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A Christmas Bear

Whenever there was a turning point in an 80s movie, you could expect a music montage. Whether it was rebuilding a classic car, a group of rebellious teens learning to dance, or the karate tournament advancing to the final match, an upbeat song helped the story jump through time without making the viewer watch all the actual hard work.

Did you really want to see the protagonist standing in line at the auto parts store to get an air filter for the ’67 Camaro he’s restoring?

It often takes many days or weeks to complete one of my whimsical wildlife pieces, and I enjoy most of it. Drinking hot black coffee, tunes in my earbuds, I’m quite content to spend hours at a time painting tiny little hairs on a wolf’s muzzle or adding texture detail so the sea turtle’s skin looks real.

But if you were watching this work over my shoulder, I guarantee you would be bored out of your mind.

My buddy Derek is one of the most incredible tattoo artists you’ll ever see. When I hang out at the shop, I’ll often lean over his shoulder to watch. His linework is ridiculously precise, and I’m fascinated at the silky-smooth colour gradients he achieves with a tattoo machine. But eventually, it gets boring. He’ll often have clients that sit for hours all day for three days straight.

I just want to see some of the work in progress and the finished piece.

I’ve been creating time-lapse videos off and on for many years, and even though they can add hours of extra work to a painting, they’re fun to put together.

Sometimes I’ll record a voiceover, something inspirational for other artists, or relevant thoughts on the piece. Over the years, I’ve done a few of those for Wacom, the company that makes the tablets and displays I’ve been using since the late 90s. While I still love their products and will continue to recommend them, the best days of that working relationship are likely behind me now.

Most corporations are still chasing the likes and shares on social media, whereas I am not. I have no designs on becoming an Instagram influencer. I’d rather spend that time creating more art.

The time-lapse videos I enjoy most are the short ones with a musical accompaniment. These days I have a monthly subscription to Epidemic Sound, and it allows me to find the right track to go with a painting, regardless of the mood I’m trying to set.

I record the first part of the video over my left shoulder with my DSLR camera. I must keep in mind that the camera is beside me on the tripod, careful not to bump it. Because I’m recording a digital screen with a digital capture device, it also creates lighting problems.

Movies and TV shows will often add device and monitor screens after the fact in editing because it’s so difficult and time-consuming to record them with a camera.

But people like to see my hand holding the stylus, moving around the display.

For the rest of the video, I use Camtasia‘s screen capture software. I’ve been using it to record and edit since I created my DVDs ten years ago, and it works well.

But when I get down to the smallest of hairs in the painting, making subtle shading changes, and applying catchlights to the wet skin of the nose or around the eyes, it eventually becomes difficult for the viewer to follow the cursor.

And finally, our attention spans keep getting shorter. With slot machine scrolling on our phones, multiple tabs open on our desktops and pinging alerts going off all around us, holding somebody’s interest is a challenge.

I used to record four- or five-minute time-lapse videos, but most people won’t sit through those anymore, so I try to keep them under two minutes. Of course, it means there are significant jumps in the painting’s progress and detail, but it works.

People just want to see some of the work in progress and the finished piece.

Cheers,
Patrick

P.S. As always, feel free to share the video, with my thanks. That goes for anything else I post on this site as well.

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Polar Bear Totem

PolarBearTotemHere’s my latest painting, the Polar Bear Totem. I’ve mentioned before how I never really know when I’m going to paint a specific animal. I’ll keep reference photos for some animals for years before using them, waiting for the time to seem right. In other cases, I’ll get the urge to paint an animal and go searching for reference right before I start the painting, as I did for this one. I bought several stock photo images and used all of them in the painting of this bear, although as always, no photo is part of the painting, only used for reference. It was painted in Photoshop CC on my Wacom Cintiq 24HD display.

In my experience, if I paint an animal for commercial purposes alone, it often doesn’t end up working for me or it turns out to be less than I’d hoped for. The Magpie and Ground Squirrel have always felt like that for me, because I painted them for my first gallery in Banff, rather than for myself.

On many occasions, I’ll enjoy working on a painting, but I’ll feel the finished result just isn’t as good as it could be, so it’ll take me some time away from it until I feel good about it. Even then, some of my most popular paintings aren’t my personal favorites.

Thankfully, this one felt special and the final few hours were some of the most enjoyable I’ve spent painting this year.

Initially, I wanted to have this done for the upcoming Calgary Expo show in less than a couple of weeks, but to make my deadline to get all of my prints done, allowing me time to sign and package them, it would have had to have been done a couple of weeks ago. I was feeling rushed, looked at how many prints of images I was already bringing and it became clear that I didn’t need it, so I decided to take my time. I’m quite pleased that I did as I’m very happy with the result.
PolarBearSketchI’ve always loved bears, even though I’ll admit to an irrational fear of them, which sometimes does put a dark cloud over camping trips. I live in bear territory, specifically blacks and grizzlies. Despite the fact that I hike alone quite a bit, and have seen plenty of bear sign, I’ve never run into one in the wild, which after twenty years in the Bow Valley, is kind of odd. But I’m ‘bear aware’ as they say in these parts, carry bear spray and know what to do if I encounter one. In most cases, as long as you don’t startle them or they aren’t feeding or with cubs, they’ll want to get as far away from you as they can. Even if they charge you, it’s often a bluff, and if you can keep your wits about you, they’ll stop short of contact or veer off and hightail it in the other direction.

I’ve worn a black bear’s tooth around my neck for many years now, given to me by an acquaintance years ago in Banff. He’d found it somewhere in Quebec years ago, still in the skull, and it’s very old. I had a jeweler friend craft a silver bezel setting for it so I could wear it on a chain.

The first Totem I painted was a Grizzly, but it hasn’t felt right yet to paint a black bear. Sooner or later, it’ll show up, I’m sure.

Why I felt the time was right to paint a polar bear, is beyond me. Perhaps it’s the increased frequency of their mention in the news, associated with climate change and the expected loss of their habitat. Scientists fear that polar bears, while very adaptable, show no inclination to survive solely on land. They thrive on sea ice, that’s their habitat, and when it’s gone, likely they will be as well. A recent CBC report stated that ‘Inuvialuit traditional knowledge’ says the bear numbers are actually fine, so as in all things, the truth of their future lies somewhere in the middle, although they are classified as a threatened species.

The polar bear has no natural predators other than man. Classified as a marine mammal, it’s carnivorous and a skilled hunter. While they will avoid encounters with humans when they can, they aren’t fearful of us and have been known to kill and eat people. Considering how many of them have been killed by humans, I say turnabout is fair play.

I’d like to visit Churchill, Manitoba one day and take one of the polar bear tours, to see them in their natural surroundings.

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