Grizzly Bear at the Bus Stop

Backpack, check. Coat, check, lunch, check. Bear spray….. check. With the arrival of autumn comes the return of morning walks to the bus with young George, apples ripening on the tree and the prospect of coming face to face with one of North America’s largest carnivores. The “nightly news” of Gardiner, Montana – reports via footage from backyard trail cameras and Facebook, that one or more grizzlies has been making the rounds through the backyards and streets of town in search of laden apples trees and improperly secured garbage.

Footage compliments of K. Short

Our neighbors reported signs of a grizzly in their yard just recently. And as we make that early morning walk along the gravel drive to the bus stop, the bears are returning to wooded areas to settle down after a night on the town. In late fall means hyperphagia – a bear’s version of binge eating – to put on as much weight as possible before a long winter hibernation. They roam the landscape like vacuum cleaners with voracious appetites, searching for food that will help them pack on the pounds. For some of the ecosystem’s grizzlies, this means scavenging carcasses or foraging at high elevations for white-bark pine nuts and  the ‘butterballs’ of bear cuisine – army cutworm moths – living packets of fat and protein which take refuge in the millions beneath the rocks on the high rocky slopes of the Gallatin and Absaroka mountains. But each year, at the tail end of apple harvest season, a handful of bears venture down from the mountains to roam the backyards and streets of Gardiner in search of an easy meal; apples, garbage, dog food, bird feeders. We watch daily for the tell-tale signs; big piles of orange scat filled with apple skins, and limbs ripped from the unlucky trees. We try to be good neighbors; picking apples early, collecting fallen ones from the ground, and carefully storing our trash and any other attractants in hopes of avoiding a surprise encounter. Even so, it’s nearly impossible to remove everything. Habit, fueled by flawless memories and an uncanny sense of timing, lead them back to years-old feeding sites in hopes of just one more reward.

So, with a slight tingle on the backs, we walk the 200 yards to the bus stop, past the apple grove, wondering what may be bedded in the sage or aspens along the way. Some might think we’re crazy, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything. What would this world be without things that make us feel small, inadequate or outright terrified at times? Grizzlies are the very essence of what lies in the heart of these mountains – wildness. Whether it’s bison in the backyard or grizzlies at the bus stop, to live in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is to live a wild life.

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As always, the bear has the last word.

Faces in the Herd

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“…all of them (bison) are the same, they’re everywhere, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” – Roadside Tourist in Yellowstone.

In contrast to the quote above, nothing could be further from the truth when in the presence of the diversity and beauty of nature. It is seldom that we truly appreciate the power of the individual to move and shape us. You only have to start drawing or modeling a bison to realize that one cow bison cannot substitute for another – they are not carbon copy animals milling about in a neat, uniformly responsive herds. They have different hairdos, wildly divergent horn features, body types, behaviors, etc, and why not? These wild animals, of all species, are as uniquely individual as we are.

George Bumann studying elk

Sketching “Godzilla,” from a safe perch atop my vehicle. Photo by Brad Orsted.

Individual personality in people is a ‘given,’ but in my world, this clearly applies to wild animals as well. Some may only be known for a few hours, maybe a day, while others have shared their entire lives with those humans willing enough to be patient and observe. Here in Yellowstone this means animals like grizzly bears 264, 211 (aka “Scarface”), “Quad Mom,” and black bear “Roosy”, Bull elk #10, #6, or “Roman”, wolves 21M, 42F, 830 (aka, the “’06 Female”), 113M, 302M, #7F, the sandhill crane “Bent Toe,” and so many other unmarked bison, bighorn sheep, osprey, pronghorn, peregrine falcons, coyotes, bald eagles, etcetera. This is one of the great gifts that Yellowstone offers – a chance to connect with individuals from another

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A good, old friend – Bull #10. We knew him for many years and got to watch him across great swaths of the year from growing his antlers (left) in May to reclining in all his majesty in early September.

species. They teach us about the world as seen through their eyes, smelled through their nostrils, heard through their ears and along the way, display their own brand of style, joy, displeasure, compassion, attitude, loyalty, fortitude, charm, bravery… and in turn, come to give us insights about our own lives. I think Henry Beston stated it well when he wrote:

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“Scarface” was a famous grizzly bear that roamed the Yellowstone Ecosystem far and wide for 25 years. Some believed him to have teleportation powers as he seemed be able to be in one corner of the Park one day and then in a completely different one the next. He regularly criss-crossed the roads and lent himself to many a photograph. Like other ‘regulars’ and residents, I knew “Scarface” well and hardly needed to see his facial scar or ‘lop-ear’ to recognize this old friend. These small models done of him are tributes to his “Veteran Traveler” status (left) and his seeming thoughtful and complicit mingling with the public in “Lamar Contemplation” (right).

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” 

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Clockwise from top-left: “The White Lady” alpha female of the Yellowstone Canyon Pack, a resident bull bison, “Like A Rock” that I had the pleasure to knowing one spring, “Brutus,” the star of Montana Grizzly Encounter’s education center near Bozeman, Montana, the “’06 Female” aka 832F alpha female of the Lamar Canyon Wolf Pack, “The Matriarch” bison who led a small band of younger bison near our house one winter, “Something in the Air,” of a well known female grizzly from the Fishing Bridge area of Yellowstone and “Yoga Bear” observed one late autumn following wolf packs and taking their kills through Christmas time and almost into New Years before denning.

 

As a scientist, I was trained tot study animals without anthropomorphizing (attributing human characteristics to animals). As an artist however, I find that anthropomorphizing is a powerful, if not essential tool for understanding the possibilities in  wild creatures and ourselves. To me, studying these old friends helps to go beyond the field guide, or surface-level view, as a way to see the world from a particular animal’s unique perspective. The more I study these animals the more I realize there is to learn…

 

 

 

Bison on My Mind

electric bisonDespite having spent hundreds of hours watching bison, I never tire of observing them. Where others may see a docile, lumbering animal in a slow-moving herd, I see a deep landscape of gesture nuance of form and individual character. As I begin work on a new bison piece, I find myself yet again, with sketchbook and pen in hand.

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There is always more to learn. The bison are different today than they will be tomorrow, or in a month. Today, their heads are down, working to grasp the barely emerging nubs of grass coming up amid fickle spring weather. A month from now, the hunger-sharp hip bones of the winter weary cows will begin to round out, and the greening fields will be littered with rusty-red calves full of life and energy. The bison will be different yet again in late summer, when the drama of the rut signals the beginning of another cycle.
Bison possess a lot more depth and beauty than they’re afforded when most people observe them, a perfect metaphor for so many things we take for granted. Showing the capacity of an animal – like a bison – to have not only individual physical traits, but innate fears, desires, preferences, makes them all the more fascinating and familiar.  I feel the artist’s job is to reveal the overlooked magic in the ‘every day’ things of life. And so I am here again with bison, watching, observing, modeling, drawing – finding a way to communicate what I see in these remarkable animals.
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        gost test

Art of the Carcass

White Lady detailThis time of year in Yellowstone, the margin between life and death is thin. Rarely are the relationships between animals and the landscape more evident than in late winter, when the contrast between hunter and hunted, between survival and… not, is stark.  We have much to witness, and a great deal to learn.

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Field sketches & measurements of a bull elk carcass (2 days post-mortem).

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Field sketch of bison carcass 10 days after death (from February 11, 2007)

Observe a carcass scene and you begin to realize the complex interactions at play. The hierarchy at a carcass is well understood by those in attendance, played out between dominant and submissive, aged and youthful, resident and itinerant. Among coyotes, the ‘boss’ displays a fierce open-mouthed “alligator- gape” posture to all competitors. Yet, it is the coyote that sits on the periphery until the wolves are finished eating. Ravens show their high rank by strutting with head feathers raised and fluffy flanks. Nothing is random; the actions of wild creatures – and humans – have both causes and consequences.

The first grizzly bear of the year comes in for his share – and everyone steps aside…  One gesture by a singe animal can change the entire dynamic of the carcass scene; similarly, the actions of we humans have a ripple effect on the environment. My job as an artist is to divine truths about the natural world as a way to find our place within it. Hence, I become a student of nuances in animal behavior in order to convey an emotional landscape, and connect the human world to the animal world.

2010 cow bison study

Clockwise from top-left: “The Matriarch” – cow bison, “Active Mind” – common raven, “Seat of Power” – bedded grizzly bear and “Lamar Valley Jazz” – coyote trio (the latter edition is sold out)

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Wolf pup feeding on bull elk carcass

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Sketch from life of the Druid Wolf Pack in Lamar Valley feeding on a bison carcass on 5/16/02.

“The White Lady,” (pictured at top) to me is not simply a wolf, or a bronze, but a visual expression of something universal, the weight of her responsibilities as an alpha perhaps, an animal to whom a carcass represents the margin between life and death for her pack. “The Matriarch” (shown in upper left of sculpture montage) represents the passing of wisdom between generations; a lifetime of knowledge that guides the survival of the herd on their quest to avoid becoming carcasses themselves.

For the reader: It is seldom that one can observe a carcass at close range here in Yellowstone Park. Kills often happen away from the roads, and unlike other places such as in Africa, the presence of the observer would disrupt the entire dynamic of the animal interactions. As a result, distance viewing through a spotting scope is a must and only after the predators and scavengers have had their fill, i.e. consumed every bit of digestible, and even some non-digestible, matter can the artist or curious Park visitor safely and ethically go in and see what is left. FYI, an adult elk killed by wolves will largely be consumed in one day, and almost entirely by the second day, bison, being much larger, can last a week or more.

 

 

It’s Always Worth It

The bear was large, its coat a shimmering deep brown tinged with silver. Laying on its belly, leg haunch in the air, it was chewing on the last remains of an elk at a bend in the river. On our way “up the hill” to Mammoth for a regular weeknight engagement, we spotted a grizzly just 100 yards off the road along the Gardner River, and stopped to take advantage of the rare chance to see a bear up close.

We planned to look for the bear the next morning, but the weather was dark and damp, and we had heard the bear was nowhere to be seen. “Let’s go anyway”, George said, because it’s always worth it – something we often tell ourselves when we just don’t feel like getting up early, or heading our for a hike, whatever. The moment we parked the truck and got out, Jenny whispered “George, look up!” There, perched on the hill ten yards above us, was a coyote. We watched quietly as it eyed us for a few moments before trotting nonchalantly down the game trail, across the bridge and off the other side of the road. Atop a higher vantage point dotted with rabbitbrush and sage, the heavy, damp chill enveloped us like a soggy sweater. Suddenly a coyote yipped, then more answered. We looked back at the carcass and they materialized like ghosts: one, two, three – no four! coyotes, their full coats, rusty ears and black tipped tails vivid in the muted light. We watched as they group-howled, heads reared back in full voice. Eventually, they scent marked together, and then trotted on up a hill across the river.

Eyes are everywhere in Yellowstone, and on the ridge farther above us, a lone elk peeked its head over. Soon, another, then another looked down upon us. A sharp shinned hawk soared overhead and perched in a nearby tree. No fewer than six bull elk were in view. We never did see the bear. But just by showing up we saw so much more. Yellowstone, once again, reminded us never to underestimate what even a few minutes outside can do. We were out for a grand total of 40 minutes. It was worth it.

Yellowstone: Last tour of the Season

tetonsQuick before the gates close! The seasonal closure of Yellowstone’s road system is upon us.  Jenny, young George and I took the opportunity to pick up and drop off some sculptures at Mountain Trails Gallery in Jackson, WY as our excuse to take a drive through the interior of our nation’s first national park before the land becomes shrouded in white. Each year the roads of the Park close, save the road out to Cooke City at the north-east entrance, in order to let the snow build up to the point of allowing travel by snowcoach or snowmobile. (Image above: the majestic Tetons reduced to their foothills by dramatic skies)

ofj&GcaseynavigatorOur last view of Old Faithful before the snow flies (above, left), Jenny and “G” aka “the peanut gallery” (top, right), Casey – the ‘perenial passenger’ (bottom, right) and Jasper – ‘the navigator’ (bottom, left)

Our together-ness is made all the more sweet by the extraordinary landscape that we share. The icing on the cake is the wild inhabitants along the way who give us an even deeper level of awareness.

teton1Teton Mountains from near Moran Junction.

mooseTwo bull moose near Moose Junction, appropriately enough.

Beauty Departed – A Magpie Funeral

magpieRecently, my morning walk with the dogs interrupted something quite profound, dare i say, sacred; a magpie funeral. Walking towards a small meadow I heard three-note calls in unison from 10-12 magpies. Not an unusual note pairing, but something in their voices was different, so I walked to the spot where the dogs had flushed the birds from the ground. There in the grass, wings out, a single stem of grass clenched in its beak, was a magpie elder – the extensive white in the wings feathers and long, resplendent tail indicative of its age and perhaps its profound meaning to the birds clustered around it.
Having seen funeral-like processions in other species, principally bison, its clear to me that animals have emotional lives and recognize the loss of their kin. This is an idea that continues to stick with me, and one I need to explore in clay – as much in a search for understanding – as for a record of the encounter.

Grizzly Bear bust in the works…

About a year ago, I did this small study of a bear at the Montana Grizzly Encounter captive bear facility between Bozeman and Livingston, MT. I liked it so much that I cast it and eventually convinced myself that it would be a great piece to enlarge. Here are some pics and notes on the progression from small wax study to a larger-than-lifesize model.

NEW RELEASE - "His Lordship"

CAST BRONZE STUDY – “His Lordship”

11229692_841755589248037_8754924032171020092_n Planning out the layout and design of the larger bear bust….

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With some help from the lessons learned from my great 10th grade trigonometry teacher, I designed out this custom pair of 50″-long measuring calipers to do the enlargement.
10339593_841755115914751_7674550043263193737_n Welding up the steel support post for the larger sculpture.IMG_0512IMG_0511Glueing the styrofoam sheets together under a little extra weight and placing the first pieces onto the steel support.

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Initial roughing in of the foam and beginning clay application.

Brookgreen Gardens & Cumberland Isl.

live oakTraveling has such a wonderful way of bringing us back to what is most important. We are just returned from two weeks on the east coast where we spent some time at Brookgreen Gardens, a sculpture garden and wildlife preserve in South Carolina and Cumberland Island National Sprim maneashore in Georgia. On Cumberland Island, we marveled at revelations and discoveries in every little nook and cranny, from the tree frogs hidden in a folded palmetto, the vastness of the ocean, unbelievably tiny hermit crabs, to the subtleties of a cuckoo call in the live oaks and countless other small yet significant discoveries. At Brookgreen Sculpture Gardens, we were struck by the beauty of art and gardens at the hand of man. This trip reminded us that beauty is where you look for it. Although we are regularly surrounded by stunning natural wonders at our home in Yellowstone – we were reminded that every place offers it’s own beauty and intrigue if you are willing to be present and seek it out. There is infinite beauty in wild places, as well as in human spaces – from the impossible complexity of a salt marsh to a marble bust at the Metropolitan. Pictured here: Above, top – Live oak tree, middle – thumbnail sketch of sculpture “Primitive Man & Serpent” by Roland Perry and notes on other artists, below – green tree frogs.

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Anniversary Hike

We are sitting looking over a vast swath of northern Yellowstone, our backs to the Lamar River. The landscape is oth expansive and intimate. Resting on a low, flat slab of granite peeking out from the hummocky moss and soil, we watch bison move slowly through the spring green, their brown backs ever shifting – like barges floating across the rock and sage. A dainty blonde flox with a bright orange shawl lounges nearby, unconcerned with our presence. Two coyotes slink through the sage below us, weaving between the mama bison and their calves.

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This moment is considerably more peaceful – and less dramatic – than the start to the day when  Jenny didn’t quite make it across the serpentine bend of a creek a quarter-mile from the car. She held on to her hiking pole and a bunch of willows, laughing as she tried to regain her balance, almost-almost-almost making it across. But down she went butt-first into the cold, dark creek, water pouring down the back of her pants, down her legs and into her boots.  No longer laughing. After a short tantrum and yelling something along the lines of “all i wanted to do was hike with you today but now i’m all wet and we have to go back” we laughed, rallied, and changed Jenny into her rainpants to continue the hike. So we rambled on and spent a wonderful 13th anniversary doing what we love best -roaming through the backcountry listening, watching, absorbing, remembering why we love each other and why Yellowstone continues to hold our hearts.

Finding Meaning in the Subtlties

Take a look at these 3 versions of the same piece – adjusted in Photoshop in this case. which do you like best? Do you know why? The same modification was made in each of the 3 cases but each conveys a much different feeling. Do you agree?

Did you identify the change made? In each case, only the head has been rotated up & back or down and forward… but it really changes the way we interpret the piece. Make a point to look for these possibilities when you go to an art show, a gallery or museum. Play the ‘what if’ game with the different elements of a painting or sculpture. What if this color was darker, warmer? What if the arm was bent more or perhaps straighter? These are the real elements that the artist struggles with… so many finite choices and sky’s the limit!… we just have to figure out what we are trying to say with the piece. And, we hope as artists, that we make the right choices in these nuanced matters so that you ‘get’ what it is we are trying to communicate. More often it acts on us, as viewers of art, subconsciously, and comes out in statements akin to “I like this, but not that – but I don’t know why”. In essence, it is the artist’s job to train themselves to know what certain visual stimuli will elicit which responses in the human brain. Our real medium comes by way of the gray matter of YOUR mind!

 

Life-sized Grizzlies – The Making Of…

So often I get quetions about the process of making sculpture, be it regarding the foundry process, or the sculpting of clay and the building of armatures. To help answer some of these questions, I’ve created this pictorial journey through the creation of a life-sized trio of grizzly bears – a mother & her two cubs.

  

A 12″ paster of the original sculpture (above, left) design is made. The lead up to this plaster is where all of the design work is done (this was the selected version out of 12 to 15 different designs considered for the project) and, so I felt, conveyed all of the important properties of the inner landscape. Enlarging something that has not already been imbued with these qualities is a pointless act. From there, the plaster is embedded in a Styrofoam block and then cut into even slices (above & right).

 

Each slice of the plaster is then placed upon a projection camera (above, left) where it is enlarged to the proper scale and an outline of each slice can be drawn onto a sheet of Styrofoam. Each slice – 45 slices in this case – is then cutout and stacked up in order to yield the image above, and on the right.

  

To lend stability and structure to the Styrofoam slices, a wooden base is built and upon that, a steel pipe is mounted. The latter acts as a rigid backbone to keep the sculpture from leaning in any direction-this is critical not only during the sculpting phase, but is vitally important for the later molding of this final sculpture – where the mold materials will add a significant amount of weight to all aspects of the model. Any distortion throughout this, or any part the entire process will add great challenges during the foundry portion of the project.

Stay tuned… MORE TO COME AS THE PROJECT UNFOLDS!

Easter Bargain offer!

EASTER BARGAIN!!! YOU HAVE UNTIL 10PM tomorrow night (April 22nd)… to save $700…on this newest bronze “The Critic” (7″L x 5″ W x 14″H, edition of 22) if a great-horned owl. This is a one-shot deal – we haven’t done this before & probably won’t do it again. Commit to purchase before that time & add this piece to your collection for only $1500. After this, retail will be the full $2200. Patina may vary. Feel free to share this offer with others. Warm regards and we hope you had a Happy Easter weekend!

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Radio Interview with “Home Ground” host Brian Kahn

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Brian Kahn of Yellowstone Public Radio’s “Home Ground” Program for a 30-minute interview to talk about nature, Yellowstone Park and the intelligence of animals (this first aired on March 11, 2014)… you might even here a few animal imitations included… Listen in here:

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http://www.yellowstonepublicradio.org/programs/local/home_ground.html

Honoring the Ewe

The “clang, clang” of the lead ewe’s bell has rang in my ears through the studio window for far too many days and so it is today, my birthday, that I take some time to appreciate these ewes before the birthday of their new lambs.

IMGP9677bWire and wood form the spine and legs of the armature with some newspaper added in to take up the extra space.

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I have really grown to enjoy this water-based clay that hardens simply by drying in the open air. It does not require firing in a kill and therefore, is wonderful for doing  3-D sketches on site.

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My trusty field assistant returns from school to inspect his Papa’s progress on the sculpture after about an hour and a half’s work in the corral.

 

Reinterpreting the Wolf Sculpture “Patience is a Virtue”

In line with the quote, “art is never finished, only abandoned,” by Leonardo da Vinci, I’ve begun to develop a different side of the sculpture “Patience is a Virtue”. I hope to bring something new to the work and, of course, improve it the best I can… for every day we live, we see things anew and therefore have more to bring to our art. The individual wolf that inspired the piece – Yellowstone’s famous “’06 Female” of the Lamar Canyon Pack- was originally depicted in a pose taken while waiting for a grizzly bear to leave her kill; I wanted to develop the hunter/provider side of this pose a bit more. I’m reaching for deeper meaning in the piece… not just making another/smaller wolf.

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Shown above and left, is the finished bronze (14″ tall version) in her ‘waiting’ pose. I have begun a smaller (8″ tall) version (three images above and right) where I am trying to improve upon the overall design and pull in a slightly different facet of her inner landscape. Above all, this wolf was a skilled hunter, a provider for her family – and often made kills by herself. Through small adjustments (shown & enumerated below) the goal is to transition the piece out of a ‘patient, persistent’ feel to one of potential energy – poised, ready at any moment to draw her laser-like sights on her prey. All the notes and numbers are visual representations of a few of my thoughts on the issue. To read about each of these, you may wish to read the text below.

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Notes on design issues and adjustments to the model of “Patience…”:

Above are my initial efforts to reproduce, then modify the original design of “Patience…”. Of particular interest in getting things close to the original design, I had to get the angle of the front legs (#7) into a >90 degree angle in order to convince you that she could step forward rather than stay put. If she was bent too far forward – denoted by the difference in the height of the back versus the nose (#4), she would look to be cowering, rather than powerful and attentive. To add to the forward tension, I removed the ‘ground’ in front of her front feet (#2) to create more negative space, but then tried to ‘root’ her to that seat by adding to the base in the area of #1. Bringing the tail back, instead of leaving it wrapped around the hind leg, also helps to offset the enlarged, negative space in #2. If the line from the back to the tail (#3) were straighter, than curved, it might convey more of a lightning rod effect of high tension throughout her whole body – I don’t want to much of this… not at this stage anyway. Orchestrating the negative spaces, their size and locations can greatly influence the ‘gravity’ of the piece, so, #s 8 & 6, are important to work with in an effort to create the right sense of ‘grounding’ and ‘weightlessness’ – a yin & yang, of sorts, that is unique to the expression of this particular piece. Similarly, I wanted to put a base on this piece beneath the plinth or earth below the animal. In the image on the right, there is too much of this base for the size of the wolf – SO, I reduced it in height by ~1/2″ (#9) so that she didn’t look to be balanced on a tuffet, rather, it needs to convey a rooted feel, one of being tied to the earth, linked or emerging from the elements… This is how far I’ve gotten at this point anyway. More to come later…

 

 

THE skull from the ‘Great Mollie’s Pack Bison Hunt’

IMGP8492bThis is THE skull! Exactly 619 days and 19 hours before this shot was taken, I and my “Wolves of Yellowstone Class” got to see this bison taken down by the Mollie’s wolf pack on one snowy February afternoon in 2012. On a recent hike with photographer friend Brad Orsted, we came upon this area of Lamar Valley where that exact hunt took place – AND it is the same one that I filmed and placed on YouTube (linked below)! As we walked into the area of the hunt, that day was the farthest thing from my mind, but when I looked around, my memory snapped to the fore. The dramatic scene that took place over a year and eight months ago, happened RIGHT HERE!

“Brad,” I said, “I think that bison’s bones from the wolf hunt should be right ahead of us somewhere here.” Lo and behold, there was the skull – mere yards from the final resting spot of that bison when those 19 wolves seized her.

When watching the film footage you will see the bison fleeing from the wolves and going up a trail on the background hills. Look closely and you will see, etched in the sod, those very same trails. In the film, I was watching from across the Valley at a distance of ~2 miles. One always come across bones and carcasses in Yellowstone and I always wonder “what was the story behind this one?” In this particular case, we know the exact cause of death, where, when, everything…

bison film

Study & Revise

Every piece of art goes through some form of the ‘ugly’ stage. It usually lies at that point where oneIMGP7886 tries to capture the immensity of a grand experience in something as limited as paint, pencil, clay or musical notes on a scale. The main goal is to endure the struggle with your medium long enough for it to speak to the poetry spinning inside you & from the subject. My cougar sculpture has re-entered the ugly stage… One hopes that by degrees, the ugly episodes yield to some higher state of beauty & grace. After struggling with this design for many months, I just had the chance to intensely study four mountain lions from life. Three, 7-hour days were spent just watching. I did make a few drawings and started two small sculptures on site but later discarded the latter. Sometimes our desire to ‘do’ gets in the way of our ability to see all of what lies before us…

IMGP7889  Here (above) I am comparing the skeletal features of the eye orbits with the sculpture at the right to make sure that a skull exists in that hunk of clay. I added the lines over the photo to give the reader a sense of where my mind travels on these exploratory missions of the subject. Eyes, ears and noses all must fall in their proper place and the skeleton is the roadmap for these and all features of the cat. Below is the a recent incarnation of the sculpture of the mountain lion. It has changed since this photo was taken and will continue to do so until the idea, the forms, anatomy and all the other factors begin to more tightly orbit my notion of what this work means.IMGP7884

Studying Theodore Roosevelt

I was asked to consider doing a project involving a sculpture of Theodore Roosevelt. Whether this happens or not, this has become a great catalyst in studying the figure.

Roosevelt study

This is a small pencil study that is not terribly informative but does offer a few insights into the surface modelling of the man’s face.