We live in northern Colorado, about an hour’s drive from the town of Estes Park and adjacent Rocky Mountain National Park. People come from all over the world to view the wildlife. My husband and I like to keep fit by hiking the trails; our big bonus is being able to experience nature and observe the wildlife.
In the late fall the herds of elk migrate down from the high country into the valleys where they are quite easy to observe. Although the big crowds of tourists are fewer than in the summer, plenty of people come out to see the magnificent herds of elk.
Although the park rangers discourage visitors from close-up contact with the elk, people usually persist and get pretty close especially to take photos, but very few injuries occur.
The elk are docile, peace-loving creatures who usually move slowly and calmly , grazing as they roam. It’s difficult to appreciate their massive size until you get close to them.
Last November, as we were leaving the Park, all traffic suddenly came to an abrupt halt.
We were stopped for quite a while before we realized the reason: a huge herd of elk was crossing the road, very slowly and casually. People stopped their cars, some pulled off the road , grabbed their cameras, and took lots of photos. To our great dismay, our camera had run out of battery, so we eagerly watched this herd which numbered around 200. Several bull elk were jousting, clattering their horns to impress the cows. A group of young elk were frolicking together. They didn’t pay any attention to the throng of humans that were watching. It was as if we were invisible.
Although our journey was delayed for almost an hour, we didn’t care. That experience was the highlight of our day. If we only had an extra battery for our camera…
On a previous occasion, we were camera-ready for the action, taking the photo which inspired this original painting. To see more Click this link: Bugling Bull Elk.
Almost all of us look forward to Springtime. Even the skiers and winter sports enthusiasts I know enjoy the warmer weather, longer days and generally more friendly weather. In the area where we live, very close to the Rocky Mountains, springtime can be extremely variable. And by variable, I mean every type of weather from sunny bright days in the 70’s to the most severe snowstorms you can imagine.
Do you know almost all of the severe blizzards in recorded history have occurred in the month of March? The weather experts have told us the severe snowstorms are a result of the warm moist air coming up from the southern US colliding with the cold arctic air coming down from Canada. When they meet–WHAM= big blizzard.
Curiously, the area in which we live (commonly called the Front Range) lies just East of the Rockies, which offer us some protection. In most cases the severe weather only touches us slightly, but dumps tons of snow in the plains to the east; in Kansas and Nebraska. To illustrate how geographic our snow can be; I struggled home one night on the I-25 freeway in a total whiteout, only to find 1/2 inch of snow on my driveway, only 6 miles west of that freeway.
The bottom line is : Springtime in the Rockies is usually a wonderfully welcome change from the winter, but some very ugly winter storms can be quite severe. If you want a guarantee of good weather , visit us after Memorial day.
Almost all outdoor enthusiasts have an interest in deer, for one reason or another. They are fairly large wild creatures, but rarely demonstrate any aggression toward humans. However, they can cause us some aggravation when they eat the flowers in our gardens
and other types of prize vegetation.
Recently this problem has been becoming more acute, especially in the eastern US. By 1930 our (US) deer population was down to about 300,000. Current estimates of how many there are range up to 30 million. Or, in less than 100 years, they have increased 1000 times Scientists have estimated the ideal deer capacity is about 8 deer per square kilometer. The current average is up to 100 deer per kilometer. That’s way to many.
Our deer populations are increasing, and they are coming into contact with humans more than ever before. This seems to be for several reasons;
• Lack of predators. Their natural enemies, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears, are now extinct in most areas
• Deforestation is helping the deer; since they like edge habitats, e.g. along the edges of roads trees and lawns; namely the conditions we have created in the suburbs.
• Hunting is decreasing. Although hunters killed 6 million deer last year, estimates are that 12 million fawns were born after the last hunting season. Do the math…
Estimates also indicate deer eat 15 million tons of vegetation per year, producing over $240 million in damage to landscapes and crops, mostly in the northeastern USA.
Around 150 people are killed every year by auto collisions with deer.
Even more sadly to me are the damages done to our native ecosystems. One study of a forest in Pennsylvania discovered that over half of all plant species had vanished due to hungry deer. Other studies have suggested that deer prefer eating native to exotic plants, facilitating the spread of invasive plants. This, in turn can lead to a cascading of effects on other creatures. Nesting bird populations can drop due to the loss of specific tree species, since the deer like to eat young trees. Many biting flies and other parasites that prey on deer will increase.
What should we do about it? A $64,000 question. Here are some of the proposed alternatives:
• Reintroducing wild predators: difficult to control especially when the critical area is in our suburbs.
• Promote hunting. Most hunters are interested in bagging trophy bucks, but does are the ones most responsible for increasing the population. There are some studies that demonstrate hunting programs are effective in small areas, but the results over larger areas has not been noted.
• Fertility control have been shown to be effective in fenced groups, but take a long time to produce results.
What is the right thing to do? The longer we delay, the greater the damage is done, to both to us and to our environment. Methods like fertility control take several years; hunting needs to be managed carefully. No matter what course we take, many, many, deer are going to die. The only way to improve their quality of life and our quality of life is to significantly decrease their population.
What do you think we should do? Please give us your comments.
The image you see here is a painting I recently completed of a North American Bison. He is a part of a new herd of Bison, recently released in the nearby Soapstone Prairie conservation area in here in northern Colorado. The purpose of this plan is the reintroduction of the Bison into an area where they lived many years ago. These animals originated from the Yellowstone area, and are genetically pure, not hybridized with cattle, as most Bison have been in the past.
Bison are sometimes incorrectly referred to as “Buffalo”, however buffalo are found only in Asia and Africa; whereas Bison are native to only North America.
Bison once freely roamed the plains, numbering over 20 million, but were decimated when humans arrived on the scene. The Bison were reduced to just over 1000 animals, by the late 1800s, when Bison were killed by the thousands, just for the fun of it. Men would ride trains through the prairie, indiscriminately shooting the bison from the windows of the train.
However, Bison have made a comeback, and now number over 500,000 most of which have been cross-bread with cattle and semi-domesticated by being raised as livestock for many generations.
Finally we have realized that, in order for the bison to continue to survive, they will need our help. By bringing this rare species to the Soapstone Prairie, we now have a wonderful opportunity to reintroduce this historical animal to its original habitat. This painting is dedicated to our new herd of Bison, and restoring the balance of Nature.
To see more North American Animal Art Click Here
We are very fortunately to live very close to one of North America’s grandest wildlife sanctuaries, namely rocky Mountain National Park. This is a great spot for enjoying our favorite outdoor activities, namely hiking, snowshoeing and wildlife viewing, as well as photography. Especially enjoyable is the opportunity to watch the big game; large herds of elk that freely roam the park.
During the summer they are hard to find, spending most of their time at high altitudes to avoid the heat. In the late fall they descend into the meadows to gather for the purpose of breeding. Then is when they attract large numbers of tourists from all over the globe , often stopping all traffic in both directions. Nobody seems to get upset, because wildlife viewing is one of the chief reasons to come to the park. The park rangers are usually at the scene directing traffic and protecting the elk, and making sure that the excited tourists don’t get in trouble or threaten the elk.
Late fall is also mating season for the elk, and the mating calls of the big bulls echo throughout the valley. Conventional wisdom would lead you to think that such a large animal would make a low pitched rumbling or roaring sound, like a bear. But the call of the big bull elk is a very high-pitched squeal. The reason for this is that this sound carries for great distances, announcing to female elk for miles around that that this big guy is ready willing and able to mate.
My painting portrays a Big Bull elk bugling for a mate. If you look closely, you’ll see the warm air from his bugling combining with the cold fall air and condensing to produce steam. It is indeed an honor and privilege to be able portray these magnificent but gentle creatures.
To see a larger version and learn more Click Here
I always enjoy painting a grizzly bear, a magnificent animal living in North America. Did you know that grizzlies once roamed most of western North America extending to the Great Plains? Then humans arrived and gradually eliminated the bears from much of their range. Today only about 1,000 grizzlies remain in the Northwestern U.S., however, they are protected by law. Many grizzlies still inhabit the wilds of Canada and Alaska, but hunters continue to bag them for big game trophies.
Grizzly bears are very rare, and live in remote areas. In Denali National Park (Alaska) I was able to excitedly watch a very large grizzly dig out a ground squirrel from its underground den. It is surprising that the bear would put so much effort into hunting such a small animal. They are omnivorous, eating all sorts of berries, nuts, fruit, and roots, as well as any other animal they can find.
Creating his painting was challenging, since includes a water element, rocks, vegetation and a cute furry critter; a young grizzly bear playfully holding a stick in its mouth. He has an appealing expression on his face. I especially enjoy depicting the interesting fur pattern of the grizzly, the color of which can vary from dark brown to almost blonde.
To see a larger version of this painting and learn more Click Here
Here is a painting I recently completed titled “Arctic Wolf on the Glacier”. It is an oil painting, a medium I haven’t worked in for over 25 years. Although I enjoy doing large compositions of whole body animals, using oil paints presents some special challenges, especially in a painting measuring
There are many differences between using oil paints and watercolor paints. The first difference is that oil paint remains wet, while the artist is working on the painting. So, you must be aware to not put your arm or hand on the wet paint, while moving across the image. Most oil painters use a mall, a long handled rod with a padded bulb at the end, which rests on the easel, holding the other end in the opposite hand, while resting the painting hand on the supported rod. This allows the artist to have a steady hand while painting, without touching the wet canvas. This does work well in theory, but in actuality, as a water colorist for the past 40 years, I am used to touching the painting, while I am working on it. No matter how often I remind myself, I constantly find myself putting my arm on the painting, ending up covered in oil paint.
Another difference is that the oil paint is toxic, as are the solvents required to use the paint, and clean up. Just having an open container of turpentine in the studio will poison the air, and cause many health problems. It is essential to have an air cleaner with a charcoal filter to clean the air. You need to develop safe painting techniques, not putting the brush in your mouth, not eating while painting, not putting your fingers in your mouth, and not, for goodness sake, smoking while painting!
Many commonly used pigments contain toxic doses of heavy metals, for example: Cadmium yellow, Cadmium orange, Cadmium red, Cobalt blue, cobalt violet, and leaded white pigment. Most classically trained oil painters, insist on using leaded white paint for priming the canvas, a very dangerous process. However, most of these important safety measures are fairly easy to perform.
Another way that oil paint differs from watercolor paint, is that the bushes are completely different. Watercolor requires small soft round brushes, usually made of sable or a combination of sable and synthetic bristle. Oil works best with flat hogs-bristle brushes, and some round brushes. Since oil paint is thick, and water color is thin, it requires a different method of applying the paint. Oil painters like the ability to endlessly move the paint around, until they get it the way they like. Watercolor is a one brush stroke at-a-time application style. Watercolor paint dries almost immediately, so you must get it right the first time. There is no going back to change it. Nor can you manipulate the paint endlessly. This is what I really like that about watercolor. On the other hand, I don’t like the way oil paint is so squishy, and movable.
In my opinion, oil paint is less satisfying than watercolor. Oil paint also smells bad, takes too long to dry, and its toxic. Plus, I am able to achieve the same effects with watercolor, as I am with oil paint.
So for all of the above reasons, I am sticking with watercolor as my most preferred medium. I will also use Acrylics on canvas, again with the same visual results as with oil paints. In my opinion, it is not necessary to risk your health using toxic materials, when there are alternatives that achieve the same , or even better results.
To see my paintings Click Here
Years ago, I lived in a community where there were many horses, quarter horses, thoroughbreds, and Arabian horses. We had a racetrack at the nearby fairgrounds, which attracted many horse shows. I was able to see many beautiful horses, and meet their owners. I decided that I would paint a few horse portraits, beginning with the most famous race horses, Secretariat, and John Henry. I followed that with a few quarter horses, but was finally inspired to paint several Arabian horses.
I found some interesting qualities about the horse owners. The people who owned quarter horses were nice people, who treated their horses well, had practical working horses, and also showed their horses, which were gorgeous. But, being practical people, were not interested in having portraits done of their horses. But the people who owned the thoroughbreds did enjoy paintings of race horses, especially famous ones. They were the people who purchased my horse paintings.
After that I thought, since Arabians are also beautiful, so maybe I could do well by painting some famous Arabian horses. I planned to start by creating a few paintings of these well-known (in the Arabian horse world) horses. I got permission to paint “Gdansk”a polish Arabian horse, and followed up by doing portraits of “Bey el Bey”, a horse from the Santa Barbra area. During that time, I attended many Arabian horse shows, took photos, met the horse owners, etc.
Finally, I thought I’d do a painting of three well-known horses, all related, and owned by a well-known Arabian horse breeder. I figured that if I put her in the painting, it would be a sure fire seller, to the owner hopefully. I went to meet her in Santa Barbra, at a horse show, and was able to show her the painting, which she looked at briefly, with no comment. That ended my interest in doing Arabian horse commissions paintings on speculation. I ended up painting the owner out of the three horse painting, and finally sold the painting to someone else. I’ll post the painting on Facebook, soon since it is a very nice painting.
After that, I approached a few Arabian horse owners, and actually got a couple of commissions. As I did the photography for the portraits, and spoke with the Arabian horse owners, I began to get strange requests for the portraits. The owners were asking me to change the size of the horses eyes, to make them appear larger, slim down the horses neck to make it look thinner, and basically alter the actual look of the horse to a more fantasy version of their horse. After visiting the horse barns, I noticed the Arabian horse owners did things to their horses to alter the horses necks; bandaging them at the throat, to make the neck slimmer, putting drops in the eyes to make them look more luminous. Breeders of Kentucky Walker horses, actually broke the horse’s tail, and then taped it in an upright position, so the tail would flow more.
As I met more Arabian horse owners, I realized that I would never be comfortable working with these horse owners. These owners did not seem to be animal lovers at all. So, I decided to stick with painting wildlife. But I would love to paint more horses someday.
If you’d like to see some of my wildlife Paintings, Click Here
One of the advantages of living here in Colorado, is being very close to the wildlife and Nature which I enjoy. We live just a short distance from Rocky Mountain National Park, and hike there on an almost weekly basis in the Summer and Fall. This winter I plan to get a little more adventurous and try snowshoeing, weather permitting.
Rocky Mountain National Park is now 100 years old, a wonderful tribute to our forefathers who had the foresight to preserve this beautiful mountain land for all future generations to enjoy. Just being there and witnessing the vast panoramas is both relaxing and inspiring. We often see visitors from all around the globe (sometimes too many) traveling here just to see what we have so close by.
Abundant wildlife exists in the park, but most of it is pretty shy and therefore difficult to see. We do see lots of elk, especially in the fall, around mating season. Chipmunks and ground squirrels are always begging for food. Bears are in the park, and usually keep to themselves, so we see them only once or twice a year. We do see Big Horned Sheep,(as in the Photo) but usually on our way up to the park, not in the park. My personal favorites are the Gray Jays who always invite themselves to our lunch spot; but I really enjoy feeding them.
The road that winds thru the park closes after the first snowfall , usually in mid-October and remains closed until the end of May, and sometimes longer. The access from the East remains open all winter, allowing us to get to the trails for snowshoeing. If you drive thru the park in June you can see why the road closes in the winter…the snow on the sides of the road often exceeds 10 feet in depth!
So that’s my story of how I enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park…
Be sure to come back for more of my stories and paintings.
To see a larger version and learn more Click Here
Years ago, when the kids were young, we decided to get some farm animals. We got several Netherland dwarf bunnies, geese, ducks, and goats.
The goats were African Pygmy goats and a french Alpine Dairy goat. We also had dogs, cats and a pony, but that is another story.
We named the pygmy goats, Jack and Jill. They were very playful and rascally. They enjoyed climbing on everything,including us.
Animal Art | White Goat
One day, in the Summer, I heard a loud commotion in the backyard where our swimming pool was located. The pygmy goats had gotten to the pool area and walked on the pool cover. Since the pool cover was pretty soft, the goats began to sink into the water. I started yelling, “Jack, Jill, GET OUT OF THE POOL!” Then I frantically grabbed the pool skimmer, and started to rescue the goats.
At the same time, our nextdoor neighbor was having some yard work done by her son, who was a local fireman. He heard me yelling, at the goats, and jumped over the fence. Before I knew it , he had jumped into the pool to save “Jack and Jill” The “kids” he heard me yelling at. I was very grateful and thanked him profusely for saving my goats. Remarkably, he was not upset, about my kids actually being goats and not children.
I returned the goats back to their pen with no further swimming adventures. They enjoyed the rest of the day, cleaner and wiser.
Here’s a sneak Peek at the new Grizzly bear Painting I’m now working on. I hope you’ll Like it.
Please come back to follow my progress.
Here’s a series of Black Bear photos I took on my upstairs deck when I lived in the wilderness in Northern Idaho
I’m glad I closed the door! He’s right up on my second story deck. He’s as curious as I am. He then pressed his nose up against the glass to look at me. Later he just climbed back down the pole, and sauntered back into the woods. During that time, we had many encounters with curious bears, none with a bad outcome.