THE WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER
Oil on Canvas, Life-size
I had the luxury of spending nearly a year on this large oil painting, a commission for a portrait of an American Wildlife Photographer. He travels the country year round, headed into national parks and wilderness to natural habitats, finding grizzly bears, buffalo, eagles and hawks, wolves, owls, foxes, cranes….and records their thrillingly dangerous exotic lives on film.
There was so much to include, and the painting went through a great deal of editing out and adding into. I wanted his intense focus, coupled with expansive kind humanity of him I learned (though we’ve never met) from our correspondence. Hair blown by wind, sunburnt from camping and hiking.
His love of books is in there, and a map pinned to the wall behind him. The universe opening up beyond his shoulder, a canvas jacket thrown over it, strong bare arms and sleeves rolled up for action. A notebook in his pocket, he’s a writer, too. And a shirt that I wanted to look like a comfortable favorite, a second skin, practical and functional. (The wardrobe’s invented). The camera, his beloved Nikon, cradled near his heart and kind of making a glow through his fingers. His left hand cradling a special lens. The equipment from photographs he sent.
It kind of went beyond just the person, I wanted to capture the sense of his life in what he did, to make a portrait maybe of all who follow such lively pursuits and go off to wild places to find what’s in them. What’s in themselves.
It was a major undertaking. He’s a remarkable fellow. He was very pleased with the outcome. He said I got it right. I like it a lot, too.