened to look down into the pond…
And what do you know? An alligator! At least six feet long, also catching the last of the day’s sun.
Can you spot the gator?
I walked on and a short time later came upon another grazing bunny who quickly hopped into the brush. I caught up to where I thought he’d gone and there he was, holding very still.
A few minutes later I spotted this male cardinal. We don’t have these where I live so I always get a kick out of seeing them even though I know they’re quite common.
A short distance more and I was out of the greenway into the open and here was a big pond with not only a great blue heron (we do have them here on the west coast, too), but more turtles!
As I photographed the heron and turtles, I spotted something in the sky. It was a red-tailed hawk circling around. I took a lot of photos and finally got a few of the bird as it turned and caught the light.
What a day. But there was one more treat in store.
As I walked back to the parking area I spotted a small bird hopping around in the chain link fence and managed to get this one photo. It’s a palm warbler, a new species for me.
The whole walk was at most three hours. I had nothing in mind, just to explore a new area and see what was there. What places are there where you live that you’ve never gotten around to exploring? We tend to take where we live for granted, but nature is ever-changing and no walk or hike will ever be exactly the same. If you’ve discovered a local gem where you live tell me about it in the comments!
I’m currently on a road trip in southern Georgia. I flew to New York on March 10 (which is why there was no blog post last week) to attend the Explorers Club Annual Dinner (ECAD) and had a terrific time. The opening of the group exhibition “Wildlife Art: Field to Studio” is the evening of March 31 at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. What to do in between? It didn’t really make sense to fly home to California for two weeks and then fly back, so I decided to see what there would be to do on the east coast where it was warmer and in the same time zone. After considering a number of possibilities, some more ambitious than others, including flying to Paris for a week or going to somewhere like Belize or Costa Rica, I took another look at the map, Florida being too expensive and everything pretty much booked, and saw….the Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, somewhere I’d wanted to go since I was a kid. Plus there’s the barrier islands of the Georgia coast. Sold! I flew down on Monday to Savannah, picked up a rental car and drove to my first of three Airbnb lodgings, this one near Brunswick. The next day I did quite a long drive over to the western entrance to the swamp. Here’s some of what I saw:
The next day I met up with artist and fellow Explorers Club member Alan Campbell, who took me around Harris Neck NWR.
We twice drove the route through the refuge so went a couple of times to a dike bordering the big pond where the storks since things are always changing. The second time we saw this turtle!
It was a great day! I’m on the road again with trips to the other entrances to the Okefenokee and explorations of the barrier islands.
I want to introduce you today to one of the supporters of the WildArt Mongolia Expedition, Association GOVIIN KHULAN, which is run by French khulan researcher Anne-Camille Souris. We’ve corresponded via Facebook for a couple of years and were able to meet and chat in person in Ulaanbaatar during my trip last year.
Anne-Camille also works with Mongol artists through her International Art for Conservation project.
In the past she worked at Takhiin Tal, one of the destinations of the Expedition, studying takhi. Very few researchers were carrying out research on khulan compared to takhi, so she switched species. There are also khulan at Takhiin Tal, which is in the Great Gobi B Strictly Protected Area. She has offered to lend her expertise in both these wild equids, for which I am greatly appreciative.
You can find out more about khulan here. And below is the information Anne-Camille sent me about her organization and its work.
“The Association GOVIIN KHULAN is a French non-profit organization that works in the southeast Gobi, Mongolia, to protect the endangered Mongolian Khulan (Equus hemionus hemionus) and its habitat in partnership with local rangers and communities.
The Mongolian Khulan – also known as Mongolian Wild Ass – is an endangered wild Equid and is one the 5 recognized sub-species of the Asiatic Wild Ass. The Mongolian Khulan represents the largest population of this species in the world. However, its population has known an important decrease by as much as 50% since the end of the 1990’s and about 15 000 individuals are now left in the wild.
The Association GOVIIN KHULAN has built a multidisciplinary approach to ensure protection of this endangered species on a long term: a) research, b) local and international information, education and awareness, c) involvement of local communities, d) partnership with local rangers, e) technical and professional support to rangers and citizen conservationists/scientists, f) partnership with Buddhist monks, g) reinforcement of links between Mongolian culture and traditions with nature protection, and h) community development & animal and environment ethics (in progress).
I’ve been invited to participate in a very special event on September 17, The Big Cat Quick Draw, which will be held at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, California from 2-5pm. I’ll be one of nine artists painting and drawing from a live cheetah, Tango, from Sierra Big Cat Haven. We’ll have between 60 and 90 minutes to create our piece of original art.
Once we’re done, our work will be auctioned off to raise money for Project Survival’s Cheetah Education Center at the Soysambu Conservancy in Kenya.
If you’re in the area, you’re invited! More information here.
To get ready for this event, I needed to brush up on cheetahs and decide what media I think I will want to use. So I got out my pencils, watercolors and some different art papers yesterday and did some quick studies. My reference was photos I took of cheetahs in the Masai Mara, Kenya, in October 2004, when I was one of ten artists who went on a 16 day art workshop/safari with internationally known wildlife life artist, the late Simon Combes, the father of Guy Combes, who is one of the organizers of the quick draw.