Monday, March 10, 2014

Fading Into the Background

Lately I've been focusing on improving my trees and landscapes, because it's all too common for me to paint a bird or other living subject...and then hurry up the "background" -- i.e., the environment the creature is in -- and the painting usually suffers for it.  Can you imagine if Louis Agassiz Fuertes or Bruno Liljefors or Robert Bateman only painted clinical, guide-book portraits? Even Audubon himself took great pains to show where and how his birds lived.  It'd be easy to shrug this off and say that modern times call for modern depiction. So what, if we don't have a proper background? Why should it matter? A downy woodpecker can look just as beautiful against a blank canvas as it would perched on a dead tree.  But here's the thing: downy woodpeckers don't exist without dead trees. They NEED dead trees for insects and nesting sites. Where there are no dead trees, there are no downy woodpeckers.  It's part of what they are.  But how many people would know this if the only woodpeckers they saw were depicted in a void? 

So I only feel that it's only right that I slow down and take note of the less flashy: the trees, the rocks, the dirt, the clouds.   They contribute to a deeper understanding of my subjects -- and they are worthy of paintings in their own right.

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