Special Guest: Sculptor Hap Hagood, SAA

Thunder Spirit, marble

This is the first of an on-going series in which I get to introduce you to some of my colleagues in the animal art world.

Hap Hagood and I, although we are both Signature Members of the Society of Animal Artists, “met” and have become friends via Facebook. I really admire his work and asked if he would tell me a little about his approach and share some images of his work:

“Because it has always been my desire to capture and express the essence of the animals I portray, I abandoned the strict, realistic style in which I once worked for a more contemporary one. By leaving out what I consider unnecessary detail, I feel I am better able to capture this inner spirit, in much the same manner as the ancient indigenous carver…whose work today would be considered contemporary rather than primitive. Carving in this fashion, I feel my art is not modern, but is simply a continuation of an ancient art form, giving me the feeling of kinship with the storytellers of old.”

“Within every block of wood and stone, there dwells a spirit, waiting to be released.”

Hap Hagood, SAA, AFC, AAA, AAS

To see more of Hap’s work:

Lord of the High Seas, mahogany and holly
Essence of Eagles, alabaster
On A Winter’s Morn, spalled holly
Thoth, mahogany
Red Dove, mahogany

There is still time to become a backer of my WildArt Mongolia Expedition Kickstarter project, but time is quickly running out! Please visit the project page and consider a generous donation! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/susanfox/the-wildart-mongolia-expedition

Mongolia Monday- New Painting Debut! “Argali On The Rocks”

Argali On The Rocks 15×30″ oil on canvas

I had gone out very early from the research camp at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve this past July and had settled down on a rock to see who would show up at the water hole.

I looked up and saw these two rams checking me out as they scanned their surroundings.

The sun was just hitting the cliff tops, so they really stood out against the morning sky.

For the painting, I wanted to give a sense of the landscape that they live in and how comfortable they are on tilted surfaces that would make most of us somewhat nervous.

Soon after I took this and some more photos, they came down onto the valley floor and joined up with some buddies for a drink and a graze.

I got to watch them for about half an hour.

And yes, after 2 1/2 years, I’ve updated the look of my blog with a new theme. I finally found one that I liked and that has new features and functions the previous one lacked. Let me know what you think!

New Clouded Leopard Drawing And A Thought-provoking Essay Over At Wildlife Art Journal- Love It? Hate It? Let’s Talk About It

Clouded Leopard 14x11" graphite on bristol paper

Well, I’m back in the saddle after a great vacation in Hawaii with my husband. First order of business in the studio is to finish some drawings that I have promised to do for the people at the Sierra Endangered Cat Haven to thank them for their warm welcome (and fixing my broken van). I did this study of their clouded leopard yesterday, truly one of the most beautiful of the cats.

It’s been fun to get back to this kind of finished graphite drawing. If you like good drawing and good commentary, check out Terry Miller’s blog, Pencil Shavings. Very inspirational.

I’ve admired Ron Kingswood’s work for years, since I first saw it and met him at the Southeastern Wildlife Exhibition. His work has changed since then and he has gone far beyond what is conventionally considered representational art, much less what most people think of as wildlife art. And that’s ok. Too many artists reach a certain developmental point and stop learning or they gain a satisfying level of success in the marketplace and are then trapped by the expectations of their galleries and collectors.

Now, he’s contributed an essay, “Is Animal Painting Dead?” to the online publication Wildlife Art Journal. Not too many comments there yet, but it’s buzzing on the magazine’s Facebook page. Here are links to the editor’s introduction, the essay itself and the Journal’s Facebook page.

If The Conversation About Art Isn’t Real, What Good Is It? And by the way, Wildlife Art Journal is the only source for what’s happening in the animal are world. They deserve support and currently have a special subscription offer going of $8 a year.

Is Animal Painting Dead?

Wildlife Art Journal on Facebook

EBay Auction, 2-8-10-Wait For Me! (Baby African Elephant) SOLD

Wait For Me! 6x8" oil on canvasboard

Wait for Me! is a study of a baby elephant I saw in the Samburu in Kenya when on an art workshop/safari in October of 2004. The herd had crossed the river right in front of us and a couple of the “little” ones were hurrying to catch up with the adults, who were engaging in a morning dust bath. Click to bid here

Inspirations: Fieldwork Drawings of William D. Berry

I had never heard of William D. Berry until I read a post about him over at James Gurney’s blog, GurneyJourney. Holy Cow, was he an incredible field artist! There is a book that covers three years of his field “sketches”, which you can buy here for the princely sum of…$8.50. This really is a book that should be in every animal artist’s library.  One of the nice things he did was note whether or not a drawing was done from memory. If not so noted, they were done from live animals. To say that he thoroughly knew his subjects would be a serious understatement. Here’s a quote from the book on how he did it. Simple, really….

What this meant was that I devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to simply recording the facts of animal life – hundreds of hours and thousands of drawings in the zoos or in the forests, on mountains, in deserts, or plains. A caribou, for example, is never going to hold still for you, and a photograph of him, though useful for many reasons, is never going to show him doing exactly what you want him to be doing for a particular illustration (Berry also illustrated a number of field guides and other animal books) . You have to learn the beast inside-out and upside-down, so that you can put him together on the page from scratch and still have him look like he would if you did see him doing just that. So – instead of learning to paint, I was learning a hell of a lot of animals, birds, plants, whatever. I don’t feel I ever did master any mediums, except pencil –  the medium I used to make field sketches.”

He used an Eagle pencil on Cameo paper (anyone know what that is or if it is still available?) which was supported by a clipboard, then sprayed the finished drawings with fixative. Here are a few pages that I particularly liked. Remember, these are all drawn from life (Sigh.):

And, finally, one page of color studies.

Meet Shawn Gould A New Book Of His Art); And Great Show News!

I received a delightful surprise in the mail a few days ago. My friend and colleague Shawn Gould sent me a sweet little self-published book of some of his recent paintings. I’m writing about this for two reasons. One, because I thought that you would enjoy seeing his work, which is quite different than mine, and two, to look at what he has done from a marketing standpoint.

Sparrow Song 12x16 acrylic on masonite

Shawn grew up in Iowa, but now lives about twenty minutes from me in Eureka, California. He started out as an illustrator, creating award-winning work for clients like National Geographic, the Smithsonian and the Audubon Society. For the last ten years, however, he has been creating beautiful paintings like the ones you see here. He’s a Signature Member of the Society of Animal Artists and his work has been accepted into a variety of national juried shows like Birds in Art, Art and the Animal Kingdom and Arts for the Parks.

Good Dog 18x15" acylic on masonite

Now, for the book, “Wild Sanctuaries”. I asked Shawn via email to tell me more about it. He said that “I have a lot of new work that hasn’t been seen by very many people, and the book seemed like a nice format to get it out to a targeted audience for a reasonable price. We sent out 100 books for less than the price of a one page magazine ad.”

Summit 24x42" acrylic on masonite

The publisher is a company called Blurb.com, who I had never heard of. I wondered what they were like to work with. “Blurb was great. Kristen (Shawn’s wife) did the layout of the book, and deserves all the credit for how it looks. If like me, you don’t know InDesign very well, blurb does offer software you can download from their site. I don’t think you have as much freedom with the layout, but it’s easier to use and does still look good.

Gambel's Quail 12x18" acrylic on masonite

“Wild Sanctuaries” is available through Blurb on a print-on-demand basis, so Shawn hasn’t had to tie up any money in inventory. If you would like your own copy, for yourself or for a gift, it’s $30 plus shipping and handling and can be ordered here

Challenger's Bugle 26x38" acrylic on masonite

Given the down (down, down) economy, creating and producing “Wild Sanctuaries” took some courage and a leap of faith. But Shawn now has a powerful marketing tool that should prove increasingly valuable as conditions improve. Food for thought.

You can see more of Shawn’s work at www.shawngould.com


I recently received one of two Janie Walsh Memorial Awards from the Redwood Association for a painting that was in their 51st Annual Fall show. It even included $100 check! Here’s an image from the show. The painting of bighorn sheep, “Heavy Lies the Head” is mine. The show ended yesterday afternoon.

On-going Notes from the Society of Animal Artists Show Opening- I’ve Been Elected to the Executive Board

Sept. 7

I’m not in Kansas anymore and there’s no place like home. Interesting trip back which started when I found out at the Wichita airport that my flight home via Sacramento had been canceled and that I would have to stay overnight in San Francisco. United Airlines never contacted me, even though they seem to have my correct email address and I was checking email twice a day. They will be hearing from us. I ended up at the Hilton near the airport. The guy behind the counter listened to my tale of woe and gave me a “Preferred” room for $70. Very spiffy room with big LCD tv hanging on the wall. Lamps next to the bed with dimmers, very comfortable bed, great omelet for breakfast, so it all worked out.  A big, fat Win for Hilton.

Pleasantly uneventful last leg. It’s nice and sunny. Hope to be back in the studio tomorrow with wonderful memories of all the great artists and art I saw at the opening.

Sept. 6

The annual membership meeting was held in the morning. Lots happening. The Society is closing the office it has maintained at the Salmagundi Club in New York, which will save a ton of money. The Society is now based in Colorado, home of the President and our Administrator. There are big, exciting plans afoot for our 50th anniversary Art and the Animal Show to be held in San Diego next year. A week’s worth of events, a Life Achievement Award for Robert Bateman, who will be in attendance, enough room for lots of member’s work and also large works, talks, workshops, possible trips to Marineworld and the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park. Members coming in from all over the world.

But the big news, personally, was that I have been elected to serve on the Executive Board of the Society! I sent in the required “Why I want to do this” letter, but didn’t really expect anything to come of it for at least a year or two. However,  a couple of long-time Board members dropped off, so the Nominating Committee tapped me and another gentleman to run, so we’re both in. I plan to attend the November meeting in New York, although my term doesn’t start until January. I’m really excited about this opportunity to get more involved in the Society and to work with the other board members, superb animal artists all.

After the meeting, most of us adjorned to the zoo for one more round of sketching and photographing the animals.

We gathered in the evening at 5pm for “Social Time”. Everyone brought their show catalogs and we spent over an hour getting each other to sign their respective pages. It was kind of like a high school year book signing at the end of the school year, but without the social drama. A great deal of fun.

Then it was time for dinner. I had the good fortune to have picked the most fun table and probably the rowdiest, sitting with Jan Martin McGuire, Paul Rhymer, Joni Johnson-Godsy, Kelly Singleton, a couple of spouses and another very amusing artist whose name I didn’t get. At one point Diane Mason’s husband came over and told us that they were going to split us up. I guess we were having too much fun ;0).

The final business was the handing out of the awards. One good friend, who shall remain anonymous until he is officially notified, received an Award of Excellence and a number of new friends, who I met this weekend, also got awards. Our new President, Diane Mason, who has already brought amazing energy and new ideas to the organization, got a well-deserved standing ovation.

I drive back to Wichita tomorrow to catch an afternoon flight for home.

My camel painting on the wall at Art and the Animal
My camel painting on the wall at Art and the Animal

Sept. 5-

As those of you who followed the run-up to my Mongolia trip may remember, I bought a Flip video recorder for the trip. As it turned out, I really never used it. Too much else to think about. But I brought it with me and yesterday I was watching some timber wolves at the zoo and thinking about how to capture in paint that graceful, loose-limbed stride they have. Then I remembered, duh, I have the Flip with me.

Here’s a sample. It will be interesting now to draw from this kind of reference-

Sept. 4, later-

Back from the opening, at which there were around 40 artists. There have been a few sales already, which is good news for everyone. I’ve only seen Art and the Animal in the show catalogs. This is the first time I’ve seen it in person. It appears, from some of the comments that I’ve heard, that this show is particularly good, so I’m even more proud to be a part of it. Sat at dinner with another artist, Kim Diment, who I met on Simon Combes’ last safari in 2004. We ended up regaling the table with tales from the field- elephant encounters, hippo incidents, etc. Sculptor Karryl had a great wild dog story. Saw them pull down an impala in Botswana. Perfect dinner table conversation. If you’re animal artists.

Amur Leopard
Amur Leopard

Sept. 4-
Spent most of the day sketching at the Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure zoo and taking pictures. So far, the big hit seems to be a small pond outside the entrance to the museum that has water lilies and at least ten frogs, who may now be some of the most photographed frogs in history. At a place where there are snow leopards, amur leopards, Indian rhinos, black swans, orangutans and other exotic creatures, it seems like every time I walk out of the museum there’s at least two or three artists photographing the frogs. The opening reception is this evening. Should be fun!


Sept. 3-
Back from the Art and the Animal show venue, Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure. About eight of us are here a day early. They fed us a lovely brunch and then we got to see the show, which is filled with superb work. After that, we were taken on a walking tour of the zoo, which has everything from capuchin monkeys to asian rhinos. We invade a local Italian restaurant at 6:30.

Black Swans
Black Swans

Sept. 2
Hanging out at the Country Inns and Suites in Salina, Kansas after visiting the Tallgrass Prairie National Reserve. Gloomy, grey day, so nothing to photograph. It is, after all, thousands of acres of….grass, but represents a significant chunk of the 5% or so of that ecosystem that is left. They hope to reintroduce bison at some point, but not remove the domestic cattle, which is too bad.

Transcaspian Urial
Transcaspian Urial

Sept. 1-

Trip started with a 90 minute delay due to weather in San Francisco, not uncommon for the 8:50 am flight. My next two legs were bumped to later flights, so I got into Wichita at 9:30 instead of 7:30. I so love arriving in places I’ve never been after dark and having to find a motel on the other side of town. But it all worked and the Fairfield Inn and Suites was quite nice. Super comfy bed.

Update on “Wildlife Art Shows”, Now Out of Business

Christopher Gervais and Wildlife Art Shows are out of business, citing “the global economic crisis and cost analysis of upcoming events.” I guess he forgot about the criminal investigations and the fact that the wildlife art world is on to his rip-off business practices. If you are signed up for one of his shows, I hope you can get your money back. If not, report it to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.

This showed up on his website in the last day or so, I guess. I got an email from another artist giving me the heads-up. Pass the word.

Note that while the Snow Leopard Trust’s logo still appears on the page they withdrew from any association with him at least a month ago. They are in no way involved in his “activities” and are worthy of your support.