Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

We had a couple of trips to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in the last month or so. Managed to get some really good shots, just haven’t had a chance to post before now.

One of the main attractions at the CM Zoo is the giraffes. They have a balcony-level viewing where you can purchase lettuce to feed them by hand. It’s really something to see such amazing animals walking up and being able to interact with them so intimately. Theo is always so excited for it but also seems so shy when they actually come by for the treats.

Theo feeding a giraffe
Theo feeding a giraffe
Giraffe Portrait
Giraffe Portrait

There was a baby giraffe born here recently as well.

Baby Giraffe
Baby Giraffe
Elephant Portrait
Elephant Portrait

We got really luck with the Rino this time. Normally this guy just likes to hide out in the back of his area and you can’t see much from the 80 yards or so away but he was more active on this day and got some good shots of him walking.

Rhinoceros Walking
Rhinoceros Walking

I always have a difficult time shooting through glass but there’s a nice lookout above the lion area where you can see them through open air. The male was down a little ways but the lioness was fairly level to my viewpoint just over a bit.

Lion Resting
Lion Resting
Lioness Resting
Lioness Resting

The tiger was particularly active on the day as well. Managed to get a few shots in motion as well as a couple of beautiful portraits.

Tiger Walking
Tiger Walking
Tiger Portrait
Tiger Portrait

The snow leopard was quite active as well. It was amazing to watch her moving around. I did my best to get a shot through the mesh.

Snow Leopard Resting
Snow Leopard Resting

The bald eagles are always photogenic. It’s hard not to get a good shot of them, it’s more about trying to decide which shot to show off. I really liked the bokeh in this one.

Bald Eagle Portrait
Bald Eagle Portrait
Porcupine Portrait
Porcupine Portrait

The orangutans were quite active in their area. It was really something to watch the baby interacting with the adults.

Orangutan Portrait
Orangutan Portrait
Orangutan Baby Nursing
Orangutan Baby Nursing

Wallabys have a neat survival trick — there are thick blood vessels near the surface of skin on their strong legs, so they lick them and as the moisture evaporates it helps to cool them down. Was really fun to see them actually doing this.

Wallaby Cooling Down
Wallaby Cooling Down

Caught this shot of the grizzly just waking up from a nap.

Grizzly Bear Waking Up
Grizzly Bear Waking Up

The moose was down in the lake portion of his habitat looking for a cool drink.

Moose in a Pond
Moose in a Pond

Always a great time at the zoo. Can’t wait to go back again.

Going Solar

A few months back we decided it was time to move to solar power. It’s starting to become a reality now. The new panels are mostly installed and we’re waiting for some electrical work to be completed. Once that’s done we’ll have to have the local utility install a net-metering device and we’ll be able to start generating our own power.

Can’t wait.

Solar Install
Solar Install
Solar Install
Solar Install

Weekend Update

Took a long weekend to get some extra painting time in this past weekend. It was nice to have some time to do a little extra painting. Ended up working on four separate paintings.

It’s interesting, at least to me, as they’re all at different stages so you can almost see the progression of a painting with my working studio practice from these four works.

I have a longer post about this one as I lucked into an extra day to work on it but I did start a self portrait. Here it is at the earliest stages.

Portrait of the Artist (in progress)
Portrait of the Artist (in progress)

I also got a chance to get back to this portrait of Jordyn. This is the second pass at the fleshy parts, still haven’t covered all of the earlier wipeout layer but starting to bring in local chroma.

Jordyn (in progress)
Jordyn (in progress)

Here’s the double portrait of Leif and Tabby. I’m starting to resolve the background before applying the final layers to the portrait. Still a ways to go and the clothing is just early local coloring, but you need the background in before you attack the final layers.

Leif and Tabby (in progress)
Leif and Tabby (in progress)

This portrait of Tayrou is nearly resolved. It needs one or maybe two more passes to just get it dialed in fully. The clothing will be the last step to finishing it off but the background and portrait are nearly there.

Tayrou (in progress)
Tayrou (in progress)

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

Friday was our Wedding Anniversary. I took the day off and we dropped the kids off with Grandma (thanks Rita!) and Julie and I went to The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg just a little ways north-east of Denver.

Apparently they’re the world’s largest carnivore sanctuary with over 400 predators. Mostly lions, tigers and bears rescued from awful captivity situations and rehabilitated to roam on over 700 acres of land.

They have a really neat setup where the visitors walk through the animals habitats but on an elevated walkway. There are fences to contain the animals but the visitors are well above them looking down on the animals from a safe distance. It’s quite an experience.

We arrived just before 9AM, when the facility opens and it was a bit cooler than normal due to a dense fog. That really worked to our advantage though as the fog quickly burned off and it was close to 100 by noon. But early morning saw the animals still fairly active.

Here’s some of the highlights –

There were lots of tigers, most of them were in individual areas next to each other. The staff explained that, unlike lions, tigers aren’t naturally social animals so it takes a lot more time and effort to get them to the point where they can safely be release into a larger group setting. Indeed we watch a pair taking turns stalking each other and lunging at their shared wall anytime the other turned his back.

Their tigers were beautiful creatures and the sole white tiger was particularly striking.

White Tiger
White Tiger
Tiger
Tiger
Tiger
Tiger
Tiger
Tiger
Tiger
Tiger
Tiger
Tiger

Here’s a selfie (of sorts), Julie and I looking at a wolf.

Shadows above a wolf
Shadows above a wolf

There were two separate lion prides on the grounds. We caught them both during a migration out of the sun into their man-made dens. Incredible creatures.

Lion
Lion
Lion
Lion

There were several packs of wolves of different types but all of them seemed to think the day was already too warm by 10AM. Makes you wish you could visit after dark and see them more active.

Grey Wolf
Grey Wolf

The star of the day was a baby bear. They don’t normally have young animals but this was a four month old bear that they rescued from captivity and were trying to place with a surrogate mother. Apparently this was the first time he’d been out to explore his larger habitat. We spent at least an hour watching him running around and then taking a long bath in the pond. It was really fun watching him grow from tentatively pawing at the edges of the water to jumping around and splashing with reckless abandon.

Baby Bear
Baby Bear
Baby Bear
Baby Bear
Baby Bear
Baby Bear
Baby Bear
Baby Bear

Odds and Ends

I’ve mentioned in passing that I have a couple more paintings started that I haven’t posted here yet. I’ve really wanted to finish off some of the ones that are close before starting more but the paintings of Kayti and Nelson are pretty involved and are taking much longer to finish off than I had hoped.

This is one that I’m really looking forward to. Just the linear placement and a quick wipe-out to serve as a foundation but I’m looking forward to diving into this one.

Todd (in progress)
Todd (in progress)

I also have the next in my shushing series started. I’m just starting to block in the colors and separate the light masses. Hopefully it’ll move along quickly once I get into the next layers.

Shh (Linda, in progress)
Shh (Linda, in progress)

Weekend Update

Got a couple of good painting days in this weekend.

Saturday was spent working on the face and torso for Kayti. Starting to get it dialed in. It’s looking less like paint and more like flesh now. Might need one more good pass on the face just to see how far I can push it, also going to need another pass on the arm, tattoo details and the hand. Once those are finished it should be one last pass to unify everything and make final adjustments.

Kayti (detail, in progress)
Kayti (detail, in progress)

Sunday was spent mostly on the faces for this one. I did a quick refinement on the baby’s face and spent most of the time getting the grandfather’s likeness. I feel like I really turned another corner with that last portrait of Paul and I’m really starting to push the painting much further now which is very encouraging. I still need to resolve the background, which I’m hoping to work on this week and everything else is going to need at least one more pass but it’s starting to come together.

Nelson and Theo (detail, in progress)
Nelson and Theo (detail, in progress)

New Toy

So I finally scrapped together enough pennies to get a new lens for my camera. Between Christmas money, birthday money, tax refund money, selling some of old and unused camera gear and buying a used lens I was able to make it work.

So today was the first day I got a chance to get out there and see what all that scrimping and saving had bought me.

Here’s a nice shot of Pikes Peak as seen from UCCS.

Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods

Here’s a zoomed in version of just the peak.

Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak, just the peak

There’s actually enough pixels that you can actually see the structure at the top of the peak…

Pikes Peak
Pikes Peak, just the tippity-top

Here’s a portion of Garden of the Gods as seen from UCCS when zoomed way in… I wonder who owns those giant houses. I’m jealous of their view.

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

One more picture of Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods
Garden of the Gods

I’m very impressed with the new lens. It’s got a huge photo range and it sufficiently sharp for shooting whatever I need to. Really happy with my 2-lens setup now.

Update

I’ve been remiss in posting updates lately. It’s not that I haven’t been working, it’s just that I haven’t posted updates on what I’m doing… But, today I got my Christmas/Birthday/Tax Refund gift – an awesome new lens for my camera that will finally allow me the ability to photograph my paintings in my studio. Huzzah!

Anyhow here’s the first images shot with the new lens.

I’ve been cropping this one of Kayti, so now you can finally see the full composition. I still have a long way to go with this one and my background testing of glazing Alizarine over the Cadmium Red isn’t quite what I thought it was going to be so now I’m reconsidering options. I’m probably going to need to do a few smaller studies to really figure out where to go from here in the background. Part of me really wants to hack at it with the palette knife like I’m doing in some of the other paintings, but as Julie, rightly, pointed out there’s already a lot of texture and details in the hair and tattoo, so I really don’t want to have the background competing with the subject on this one.

Kayti (in progress)
Kayti (in progress)

Here’s the latest on my Shushing painting of Shad. I was really hoping to be done with this one by now and while it’s very close to be finished it’s still telling me that it wants something more. I’m very happy with the background, hopefully you can see the texture there from the raking light. But the clothing feels a bit flat in parts, and there’s still a lingering drawing issue or two that I want to work out. So I think I’m going to put it on the easel again this weekend and see if I can’t get it dialed in just a little bit more.

Shh (Shad, in progress)
Shh (Shad, in progress)

Weekend Update

I’ve been looking forward to the weekends more and more lately. It really feels like I’ve turned a bit of a corner with my painting and I can’t wait to get back into the studio.

Here’s a detail of the Shad painting that I’m still working on. I spent most of Saturday working on his clothing. I still need a finishing pass on the face and hands. Beyond that it’s really about finishing up the clothing and the background. I’m really hoping to finish this one off this coming weekend.

Shh (Shad, detail, in progress)
Shh (Shad, detail, in progress)

On Sunday I worked on the portrait of Kayti. I’ve been avoiding this painting, but as Don Draper says, “our greatest fears lie in anticipation.” (Sorry, AMC has been replaying Mad Men and I decided to see what all the fuss was about.) I’ve been a bit paralyzed every time I put it up on the easel. There’s so many technical details in this work and it’s showing so much promise that I’m afraid to screw it up. I don’t know why I get that sense of dread, I’ve had it before and every time I work on a painting it’s always better at the end of the day than at the start. Even if that weren’t the case; paint is completely malleable and I know that I can repaint it as many times as I need… but there it is, the anticipation gets me.

So once I got over fears and formulated a game-plan I just started mixing up my paints. That’s usually the crest of the hill for me, once the paints are out of the tube I don’t want to waste them so I just dive right in.

The plan is to get a good pass on her flowing platinum locks. Once that’s done I’ll be able to get the background to a more finalized state and then the rest of the portrait will be color-correctable. Once that’s done it’ll all be about the tattoos. But before that – the hair.

Kayti (detail, in progress)
Kayti (detail, in progress)

I’ve been using some of the Velazquez Medium from www.naturalpigments.com lately. It’s really nice for making the paint thicker but still long and ropey. Here’s a detail of the brushwork in the hair for any artist out there. I certainly love to push my nose right up the canvas when I’m looking at a painting to explore the surface. It’s something that you almost never get to see online.

Brushwork detail from Kayti
Brushwork detail from Kayti

Still a very long way to go with this one but I’m over the fear hurdle I think… at least I’m feeling confident that the major components are all going to be accomplishable in this painting. Now it’s just about iterating over them until I can’t execute them any better.