I’ve taken hundreds of meerkat photos at the Calgary Zoo over the years. Their antics never fail to amuse me, and because of their natural inclination to stand upright and still, staring at anything that catches their eye, they often appear to be posing for me.
The problem with taking photos of these critters is that every time I go, I try for a shot that’s just a little bit better than any I’ve taken before.
I recently realized that when a photo opportunity is rare, and I can only get three or four decent ones, I’ll make them work. I’ve painted many of my whimsical wildlife pieces with limited reference, even some of the most popular ones, like the Otter and Smiling Tiger.
But I know that whenever I go to the zoo, I’ll have time and opportunity to take more meerkat shots, so I never have to commit. The ones I have may be good, but maybe the next ones will be better. This means the painting never happens because I’m still waiting for the perfect reference, even though I know there’s no such thing.
The other false belief I’m working to shed is that once I have painted an animal, I must move on to a new one. It often feels like I’m only allowed one shot at it, so I had better make it count. Why bears get a free pass on this fuzzy logic is beyond me.
Earlier this year, I painted my Bugle Boy piece. It’s proven to be a popular painting and has become one of my favourites. But I almost didn’t paint another bull elk because I painted one several years ago, even though I never liked it.
My bull moose painting has long been retired from print. It was popular in its day, and I liked it then, but I’ve been reluctant to paint another one. However, after the positive elk experience, I have gathered new reference to take another crack at a moose. I think I can do a better job of it now.
When it came to meerkats, I’ve long had the idea to paint a whole troop of them, so painting a solitary meerkat wasn’t on the radar, or I’d do the occasional sketch painting, but never a finished production piece. But just like the three giraffes I painted for my Long Neck Buds piece, each of them a portrait on their own, each solitary meerkat might become part of that eventual group painting.
Or it’s just the first meerkat I’ll paint, of who knows how many more down the road.