Featured Artwork: Bison and Whooping Cranes and Polar Bears, Oh My!

detail of painting of bison grazing in sunset prairie
“Bison Shadow”, pastel on 26.5″ x 17.5″ on Hahnemuhle sanded watercolor paper.
portraits of animals logo
My official logo for Portraits of Animals.

Did you know this was National Wildlife Week? Now you do. Even though I began my art career sketching and painting my cats, once the door to my creative abilities had been opened I soon found other animals to be my subjects as well, including other animals considered pets and, of course, wildlife. That’s why my business name which encompasses all my art is “Portraits of Animals”, and you can see by my logo that it includes “pets and wildlife”. Fur, feathers, fins, animals are fascinating and beautiful and not self-conscious in the way that humans are, in fact it’s probably their differences from the humans I see each day that make them such an exciting challenge.

I have traveled too little to see any real wildlife aside from the critters who inhabit my back yard, so I began my wildlife excursions from pictorial resources such as magazines and calendars. Nonetheless, after being accustomed to seeing domesticated animals in the relative comfort of my home and neighborhood, it is almost a shock to see an animal which has never known a human and cares nothing for human companionship. Studying a wild animal in its natural habitat is a reminder that the world does not revolve around us, that these creatures get along just fine (and probably better) without us, that we are really only one more species carrying out our lives on Earth. And while, for me, the inspiration to put an image on paper is always primarily a visual inspiration, wild animals carry the same emotional inspiration for me as domestic pets. Add to that the beauty of a natural landscape and you’ve got a perfect recipe for visual pleasure.

I regularly write about my “Registered Backyard Wildlife Habitat”, and even though small and in a regular old neighborhood near Main Street, it is host to plenty of native species of all sorts, especially songbirds hence my quantity of bird art, but I have a series of photos I took at the Pittsburgh Zoo and intend to go there in good weather to sketch and paint. Until then, here are two featured wildlife paintings with links to more.

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Bison Shadow

detail of painting of bison grazing in sunset prairie
“Bison Shadow”, pastel on 26.5″ x 17.5″ on Hahnemuhle sanded watercolor paper.

I saw a photo in a magazine of bison grazing on the plains and remembered historical and fictional novels I’d read from the “Little House on the Prairie” series to the settlement of the Great Plains.

detail of painting of bison grazing in sunset prairie
Detail, bison grazing.

I put together what I saw in photos and what I’d visualized while reading of a countryside I’ve never seen.

detail of painting of bison grazing in sunset prairie
Detail of bison on left.

This looks like a lot of bison, but considering how many populated this country just 200 years ago, this herd is just a shadow of what it once was, and in this orange twilight even their shapes are reduced to shadows.

detail of painting of bison grazing in sunset prairie
Detail of bison on right.

The original pastel painting, 26.5″ x 17.5″, was done in Rembrandt pastels on Hahnemühle sanded watercolor paper. You can see a lot of ambient textures in the paper in this painting, and even, just above in the lower right corner, you can see the actual color of the paper. This is a sturdy German-made 300# watercolor paper with deckle edges which has the sanded finish used for pastel and charcoal layered onto it, tinted various colors. This was my preferred paper for pastels in the 90s and early 2000s in part because of the colors in which it was available. I rarely begin a painting with white paper, when when I saw the photos of the bison and envisioned this painting it begged to be painted on this shade of this paper, knowing I’d be able to use that ambient texture to enhance the feel of the prairie grass.

This painting is larger than my usual and was actually difficult to paint because my easel at that time was quite small. Framing was another issue—I looked everywhere for the frame that would coordinate in style as well as color, and be able to support a painting that large with mats and glass and ended up with a custom-ordered 4″ wide solid wood rounded profile with a faux calfskin finish, an expense I never undertake except for this one painting. The mats are black core in a tone of orange that exactly match the mid-range tones of the painting. I still look at this painting and love every bit of it and am glad I followed my star to make it what it is.

I have the original painting alone or matted and framed, and I also have giclee and digital prints available in my Etsy shop and I even have one last 12 oz. mug available too.

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Taking Flight

detail of whopping crane painting
“Taking Flight”, pastel on Canson pastel paper, 22″ x 16″

Many years ago I saw two captive whooping cranes, likely visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo. I marveled at their size–they were nearly as tall as me! But it was when one of them spread its wings that I was truly enchanted by the pure white body, neat brown wing tips and tiny touches of yellow highlight here and there, and the grace of that huge bird.

detail of whopping crane painting
Detail, cranes.

And I read about them and discovered their plight, having no idea they were so imperiled. Visiting what had once been their habitat on Assateague Island, Virginia, I imagined what they might have looked like in the whispering marshes.

detail of whopping crane painting
Detail, marsh grasses.

What would their afternoon have been like? Using my photos of those marshes and many images of whooping cranes, I painted this in pastel, trying to capture the details that had stayed with me at seeing them, but also the feeling of movement in the marshes I had visited, the waving sedges, lapping water and constant breeze from the ocean.

detail of whopping crane painting
Detail, water, “Taking Flight”.

And those summer colors, blue sky reflected on the water, reflected on the cranes.

This painting is 18.5″ wide x 13″ high using Rembrandt pastels on Canson pastel paper because, again, I wanted to use the texture of the paper to break up the image, loosen up the edges to capture that feeling of constant movement on a breezy day in a marsh, the marsh grasses waving, the water lapping, the cranes splashing through the water. Though I wanted it loose it ended up being looser than I’d intended; I was still working in a fairly detailed style then and had pictured the birds with more detail, but I reached this point and stopped, then decided this was it.

The original painting is 18.5″ wide x 13″ high, matted with a 4″ warm cream acid-free mat with 1/4″ burnished gold wood fillet edging and 1-1/4″ burnished gold frame, and I also have various giclee and digital prints available in my Etsy shop.

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Other Wildlife Art

Below is a slideshow of more of my wildlife artwork linked to those images in my Etsy shop. You can also find these and more on my original website under Wildlife and in my Marketplace purchase greeting cards with most of the images.

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Featured Artwork

If you’d like to read more about artwork as I develop it, about my current portraits and at assignments and even historic portraits and paintings, each week I feature a piece of artwork on Wednesday and a new product on Thursday. Choose the category for featured artwork.

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.

© 2014 | www.TheCreativeCat.net | Published by Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Book Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!




From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

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