Sometimes inspiration comes from new sources with surprising results. I was struck by a comment made by Robert Bateman in a book on wildlife artists. Bateman, who is known for his realistic and beautifully accurate birds and animals inhabiting their environments, talked about his own inspiration, particularly for compositions. He looked to the abstract artists, particularly Clyfford Still. I decided I would look up Still’s work, which I found to be amazing. I also could see how Bateman would be inspired by this. I could practically see canyons and plunging peregrine falcons in those abstract shapes. Researching Still led me, however, to Robert Motherwell
Looking into Motherwell’s work somehow had the effect of setting something free in my mind’s eye: I could look in and see whatever I wanted. The paintings had a trigger effect and suddenly I was sketching shapes and compositions for a piece I had been thinking about for some time, a commission for a painting of a black bear and her cub. I also decided I would try a different approach and tone the board with a medium-dark mix of Ultramarine and Raw Umber, brushed on and wiped off several times. This was on a prepared board measuring 18 x 24.
I started with a layout in Photoshop, which let me play with shapes, but I wanted a black thick shape coming down from the top, a zig-zag and a sweeping shape coming up from the lower left to connect with it. I found something to my liking and drew the bears and a flying crow onto the toned board in white Conte pencil.
Next I laid in a whitish background, actually, white acrylic mixed with a little Ultramarine and glazing liquid to thin it slightly, and went around the main shapes.
Then I came in with darks to define the shapes, a thin wash of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine, and followed that with a thinned mix of the same mixed with a little Titanium white, keeping it on the blue side and blending it out with water on a soft filbert brush.