The 2014 WildArt Mongolia Expedition Departs Today!


Today’s the day! The 2014 WildArt Mongolia Expedition departs Ulaanbaatar for the northeastern mountains and central steppes to observe, photograph and learn about six species of cranes and Mongolian gazelles. For more on this year’s art adventure with a conservation connection…

Gearing Up for Mongolia 2014 And An Update On Previous Purchases

New art supplies
New art supplies

I’m two weeks away from my 2014 departure to Mongolia. When I’ve gotten new gear and equipment I do a post about it. You can read the previous ones here, here, here and here.

Looking back, I’m still using stuff I bought in 2010, including the REI jacket, KATA camera pack and the Toshiba external hard drive, which is the backup to my main image storage, a MacBook Air. The Nemo Nocturne sleeping bag, purchased last year, was a success, as was the cover for my iPad, but I’d still like to find something that provides a little more protection, but isn’t made from leather. The transport case got 15 original oil paintings to Ulaanbaatar undamaged and I’ll be using it again this year (more on that next week). My two Nikon D80 bodies with their Nikkkor 28-300 and 80-400 lenses are taking one more trip after a professional cleaning. They have served me well, but newer bodies like the D610 have some features that I know I’d really use, like in-camera video. In the meantime, the Panasonic camcorder also goes one more time.

Below is the list of art supplies I’m taking this trip. The new additions are in the photo above. I really like the Nature Sketch from Pentalic. It seems to take all media nicely, including watercolor. The only thing I would fault them on is that the cover is flimsy and gets beat up easily. I’m going to put packing tape around the edges. I’m taking my Yarka watercolor set, but also bought a Winsor Newton Cotman watercolor travel set for its small size that lets me slip it into the pocket of my photo vest or the old point and shoot camera bag that forms my “portable art studio”. I also got some Koi Water Brushes in three sizes. I got the idea for these from a blog post by James Gurney.  They are the same plastic-barrelled, nylon-tipped brushes with a reservoir holding different colors that you see sets of, but are empty. Gurney had one with water and a couple with dilute ink in them. A very fast way to lay down a tone without having to carry a water container and separate brush. I tried one out yesterday, doing a quick sketch of Alexander with a pen that doesn’t have permanent ink and then using the brush over the ink to create a wash tone. I liked it.


art stuff (1)Here’s the art supply list for Mongolia this year:

Old point and shoot camera bag holds all the art media except the Yarka watercolor set

Moleskine sketch journal, usually two
Spiral-bound Nature Sketch sketchbook 7×5”
Sakura Micron pens- black and a few colors, .01 to .03
Derwent water-soluble colored pencils
Derwent drawing pencils- HB, 2B, 4B, 6B
Kneaded rubber eraser
Small pencil sharpener
Yarka watercolor set and Winsor Newton Cotman Watercolor travel set
Winsor Newton white gouache (tube color)
Sable watercolor brushes, round- 4, 8, 10; various flats
Waterproof folding water “bucket”
8×8” loose pieces of 300 lb. watercolor paper-(a couple dozen)
9×12″ Arches cold-press block
7×10″ Cartiera Magnani “Annigoni” toned 100% cotton block
8×10” piece of foamcore to hold watercolor paper
Roll of 1/4” drafting tape (low adhesion) to attach watercolor paper to foamcore

tripodI’ve never bothered to take a tripod to Mongolia because, for what I’m there to see, there’s never time to set it up. The animal or person or light would likely be long gone, not to mention the weight of my very nice full-sized Manfrotto with the gimballed head. But last year, one of the other people on the Expedition was doing some night photography and her pics were great. Well, you can’t beat Mongolia for nighttime skies in the countryside since there is no light pollution at all. So I searched around and on the B&H site I found this MeFoto tripod that got good reviews from photographers who travel and use it in the field. It does sacrifice some sturdiness, but seems well-made overall. It’s also only 12.4″/315mm in length folded up and weighs only 2.6lbs/1.20kg. It unfolds to 51.6″/1310mm in height. The plate that holds the camera body let me mount the camera quickly and easily. In my studio. So we will see how it does in real field conditions. You can get them in a variety of accent colors. I went for red.

bootsMy old LL Bean light hiking boots have served me well, but were always just a mite short. It got uncomfortable last year, particularly in hot weather when one’s feet swell up. Time for a change. I found these Merrill Salidas at our local outdoor store. Not wild about the lavender accent color, but they were comfy the minute I put them on. They are breathable and water resistant, both desirable in a Mongolian summer that can oscillate from heat to rain to cold in just a few hours.

Power monkeyFinally, what I hope will be a main solution to the recharging-in-the-field challenge. I’m usually able to use the lighter in the vehicle with a Kensington adapter that has a regular outlet on one end and the lighter insert on the other, but last year there was an odd wiring situation in my van. I’d plug in my iPhone or battery charger and we’d roll, but nothing would happen. If the driver stopped or even turned off the ignition, charging would occur. Go figure. But considering we were a LONG way from anywhere, it was worrisome, especially the camera batteries. So I’m going to take this PowerMonkey Extreme, which has a small solar panel and a battery pack, as backup. The sun shines in Mongolia 274 days a year, so it’s a natural for solar recharging. The problem is that flexible, roll-up panels are fairly large and there’s no guarantee of being in one place long enough for it to charge a battery. The drivers are justifiably very conservative about laying or attaching anything they’re not familiar with on or to their vehicles since they will be stuck dealing with the consequences if there’s a problem. “What could possibly go wrong?” is not a good way to operate in the Mongolian countryside. I’ll be trying it out here at home, but won’t know what it will do when it counts until, well, it counts.

So that’s the gear report for this next trip. If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment!

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition- Only Three Spaces Left!


Demoiselle crane family
Demoiselle crane family

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition will once again be an art adventure with a conservation connection! Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to view, photograph and sketch some of the world’s most charismatic birds in their native habitat.

This year’s Expedition will travel in June to the northeastern mountains and steppes to explore the habitat and observe and record, we hope, six species of cranes: Siberian, Red-crowned (japanese), White-napped (all endangered), Hooded (vulnerable), Demoiselle and Common/Eurasian. Some nest or are suspected to nest in the area we are going, so there should be chicks to see.

The Expedition is timed so that we can attend the first-ever International Crane Festival, to be held on June 13, and which is a collaborative effort of researchers from Mongolia, China and Russia. This will be an unparalleled opportunity to meet the scientists, learn about their work, support crane conservation and also the local community. We will also travel south to see Mongolian gazelles, which sometimes gather in herds numbering many thousands.

This is intended as a FIELDWORK TRIP FOR ARTISTS who are ready for something different. You will be among the first western artists to come to Mongolia and see and record the countryside and wildlife. If you’ve always wanted to do wildlife art fieldwork and/or learn to sketch and paint in the field, you’re welcome to join us. I will offer instruction as needed and desired.

Mongolia-Exp-map-2014-600 If you choose to join the Expedition, I will send you more specific information about travel logistics in Mongolia, including a copy of my Mongolia packing list if you wish. Space is limited to nine participants (including Susan). There are currently only three spots left (as of 2/26/14)

Please fill out the contact form below for costs and if you have any questions. A $200 deposit will hold your place. I hope you will join us!

Mongol horse trainers
Mongol horse trainers

Why Mongolia? The Land of Blue Skies is the last great undiscovered wildlife destination and also an art destination that richly deserves to be better known. Artists are respected in Mongol society and held in high regard.

Travel, while challenging at times on the earth roads, is more benign than in Africa. And although costs are slowly rising year by year, two weeks in Mongolia is less than half the cost of a similar safari in Kenya. It’s also the world’s best camping country since you can set up a tent pretty much anywhere you wish.

But the biggest difference is that you can Get Out Of Your Car anywhere you want to. The whole country, twice the size of Texas, is available for walking, hiking, location painting and sketching. With a GPS and proper clothing, you can take off on your own in almost all the reserves and parks.

There are no tropical diseases like malaria or parasites to worry about. The only poisonous snake keeps to itself (I’ve only seen two in eight trips and that was in one location).

Except for the forested mountains, wildlife is visible and includes takhi/Przwalski’s horse, argali (the world’s largest mountain sheep), Siberian ibex, saiga antelope, corsac and red fox, tolai hares, pikas, jerboas, hedgehogs, Siberian marmots and, believe it or not, multiple species of wild hamsters. There are also a few reptile and amphibian species. Mongolia is one of the world’s birding hotspots, with 427 species recorded, including quite a few that are endangered. It is not unusual to see golden eagles, steppe eagles, black kites, kestrels, upland buzzards, eurasian black vultures and demoiselle cranes by the side of the road.

The Mongol people, though generally shy upon a first meeting, are gregarious, generous and welcoming. They appreciate attempts to speak their language and any efforts visitors make to learn and follow their customs.