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Gathering Reference

    DSC_0534 I always look forward to visiting the animals at the Calgary Zoo. While it’s true that I can easily justify spending two or three hours at the zoo to take photo reference, it always feels like I’m getting away with something, because it never feels like work. Almost like I might as well be slacking off to go see a movie.  If I lived in Calgary, I’d spend a lot more time at the zoo, I’m sure, but the drive there and back takes just under three hours in good traffic, so I usually try to combine it with errands that are bringing me to the city anyway.  Fortunately, yesterday’s errand was a meeting AT the zoo, which was pretty convenient.  Or planned.  I’ll never tell.


Yesterday, I took a few hundred photos and ended up with about ten that I wanted to keep. The beauty of a digital camera is that you can just keep shooting and sort them all out later, knowing full well that the vast majority will end up in the trash. I usually try not to have an agenda, so I make the rounds knowing that the best photos will be the ones where the animals are cooperating.


It was a hot day, so the lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!) and other large animals were either hiding in the shade or just being lazy and lethargic in the sunshine. Who can blame them? So, weather does factor into it.  One Totem I really want to paint in the future is a red panda, and even though they were out and active enough, and I took a lot of photos, none of them were good. Same situation with a few of the other animals I was after. Bad angles, bad light, bad photographer.

But I did manage to get a few that I like, including the ones you see here. While none of them are good enough to be the prime reference for a finished painting, I plan to be doing a lot of sketching and painting studies in the future and these will do just fine for those. It is my plan that before too long, I’ll be able to create a book of my animal work, which means I’ll need to draw and paint a lot more of it.

Any excuse to go to the zoo.