Here’s a sneak peek at a new painting of Berkley that I started this morning. I took the reference for this one in September 2019 at Discovery Wildlife Park but didn’t see the potential in it until just recently.
She was lying in the grass, looking right at me, so it’s actually a horizontal image, but I’m painting it vertically so that I can get the expression right. When it’s finished, people can hang the print whichever way they want, so that’s a fun little twist.
As the painting develops, I’ll paint in blades of grass in the foreground on the right side. It will partially obscure that side of her face but give the whole image a sense of place.
Yesterday, my friend and head keeper Serena sent me a personal video and a couple of photos to let me know that Berkley has woken up from hibernation. While it’s already warming up around here, seeing that sleepy 4-year-old brown bear’s face certainly makes it feel like spring might finally be around the corner.
Having raised her from a weeks-old cub, Serena and Berkley have a special bond, and I don’t know who was happier to see the other.
I’ll share more work-in-progress shots with my newsletter followers as this painting progresses, but I don’t think this one will take long. There’s no other face I like painting more than Berkley’s.
Almost all of the animals at Discovery Wildlife Park are orphans and rescues; many are brought to them from Alberta Fish and Wildlife. These are animals they can’t release back into the wild and would otherwise have to destroy.
While animals in captivity are never ideal, people have made many bad choices, and there are very few places in the world where animals are truly wild outside of protected regions.
I live in an area where trains, highways and tourists are the biggest threat to bears, wolves and other wildlife. By leaving food in easy reach, approaching wildlife, and even deliberately feeding them, we teach them to associate people with a free meal. When they eventually become too comfortable or even aggressive, they often must be euthanized.
Hazing and relocation to other areas will occasionally work, but most often, the damage has already been done and is irreversible.
Discovery Wildlife Park works to educate guests and visitors about coexistence and conservation, which is why I support their efforts.
But without financial support, they wouldn’t be able to do the work they do.
Discovery Wildlife Park is closed for the season right now, but they’ll be open May 1st. With 90 acres of space in which to move around, it’s a great place to get outside and spend time with the animals while still being able to social distance. While you’re there, make time for their daily scheduled presentations to learn how you can help keep wildlife wild.
Memberships are currently on sale for almost 50% off, granting unlimited admission all season.
© Patrick LaMontagne
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