Coming Up Soon! The Opening Of The “Sea of Cortez” Art Exhibition

El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)  oil  36x24"
El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon) oil 36×24″

Here’s all the latest information on the Sea of Cortez art exhibition that I am one of thirty artists participating in. You can find out about the trip we all took, the opening weekend and see an example of each participating artist’s work here. Shown here are two of the works that I will have in the show.

"Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab"  20x46"  oil
“Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab” 20×46″ oil

New Painting Debut! “El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)”

El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)  oil  36×24″

I just finished my second painting, “El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)”, for the group show I’m participating in, “The Sea of Cortez”, which will be opening next March at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona. The first one “Up Close-Sally Lightfoot Crab” can be viewed here.

This new painting came about as a result of my interest in comparing the Gobi and the Sonoran Desert. There are argali sheep in the mountain ranges that rise out of the Gobi, so I wondered if there were desert bighorn in the part of the Sonoran Desert that we visited, particularly the spectacularly beautiful Nacapuli Canyon.

I was given the contact information for a scientist who is familiar with the megafauna of the area. He more or less told me that he had bad news and good news. The former was that there is no record or evidence of desert bighorns in the canyon. The good news (and very good news it was indeed) is that there have been sightings, along with pugmarks and other evidence, of jaguars in the canyon. So I knew what one of my paintings would be.

Nacapuli Canyon is quite popular with visitors to the area for picnicking and hiking. Big cats tend to be very wary about the presence of humans, so while other wildlife like birds and coatimundis aren’t too difficult to see, the odds of seeing a jaguar are close to zero. But…as an artist I knew that I could “see” a jaguar in the canyon and show other people something very special about this place that might help conserve it for future generations.

Here’s the step by step process of the creation of “El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon)”-

One of the canyon reference photos I used. There were a total of 21 photos of the canyon, vegetation, jaguars and other big cats for paw position reference in my digital “album” for this painting.
Study of the proposed painting, approved by the show curator, Dr. David Wagner
Charcoal pencil studies. The lifted paw in my main reference photo was blurry, so I went through my other big cat reference and searched Google images to find paws in a similar position that were in focus.  I also needed to understand the spot pattern before I started to paint it.

Finally it was time to start the painting:

Blocking in the drawing with a brush, adjusting the relationships of the various elements as I go. I used a fairly intense burnt sienna tint which I knew would show through in spots in the finished work and give it a nice glow. I also changed the proportions, making it wider than I had originally planned.
Close up of the star of the show. The visible part of him is 3.5″ long. His head is 1″ from ear to nose.
First color lay in, indicating the shapes of the shadows
Well into it now, working over the whole surface of the painting. I finished the canyon and made a start on the jaguar. Then I left for Mongolia for seven weeks. I tweaked the farthest mountain, lightened the sky and finished the big kitty yesterday.
Detail of the waterhole and surrounding rocks in progress
El Tigre (Nacapuli Canyon) oil 36×24″

Field Sketches From The Sea Of Cortez Trip

There’s nothing quite like sketching on location to “store” the feeling of a place in one’s mind and hand. It adds an important dimension to the photographs.

Here’s my favorites from the trip and, at the end, a little bonus from one of the hotels I stayed at before departure:

Nacapuli Canyon, at the "waterhole"- pen and ink
Fan Palms, the iconic tree of the canyon- pen and ink
View across the estero, not far from the condos we stayed at- pen and ink
Promontory on the coast as seen from the boat- pen and ink
Organ pipe cactus, Nacapuli Canyon- pen, watercolor pencils and gouache

And finally….would you put this in YOUR coffee, given the name of the company?

The Sea Of Cortez-An Album Of Images

What a trip it was! The whole package…great scenery, interesting animals, terrific traveling companions who are also great artists and, in 2013, the exhibition at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to top it off.

I’ll be blogging about specific aspects of this experience and the art that I plan to create from it between now and showtime, but today I thought I’d share an overview of some of my favorite images, an album, if you will.

And, for this coming Mongolia Monday, I’ll compare and contrast Mongolia’s Gobi with the part of the Sonora Desert that I have now visited.

View from the condo I shared with four other artists.
Nacapuli Canyon
Someone took pictures of almost everything. Here's Carel Brest van Kempen photographing ants.
Predator water beetle; waterhole in Nacapuli Canyon
As yet unidentified lizard; Nacapuli Canyon
Estero Solado; an estuary ringed by three species of mangrove
Roseate spoonbills feeding in the estero
The turkey vulture who wouldn't abandon "his" fish
One of about six species of fiddler crabs living on the shores of the estero
Willets on the beach near the condo in nice morning light
Pelican feeding frenzy off-shore in San Carlos
The wonderful boat that we went out in
The boat made it possible for the plein air painters to get to great spots like this
Heerman's gull; almost at eye level from the boat's dingy
San Pedro Island; we spent a day birdwatching and snorkeling along its three mile length
Brown pelicans
Brandt's cormorants
Sally Lightfoot crab
Blue-footed booby colony; the white is guano
Blue-footed booby; an artist favorite
California sea lions
Male California sea lion
Female magnificent frigatebird
The Sea of Cortez
Group shot- photo by Molly Moore- Field Trip to San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, March 19 - 26, 2011. Pictured are Linda Bittner, Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, DeVere Burt, Andrew Denman, Kim Diment, Kim Duffek, Cathy Ferrell, Susan Fisher, Susan Fox, Mary Garrish, Ann Geise, Shawn Gould, Mary Helsaple, Heiner Hertling, John Kobald, Deian Moore, John Pitcher, Don Rambadt, Paul Rhymer, Rebecca Richman, Carolyn Thome, Christine Sarazin, Rachelle Siegrist, Wes Siegrist, Martha Thompson, Glenn Thompson, Sue Westin, Ronnie Williford, Debbe Wilson, and Nicholas Wilson. (Not pictured are John Agnew and Molly Moore). Leading the field trip was Richard C. Brusca, Ph.D. The trip was organized by David J. Wagner, Ph.D. for artists to produce a body of artwork for a museum exhibition entitled The Sea of Cortez, produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., and scheduled to premiere at The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute from March 16 through June 2, 2013.