Painting wildlife for me offers great peace and freedom and wildlife portraits are an effective and compelling way to tell something about an animal without the distractions of the entire story of what the animal is experiencing, and doing in the environment that they’re in. A quick story of why we should care about that species.
I have only experienced a few brief distant sightings of wolves in the wild, and so most of my experiences have been with captive wolves, working with animal film industry groups in Idaho and Montana, and animal sanctuaries in Montana and North Carolina.
I photographed these brothers during a photo tour at the Conservator’s Center not far from my home in North Carolina. Proceeds from these opportunities help provide care, food and enrichment for rescued animals and provide an excellent up close and personal opportunity to photograph and sketch these amazing animals.
I begin my process the same as any painting, by mapping out the darks and lights and establishing the focal point. And the composition follows the same basic principles for a painting with a foreground, background and multiple subjects or elements. With a portrait the composition is heavily influenced by the positioning, pose, lighting and color pallet.
I map out the midtones and shadow areas and block in my background. This defines the shape of the wolves and allows me to move on to paint in texture and create the flow of the fur and shape the facial features of the wolves.
I continue to paint layers of texture both transluscent and opaque, refine features such as the eyes and nose and add final highlights. An effective portrait reveals something about the essence of the animal – not just a visual representation, but also a feeling, that can be implied through a certain expression or pose.
This painting measures 10” x 8”, and tells of the bond that 2 wolf brothers share and that endures whether they are 2 or a pack of 20.