Mongolia Monday- This Week’s EBay Listing 1-4-10; A Takhi From Khomiin Tal SOLD

I thought I’d get a two-fer this week and combine my eBay listing with Mongolia Monday since the painting up for auction is a 8×6″ oil of a takhi (Przewalski’s horse). It’s from a photo that I took at Khomiin Tal, the westernmost of the three takhi reintroduction sites in Mongolia. I visited there in September of 2006. What an adventure that was for me! I flew out to Hovd, met my guide and then went by Russian Fergon van (those of you who have been to Mongolia know what that means…) east over 100 miles on what the Mongols call “earth roads” to the river valley where the horses were. I got to see them in late afternoon and morning light and got a lot of good reference. Here’s a photo of some of the horses grazing-

Takhi grazing at Khomiin Tal, western Mongolia

And here the painting that is currently available at auction here

Takhi 8x6" oil on canvasboard

Four New Paintings!

Here are four more new paintings to go with the two I posted last week. I had a problem with the background in the last one and thought I’d show how it was and how I changed it.

Heading Down For Breakfast 8x10" oil on canvasboard (price on request)
Heading Down For Breakfast 8x10" oil on canvasboard (price on request)

Here is one of the takhi (Przewalski’s horse) that I saw when I was at the Khomiin Tal reintroduction site in western Mongolia in September of 2006. It was first light a group of horses were coming down out of the hills to graze.

Mongol Horse #4; Afternoon Graze  9x12" oil on canvasboard
Mongol Horse #4; Afternoon Graze 9x12" oil on canvasboard (price on request)

This was a harem stallion that I saw at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu last fall. He was also the model for Mongol Horse #2. It amazes me that, given the extreme environment that they are exposed to year in and year out, that these tough small horses grow such long manes and tails. But they do.

Top O' The Morning 10x8" oil on canvasboard (price on request)
Top O' The Morning 10x8" oil on canvasboard (price on request)

I saw this Rocky Mountain bighorn lamb with his mother near Tower Campground in Yellowstone National Park a couple of years ago. They were by the side of the road, which lacked interest as a setting, to say the least. So I moved him.

Catching the Morning Light 9x12" oil on canvasboard (price on request)
Catching the Morning Light 9x12" oil on canvasboard (price on request)

This argali ram, along with five others, gave me an eyeful on my first morning at Baga Gazriin Chuluu Nature Reserve in Mongolia in July. I wanted to work on capturing the quality of light without worrying about painting too many animals, so decided to start with a small painting. I had one idea for the rocks as you’ll see below but, on further review, something wasn’t working. Time to get out the scraper. What do you think was wrong? Answer below the second image.

First version
First version
Detail of scraped out area
Detail of scraped out area

There were a couple of problems. One, in getting into the grooviness of painting the rocks, I completely lost track of my light source. The rocks are in full light, but are on the same plane as the ram. Buzzz. Second, I tried to use what I knew to design the rocks more or less from memory, which resulted in a boring, distracting (what an awful combination!) set of shapes. I went back to the rocks that were in the original photos and saw that they were much less rounded, which provided a needed contrast with the curves of the ram.

EBay Auction: 5-18-09 Takhi Mare and Step by Step- SOLD

Takhi Mare, Hustai National Park, Mongolia 8x10 oil on canvasboard
Takhi Mare, Hustai National Park, Mongolia 8x10 oil on canvasboard

I’m running a little behind, so I’ll cover the art stuff that’s going to Mongolia with me next week. In the meantime, I think I’ve solved the hot-water-in-the-ger-problem with a nifty little “stove” that uses solid fuel cubes and is specifically ok for use in tents. More later once it gets here.

I thought that I would share a few images of the creation of this study.

Initial drawing and shadow shapes
Initial drawing and shadow shapes
Adding the medium tones and basic hues
Adding the medium tones and basic hues
Putting in a background tone
Putting in a background tone
Modeling the form and refining the drawing
Modeling the form and refining the drawing
Correcting the shapes and working on the background
Correcting the shapes and working on the background
And...the finished study!
And...the finished study!

As usual, there was a cat working hard, right near by:

Persephone, aka The Princess
Persephone, aka The Princess

Mongolia Monday

kt-takhi-boys1I’m going to start posting drawings of various subjects since, after all, I am an artist, not a photographer or book reviewer. Today’s drawing is of two young takhi stallions that I photographed at Khomiin Tal, the third takhi reintroduction site after Gobi B and Hustai Nuruu. It is located in the Zavkhan province or aimag, which is in western Mongolia. I read on one of the Mongolian news websites that the herders out there lost 250,000 livestock over the winter. I haven’t found any info on the takhi, but I know that people stay out at the research camp and feed them if necessary. Twenty-two horses were initially shipped to Khomiin Tal from a semi-reserve in France which is located at high altitude in the French Alps. I would think that there would be over two dozen horses by now.

These two young guys were “feeling their oats” when I saw them in the morning and were pushing, mouthing and generally harassing each other. What made it nice for me is that they were Doing Something instead of just standing around or grazing with their heads down. Getting reference of wild animals actually moving and behaving naturally is kind of a gold standard in wildlife art. More next week!

Mongolia Monday- Excerpt From My 2006 Trip Journal; Takhi Watching at Hustai National Park

On my first trip to Mongolia in spring of 2005, I managed to get a couple days at Hustai National Park, enough to know that I wanted to go back when the daytime high was more than 32F with howling wind (ah, early May in Mongolia!). Hustai is the most accessible place to see reintroduced takhi, or Przewalski’s horse. For 2006, I arranged to have the use of a car, driver and guide so that I wasn’t dependent on driving around with other, non-artist visitors.

I needed to be in the park at dawn and at the end of the day in order to get what I’d missed before because of cloud cover- takhi in great light. This excerpt is from my first day.

9-27 10:15 am Wed.

Just got back from the morning “game drive”. Left a little after 7:30 am and got to the valley just in time to catch the light about 8 am. Hit the jackpot, Two takhi just on the shadow side and then coming into the sun.

Takhi Mare and Stallion at sunrise, Hustai National Park
Takhi Mare and Stallion at sunrise, Hustai National Park

Went back up to (the) pass, seeing more takhi and the 2 eco-volunteers from France who I sat with last night. Missed a great shot of a bull marel (a species of elk) because the driver didn’t stop in time. Continued over and down around the backside of what my guide says is called “God Mountain” because all the spire-like piles of rock look like flames of fire. There were takhi at the base of a particularly picturesque part of it and the guide asked me to take her picture. She pointed out another mountain where she said lynx live.

Guide with takhi in front of "God Mountain", Hustai National Park
Guide with takhi in front of "God Mountain", Hustai National Park

We continued on into what she says is called “Happy Valley” and it sure was for me. Came upon 2 groups of takhi, one waterhole. I think the issues were who got to drink first and can I steal some of the other guy’s mares. (There are 3 largish songbirds pitty-pattying around on the top of the ger as I write this entry)

Takhi harems at waterhole, Hustai National Park
Takhi harems at waterhole, Hustai National Park

We entered a part of the valley with trees along one side and it turns out they are saxaul, which I didn’t expect to see until I went south (and it turns out that I hadn’t. Something must have gotten lost in translation, because I found out this last trip that they for sure weren’t saxaul trees). There were also some domestic horses, which the driver got out to shoo away. We circled around out on the grasslands and saw 2 small and 1 large group of gazelle. Final stop was the research center, which was looking pretty sad and almost derelict last time. It’s humming now. Offices for the ec-volunteers, the managers, biologists, ecologists and a kitchen. There’s even curtains on the windows.

So, I’ve gotten my evening light and early morning light. Now it’s just seeing what kind of behavior I can record.

I liked the waterhole setting and plan to eventually do a big painting with both harems that tries to show what I saw that morning. In the meantime, I had this reference from elsewhere in the park of a mare with a beautiful gesture.

Morning Drink oil  12"x16"
Morning Drink oil 12"x16" (price on request)

Mongolia Monday- Using My Takhi Reference for Paintings and Limited Edition Giclees

Since, judging from the stats, the subject seemed to be very popular, I thought I would continue today with more on the takhi, specifically how I take the reference I shoot and turn it into a painting. More and more I start with drawings to become familiar with a new species or figure out things about one I’ve painted before.

Here are three drawings from last year, the first two of which were published in the Society of Animal Artists newsletter.

Takhi scratching leg; charcoal pencil on cold-ply bristol paper
Takhi scratching leg; charcoal pencil on cold-ply bristol paper
Takhi mare and foal; charcoal pencil on cold-press bristol paper
Takhi mare and foal; charcoal pencil on cold-press bristol paper

Now I’ll show you how I take an animal from one time and place and put her in a setting from another time and place, a challenge that every wildlife artist needs to meet successfully.  Here’s the setting:

Main takhi water source; Hustai National Park, Sept. 2006
Main takhi water source; Hustai National Park, Sept. 2006

What a treat! We came around the bend in the dirt track early in the morning and there, right in front of us were two harems at the same time, sorting out who gets to go first.

Watering place close-up; Hustai National Park, Sept. 2006
Watering place close-up; Hustai National Park, Sept. 2006

I always try for a variety of  shots; close-ups and the “big picture” for context. I used to come home with great close shots of something like a tree and found that I’d completely forgotten to get the surroundings, which really cut down on my options. Notice that the above photo is kinda fuzzy. But it’s still useable for reference.

Now here is the horse reference. Different part of the park, different year, different season. I’ve included two as an example of what to look for when evaluating images. These are similar, but the second, to me, is clearly superior. I love the rhythm of her gesture.

Takhi mare; Hustai National Park, May 2005
Takhi mare; Hustai National Park, May 2005
Takhi mare 2; Hustai National Park, May 2005
Takhi mare 2; Hustai National Park, May 2005

So next I did a drawing to capture that.

Takhi mare walking; charcoal pencil on cold-press bristol
Takhi mare walking; charcoal pencil on cold-press bristol paper

And, putting them together, here is the finished painting, completed in 2007. What I hope is that you can’t tell that I “stitched” together the reference from two sources.

Morning Drink   oil   12"x16" (price on request)
Morning Drink oil 12x 16" (price on request)

I also wanted to let you know that two of my takhi images are available as limited edition giclees, framed or unframed. The full information is on my website. Click on “Limited edition giclees” under Fox Studio in the column on the right and it will take you directly to my giclee page.

Takhi Foal; giclee on archival paper
Takhi Foal; giclee on archival paper

I saw this foal on the same trip as the mare in the painting above. He or she was quite a character.

Mongolia Morning; giclee on archival paper
Mongolia Morning; giclee on archival paper

I posted this last week, as the original painting is still available, but have also published it as a giclee. It’s another example of how I took the mare and foal, who were against a grassy hillside and moved them to a ridge that has Hustai’s famous mountain as the background. The third horse was added as a design element.

All my giclees are available for holiday delivery.

ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Let this be plain to all: design, or as it is called by another name, drawing, constitutes the fountain-head and substance of painting and sculpture and architecture and every other kind of painting, and is the root of all sciences. Let him who has attained the possession of this be assured that he possesses a great treasure…:

Michaelangelo (who ought to know)

Mongolia Monday- Talking About Takhi

Well, I certainly enjoyed the last two Mongolia Monday posts and hope you did, too. Thanks again, Simon!

Today it’s back to a subject that has become near and dear to my heart- the takhi or Przewalski’s Horse. I always liked horses, even though I was deathly allergic to them as a kid, but have never been, ahem, drawn to them as a subject until I saw takhi for the first time at the Berlin Zoo in October of 2004. I didn’t even know they were there. I just happened on them in the far nether reaches of the zoo. Seven of them, looking like they’d just stepped out of a cave painting.

Takhi group, Berlin Zoo, October 2004
Takhi group, Berlin Zoo, October 2004

I remember that I plopped down on the nearest bench, probably with an idiot smile of delight on my face, to sketch and photograph them. They were enchanting.

Takhi Stallion, Berlin Zoo, October 2004
Takhi Stallion, Berlin Zoo, October 2004

I did some research when I got home and found out that they were being reintroduced into Mongolia. So when I signed on for an Earthwatch project there, I arranged a three day trip to the closest site, Hustai National Park. It was spring, which meant cold, windy and and occasional snow, but I saw the horses and got some decent photos. The next step was to get back to Mongolia, which I did in late September-early October of 2006. By then, I’d found out about a third, new release site in western Mongolia, Khomiin Tal, and managed to get out there. There is also a series of three articles I wrote for Horses in Art. One on Hustai National Park, one on Khomiin Tal and one on the domestic Mongolian horses. Look under “Writings” for those.

Then, this last May, I was at the Denver Zoo and saw takhi there. They looked much different from the Berlin animals, as you can see. There are a number of reasons for this that have to do with being kept in captive conditions, which can lead to much heavier bone structure and skull defects. The animals for release come from semi-reserves where they can live and eat more normally.

Takhi, Denver Zoo, May 2008
Takhi, Denver Zoo, May 2008

I’ve been drawing and painting them since that first trip to Hustai, but have hardly scratched the surface of the picture possibilities.

Here’s one of the first paintings, which is available as a limited edition giclee. When I showed a photo of it to a Hustai biologist on my second trip there, she immediately recognized the mare by her mane, which reinforced my desire to paint individuals of a species.

Mongolia Morning, oil  12"x 24"
Mongolia Morning       oil on canvas board          12″x 24″ (price on request)

Followers of this blog know how adamant I am about doing fieldwork. I think this next piece illustrates why. There is no way this painting  would have happened if I hadn’t been there at Khomiin Tal to photograph both the horses and the habitat. I’ve seen a few other paintings of takhi and so far none of them really looks to me like it was done from reference shot of reintroduced horses in Mongolia. They are pretty obviously captives in Europe or North America. The light’s not right, the land isn’t right and, mostly, the horses themselves aren’t right. But I sure can understand the compelling desire to paint and draw them anyway!

That's the Spot!  oil  16"x 20"
That’s the Spot!           oil on canvas board        18″x 24″ (price on request)

Here’s the most recent painting, a stallion at Hustai. I wanted to really show the valley that is the core habitat of the population of, now, over 200 horses in 15 harems and to try to capture the interesting shape of the shadows on him.

Master of the Valley
Master of the Valley    oil on canvas board    12″x 16″ (price on request)

This 10″x 8″ study is going to be listed for sale on EBay tomorrow or Wednesday. It was amusing to watch the foal work out the motor coordination required to scratch that itch.

Takhi Foal Scratching
Scratch that Itch!   10″x8″    oil on canvasboard

Lastly, I did a batch of drawings a couple of weeks ago and I rather liked the way these came out. The photos were taken at Hustai this past September. It was late afternoon and this one foal was having “crazy fits”. I’m always looking for animals in action and he/she certainly delivered.

takhi-foal-1takhi-foal3takhi-foal-4

takhi-foal-2

Happy New Year!

Back in the saddle again for 2008. Lots to look forward to.

All the kittens I fostered have found new homes. I thought that I would start to introduce that permanent animal members of the household. First up- Niki, our four year old tricolor rough collie, self-appointed guardian of all creatures large and small. Here’s picture of him with Tucker and Katie. Niki had laid down by the crate and the two kittens came over and got as close as they could. All of them quickly became fearless of my 75 lb. dog.

niki-tucker-katie.jpg

We finally had our first ducky visitors to our pond, three hooded mergansers. One male, two females. I thought, uh oh, there go the goldfish, since mergansers are diving ducks and, sure enough, while we watched, they caught and ate two big ones. But we have since seen at least eight or nine in their usual hangout, so we didn’t do too badly. Michiko spotted them and instantly became a fan. More about her in the next week or so.

michiko-merganser.jpg

In art news, the latest issue of the newsletter of the Society of Animal Artists features drawings that I have done of Mongolian wildlife. Here’s three of them, an argali ram, an ibex billy and a takhi mare and foal (Przewalski’s Horse). They were done on 2 ply bristol with a Wolff’s carbon pencil.

argali-ram-standing-blog.jpg

ibex-billy.jpg

takhi-mare-and-foal-heads-blog.jpg