Sunday, September 21, 2014

Painting from Taxidermy

At the SKB Foundation Workshop in Dubois, Wyoming, most of the painting practice involves landscape painting outdoors, or wildlife painting from photographs indoors. 

I thought it would also be a helpful exercise for everyone to paint real, three dimensional animals from observation, but living models weren't available on short notice.

So we arranged to borrow a fine specimen of coyote, a pronghorn antelope, and a wolf from local taxidermy artist Lynn Stewart, who very generously brought them over to the art center.

This was my view of a running white wolf. I liked the pose, but I imagined it backlit against the bold fall colors of the quaking aspens, with sagebrush in the foreground, as I remembered the setting from a horseback ride in the morning.

Here's the two hour gouache demo I did  with that idea in mind.

It would have been even better to do a location study separately outdoors and combine it with the taxidermy study, properly lit -- or to take the taxidermy outside into a natural setting. The idea is to put away the camera and see if there's a way to do a wildlife study as much as possible from life and imagination.

On the other side of the room, John Seerey-Lester did this magnificent acrylic study of the same wolf. He chose to set it within a snowy winter backdrop. 

That's John and his wife Suzie (pink hat) in the right foreground of the photo below. They are featured in the current issue of International Artist magazine, not only for their wildlife art, but also for their landscapes and nostalgia scenes.

It was a marvelous experience for all of us to paint together with a combination of imagination and observation.
John and Suzie Seerey-Lester's website
Stewart Taxidermy, Dubois, Wyoming
SKB Foundation Workshop


jeff jordan said...

Probably my favorite quote picked up from reading Robert Henri's book The Art Spirit was this one--"Any artist who doesn't use their imagination is a mechanic."

James Gurney said...

Jeff, funny you should mention Henri. At this very moment we're in Cozad, Nebraska, where he grew up with a very unusual father. I like the quote, except that mechanics need imagination, too, and sometimes make better painters than dreamers.

jeff jordan said...

That's great you're in Cozad, glad you made it there. I love that grain elevator complex you can see from the highway. Good subject for a painting?

Check out the Jocelyn Museum if you get a chance, in Omaha. There's Gerome's painting of the Pasha and his dead tiger, and a couple Bougeureaus, as I recall.

jeff jordan said...

Here's a Mechanic who's a genius/artist/gearhead, I bet you'll like his Art!

Carol said...

My husband and I stopped in Cozad on one of our trips. I bought and read Mari Sandoz's "Son of the Gambling Man". I have read other of Mari Sandoz's books; she is uniquely qualified to write this biography having also been raised in Nebraska with an enterprising, community building father.

Joel Fletcher said...

It would be really great to be able to paint the taxidermy animals in their "environment"…. at the dioramas at some of the Natural History Museums! However the logistics of doing so would be awkward, unless some sort of special permission was given to do it off hours. Have you ever tried to do that James? If anyone could pull it off, it would be you.