“Enchanted Evening” Has Been Accepted Into “Art and the Animal”!

Enchanted Evening   36×40″ oil

I’m very proud to announce that my latest takhi painting “Enchanted Evening”,
has been accepted into the Society of Animal Artists’ 52nd Annual Exhibition of “Art and the Animal”. This is the fourth year in a row that I have had work in the show and they have all been Mongolia subjects, which pleases me a lot.

The exhibition will be held at the Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, which is located in Oradell, New Jersey, and officially opens on the weekend of October 5-7. I plan to be there for all the festivities. More details later on as the opening approaches, but consider yourself invited!

The story behind the painting: Last August, nationally-known sculptor Pokey Park and I were on a two-week tour of the best wildlife watching locations. We were leaving Hustai National Park, one of the three places in Mongolia where takhi have been reintroduced, after a last horse-watching drive, which had already been very successful. Then, less than 50 feet from the road we spotted this small group of takhi coming down to a pool of water. We stopped and got our cameras ready. Would they come or not…

Trying to decide…
We’re thirsty!

And here’s a short video that I shot on my Flip HD. Unfortunately we ended up with a lot of cars stacked up behind us, just like a bear or bison jam in Yellowstone. One woman came up next to me out in plain view (I was behind the open door of the car, using it for kind of a blind) and spooked them, but at least they’d all been able to drink. Enjoy!

Mongolia Monday- Wildlife Profiles: Takhi

Takhi stallion, Hustai National Park, 2010

Species: Takhi or Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus przewalskii)

Takhi, Khomiin Tal, 2006

Weight, height: approximately 300 kg or 660 lbs.; 13 hands (52 inches, 132 cm)

Takhi, Hustai National Park. 2005

Conservation Status: Endangered (IUCN Red List)

Takhi, Hustai National Park, 2011

Habitat Preference: Steppe, semi-desert; now also mountain steppe (Hustai)

Takhi group, Berlin Zoo, 2004 (first time I ever saw the species)

Best places to see takhi: In the wild: Hustai National Park, Mongolia. Captive animals: Many zoos and some reserves, including: San Diego Zoo, Denver Zoo, the National Zoo, the Berlin Zoo, the Wilds (near Cincinnati, Ohio)

Takhi leg stripes, Hustai National Park, 2005
Domestic Mongol horse with leg stripes, 2011

Interesting facts:

-Takhi are the only surviving species of true wild horse. What are called “wild horses” in the USA are feral domestic horses.

-The last wild takhi, a lone stallion, was spotted at a waterhole in the Dzungarian Gobi in 1969, and not long after the species was declared extinct in the wild. After WWII, only 55 survived in captivity, all descended from 13 founder animals. Today there are approximately 2000 takhi of which, as of 2011, 360 were at three release sites in Mongolia.

-Their range originally included, along with Mongolia: Belarus, China, Germany, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation, Ukraine.

– Takhi have 66 chromosomes. Domestic horses have 64. They can mate and produce fertile offspring. It is estimated that they diverged around 500,000 years ago, so the speciation process is not complete. Domestic Mongol horses with takhi characteristics like carpal and tarpal leg stripes are fairly common, indicating a cross at some point in the past. Modern horses are not descendents of takhi.

-Other than a few instances of intensively hand-raised foals who would tolerate a rider while young, no one has ever “tamed” a takhi.

-They became known in the west when Col. Nikolai Przewalski brought a skull and skin, which had been presented to him at a border crossing between far western China and Mongolia, back to Russia. The official description was published in 1881.

New Painting Debut! “Hustai Takhi Stallion”

I’m currently working on a large painting that is the most complex one I’ve done yet. I’ll post it when it’s finished. But, in the meantime, I’ve kind of taken a break from it on and off to do something simpler and more straightforward, a head study of a takhi stallion I saw at Hustai National Park in 2006. I had a reference shot that I liked because of the shadow pattern, but as you’ll see there were adjustments that had to be made for it to work as a painting. I hope this step-by-step illustrates how important it is to not, as they told us in art school, get “married to your reference”.

My subject is on the right. A stallion keeping an eye on his mares on a sunny fall day.
The reference photo. It's a little out of focus, but, hey, I'm an artist. 🙂
When it's a simple subject like a head study, I dive right in with a brush drawing. Notice that I'm looking for basic shapes, not detail.
First pass with color, laying in shadow areas.
All-over basic color lay-in. Composition, drawing, value pattern set.
About mid-way through. The stage is set for the fun part. Head is almost done and it's time to do the neck, ear and mane. I worked those folds for most of yesterday afternoon. They had to read correctly, but not stand out too much. Notice that by this point I've ditched the hard cast shadow because it was too visually distracting. I want viewers to look at his head, not his neck. I worked the boundary of the shadow until I got what I wanted, keeping the edge soft.
The horse is done. Now I've started to put in a second color on the background. Not sure where I was going to go with it, but ended up liking it enough that I made it the final color. I liked the complementary color relationship between the reddish horse and the greenish background.
Hustai Takhi Stallion 22x28" oil on canvasboard

EBay Listing, 1-18-10 – Takhi Yearling

Takhi Yearling 6x8" oil on canvasboard

“Takhi Yearling” is a painting of a takhi that I saw at Hustai National Park in Mongolia in Sept. 2006. Takhi are the only surviving species of true wild horse. It’s a thrill and a privilege to see them in their native habitat. I’ve now visited two of the three places in Mongolia where they have been reintroduced after going extinct in the wild in the late 1960s. Click to bid here