A Trip to the Zoo

An ostrich patrols the fenceline at the Utica Zoo.

Well, it certainly has been awhile, hasn’t it?

In mid-November, my 83 year old mom fell, fracturing a vertebra in her neck. The weeks that followed have been a blur of hospitalization, in-patient physical therapy, helping/giving moral support to my dad (now 92), and multiple interactions with the health care system: bloodwork, x-rays, and follow-up visits with doctors. As an only child, all of this “assisting” falls on me, though remarkably Dad is still Mom’s primary caregiver, but I’ve been busy, to say the least. She has improved tremendously, helped in no small part by taking her off several medications (with the doctor’s blessing) and so things finally seem to be smoothing out now.

Off to the Zoo

And that brings me to my first art “adventure” in many months: a trip to the zoo! The nearby city of Utica, New York (population 62,000 and change) is home to the Utica Zoo, a small regional zoo nestled on 80 acres of wooded parkland inside the city limits.

Why visit the zoo? Well, I’ve wanted to do a painting with a red fox in it for some time but I really don’t have any reference material of my own to speak of. I’ve glimpsed wild foxes (both red and gray) several times, but have had no opportunity to photograph them. The Utica Zoo’s website said they have a red fox in residence in their Children’s Zoo area, and with the day’s milder temperatures it seemed like a good time. Plus, since it’s January, the fox’s coat was sure to be thick and plush.

So, bundled against the chill and armed with my camera, off I went. Admission was modest ($4.25) and as you might imagine, I pretty much had the place to myself. The nice lady at the entrance gave me a map, and it quickly became obvious that I wouldn’t have time to see everything, so I focused on looking for my fox.

Red fox at the Utica Zoo.

The red fox, up high on his little “observation deck”.

Red Fox (No, not the guy in the TV show!)

The fox – a single male, as far as I could tell – perked up when I approached. I found him in his jungle-gym-y pen complete with a ladder to an upper level deck and catwalks. To get pictures, I had to manually focus on him, because the autofocus only wanted to take sharp pictures of the fence mesh. He had a lovely thick coat, but seemed a bit chubby, no doubt due to his sedentary lifestyle (a common problem with humans and zoo residents alike). I had half expected the fox to be curled up with his nose buried in his tail, sleeping. Instead, he was quite active, going up and down his ladder a couple times, stretching, nibbling on some food, and drinking out of his water bucket. I took a number of photos that will help if and when I can start a painting, but alas I’m still going to have to look for other reference, particularly video of wild foxes.

Lunch with the California Sea Lions

California sea lion swimming at the Utica Zoo.

The female California sea lion, swimming in their heated pool.

I also happened to be there in time to catch the 12:30 feeding of the California sea lions. Although their pool seemed a bit cramped for such large animals (the male weighs about 500 lbs.; the female is about half that), I was glad to see their meal was combined with interaction with their “keeper”. (Is that the correct term?) There was a nice give-and-take of hand signals and simple responses, followed by fish rewards.

California sea lion at the Utica Zoo.

The male sea lion orders lunch!

It was a very positive communication that reminded me of my dog obedience days and was much better, in my opinion, than the keeper simply dumping fish in the water and walking away. And, I noticed, each animal was fed separately – the male went into their shelter, while the female was fed first; then he came back out and had his meal. Everybody got their fair share of fish and attention, with no stealing or intimidation.

The Orphan and the Bad Boy

As is so often the case with animals in captivity, these two sea lions reside at the zoo because they can no longer live in the wild. The female was found as a day-old pup on a California beach, abandoned by her mother for reasons unknown. Wildlife officials took her in but she became too habituated to people to safely be released as an adult.

Likewise, the male, born in Oregon, became a bit of a rogue as a young adult, crossing highways and invading suburban backyards. He was captured twice, tagged and released into safer areas, but found his way back to the ‘burbs. The third time was the charm: some kids found him in their yard, thought he was cute and let him into the house. Their mom discovered him in her living room after she returned home from grocery shopping! At that point, it was clear to officials that this guy was also much too comfortable around humans to live safely as a “wild” sea lion.

The audience included a couple of moms with preschoolers in tow, and they commented on how smart and responsive the sea lions are. And that’s true, but I sometimes fear the the flip side: folks with no real knowledge of the natural world could easily conclude that wild sea lions might be just as friendly toward people as these two were. Having caught a glimpse of their teeth, I don’t think I’d want to make that assumption!

Aaaand, a World-Record Watering Can

World-record giant watering can at the Utica Zoo.

The Utica Zoo’s giant watering can. It’s 15-1/2 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter, According to the Guiness Book of World Records, it’s the largest watering can in the world.

There is another section of the zoo that I’m particularly interested in seeing, but it was some distance from the Children’s Zoo and the map indicated that the path is more of a rough trail. I wasn’t sure what I’d be getting into with snow on the ground, so I figured I’d save that for another day – maybe in late March or early April when the snow is gone but before the animals start blowing their winter coats. According to the map, there’s a Canada lynx, Arctic fox and snowy owl in residence there.

Before leaving, I also got to see the famous (and somewhat infamous) giant watering can! Fifteen years ago, Utica’s mayor was, shall we say, rather eccentric. Not long before he abruptly resigned his position, he ordered a $6000, one-ton copper watering can “to inspire and encourage Growing a More Beautiful City”. If memory serves, the thing arrived at city hall on the back of a flatbed truck. With the mayor gone, nobody knew what to do with it, so it was delivered to the zoo. It now looms over a nice little landscaped area at the Children’s Zoo, where it apparently “waters” the pond during warm weather.


Hey folks! November Doe is now available as a FINE ART PRINT – from the original oil painting – on archival paper, canvas and more, starting at less than $20. Order today – it’s simple, safe and secure!

Whitetail doe in ferns

November Doe, original oil on canvas, 14″ x 18″


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Life Goes On (and a New Painting!)

It’s a pretty morning. The sun is trying to burn through a light fog so the landscape outside my window is bathed in a wonderfully diffused, silvery light. The trees are all bare now – well, all except for the beeches, whose tawny orange leaves will doggedly hang on through much of the winter. They contrast nicely with the smooth gray trunks; once again, nature hits a home run with her color harmonies.

A Black-capped chickadee at the feeder

Always busy and cheerful: Black-capped chickadee

My resident winter birds – juncos, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and numerous woodpeckers – are busy at my bird feeders, but the chipmunks have gone to bed for the winter. In the shortening days of fall, less than ten hours of daylight – which we reached in the last week or so – seems to be their signal to sleep. I’m confident they’ve stashed enough sunflower seeds and peanuts from the feeders to make it through ‘til spring.

Pinecone in the branches of a white pine.

A cone balances in the branches of my white pine, like a bird waiting its turn at the feeder.

In the garden, only the delicate white alyssum are hanging on (and still blooming!). They’re obviously a lot tougher than they look.

The alyssum just keeps on blooming in spite of the frosts we've had.

The alyssum just keeps on blooming in spite of the frosts we’ve had.

November in central New York is often gray, wet, and dreary but this year we’ve had a beautiful fall with very little gloom – at least weather-wise. The last month, however, has been sad and stressful due to a number of family events, so while I have several new painting ideas floating around in my head, I just don’t have the time (or the energy) to get them out and onto canvas right now. But as they say, this too shall pass. I’m hopeful that things will settle down soon.

New Painting – First Light

First Light, original Adirondack oil painting

First Light, oil on panel, 18″ x 24″. ©Kathy R. Partridge, 2015.

In the meantime, I realized I hadn’t yet shared the last painting I was able to finish, titled First Light. It’s 18” x 24” on panel and is based on a spot I painted at the Publisher’s Invitational in Paul Smith’s, New York. As usual, I made a number of changes and adjustments (including the time of day) from the actual location to create the painting I saw in my mind’s eye.

The Calm

One of the things I love about locations like First Light, especially at the ends of the day, is the calm. There’s usually no wind so the water reflects the cool, quiet hues of the sky and trees like a looking-glass. The resident birds and wildlife are already up and about their business; this being an early summer painting, you can just imagine the chorus of birdsong that’s rising from the forest. And in the far distance, I couldn’t resist painting a Great blue heron winging his way over the marsh in the soft light. His day has also begun as he’s off to his favorite fishing spot.

More to Come

I do in fact, have a couple more recent paintings that I haven’t yet shared here. (My bad!) But I’ll save those for a future post.

Stay safe and enjoy nature!

 


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The Silence of the Wilds

September in the Adirondacks

It was a pleasantly warm morning for mid-September and the sun was especially welcome after two days of mist and drizzle. As I eased the car down the hill and over the narrow sandy causeway to the island, I paused about half-way over to check out the scene. Across the shallow bay to my left, the sunlight sparkled on the water like a million diamonds. To my right, huge boulders – some the size of a sub-compact car – sat in the muddy shallows, exposed to the elements after being underwater for most of the summer. The landscape was still mostly green with only the first hints of the autumn color to come.

Here on Stillwater Reservoir, water levels fluctuate in a more-or-less seasonal rhythm. Created in 1885 when the first dam across the Beaver River was built, it was last enlarged in 1924 to create a body of water about 8 miles long and 3 miles at its widest. The reservoir (also known as Beaver River Flow or just ‘The Flow’ to locals) is used to control water levels on downstream rivers, and as it drops, a much more interesting (and accessible) landscape is revealed. On this day, the water was down about 9 feet, creating many shallow feeding areas that are perfect for viewing ducks, geese and various wading birds.

Giant boulders and ancient tree stumps about on the shores of Stillwater Reservoir.

Giant boulders and ancient tree stumps abound on the shores of Stillwater Reservoir.

Out on the island (that’s what everyone here calls it – I don’t think it has an official name), there’s a scene waiting to be painted in nearly every direction. September is probably my favorite month for plein air painting here. The Adirondack piranhas (aka black flies) are long gone, temperatures have cooled and the oppressive humidity of summer is past. The sun is lower in the sky, even at noon, so the light is better as well. This is not the spectacular tourist-attracting landscape of the High Peaks/Lake Placid area. Stillwater has a unique rugged beauty all its own, punctuated by those giant boulders and ancient tree stumps left behind after the lumberjacks last swept through nearly 100 years ago.

Pollinators Everywhere

As I reached the island, I decided to pull the car off the one-lane dirt “road” onto a piece of higher ground where there was no chance of getting stuck. Although there were few people in town, this being a Wednesday, I was pretty much assured to having the place more or less to myself. Still, I needed to be out of the way in case anyone came by.

I got out of the car and began unloading my stuff. That’s when I noticed I was surrounded by a sea of tiny miniaturized asters (Flat-topped white aster, I think). Most years, this patch of ground is underwater for much of the spring, so these teeny wildflowers get a late start. They apparently don’t waste time growing tall and wide; most of them were a single stem less than a foot high, with very short side branches and as many tiny blooms as the little plants could muster. And they were covered with humming pollinators big and small; some looked like hornets, others more like little flies. There were butterflies and bees, too: both bumble and honeybees. And none of them paid the slightest attention to me as I walked around the car, getting my chair, tripod, pochade, shade umbrella and painting supplies out. As at home in the garden, we all just went about our business.

Painting and Paying Attention

Once I found my view, it took about 15 minutes to get set up. Finally, after rummaging through my box to find the right painting panel, I got to work.

There are two reasons I enjoy getting out like this. One, of course, is the challenge of doing a painting on the spot in about two hours, before the light changes too much. But the other has absolutely nothing to do with painting. When I’m out “in the middle of nowhere”, sitting quietly, I’m reminded once again of how much life – of the non-human variety – is going on around me. As I work, the other half of my brain takes note of the sounds – the whisper of the wind in the white pine boughs; Canada geese honk-a-lonk-ing on the other side of the island; chickadees and nuthatches in the balsam fir behind me. A red squirrel chatters in the distance – or was that a kingfisher? (I still sometimes confuse the two.) Flocks of blue jays squawk as they fly from one island to the next. Ducks dabble. Very often, a heron will drop in and stalk his prey in the water right in front of me.

A Great blue heron stalks his prey along the shoreline.

A Great blue heron stalks his prey along the shoreline.

Bald eagles soaring overhead are not unusual, either. Usually it’s the immature birds – but occasionally the more wary adults will come close enough for a good photo.

My first painting of the day went pretty well; a study of the shoreline across a narrow channel with reflections and a small balancing boulder, no doubt left behind when the glaciers receded from this area some 10,000 years ago. I’ve found that often my morning paintings do go fairly well; I think it’s because I prefer the cleaner light and if I can get going early enough, the shadow patterns are more interesting.

Shoreline Rock, oil on panel, 8" x 12" (Plein air).

Shoreline Rock, oil on panel, 8″ x 12″ (Plein air).

I tend to approach my afternoon paintings with a little more trepidation, because for whatever reason, I’m more likely to be disappointed in them. But this day, I went out a little further onto the island so I could set up in the shade and do a study of the road I’d just come over, with a sunlit shoreline in the distance – I wouldn’t even need to put up my umbrella (yay!). Surprise, surprise, this one also went well and around 3:30 or so I decided that additional fiddling would not make it a better painting – so I decided to quit while I was ahead.

Grassy Point Road, oil on panel, 8" x 12" (Plein air).

Grassy Point Road, oil on panel, 8″ x 12″ (Plein air).

The Silence of the Wilds

All together, maybe 3 vehicles went jouncing and bouncing by me on their way to check their boats or motor down the Flow to Stillwater (the landing) and the “outside” world. Their intrusion was brief. As for me, I was more than happy to sit and paint in the silence of the wilds: the chatter of the birds, the hum of the bees and the sigh of the wind in the white pines.

On this day, all was right with the world.


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Killin’ it with Robert Bateman

Robert Bateman's Powerpoint presentation

Robert Bateman talks about an early example of his work.

A huge highlight of the opening weekend of the 55th Annual Members’ Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists (SAA) was the Saturday workshop presentation by Canadian artist and naturalist, Robert Bateman. Credit for this remarkable opportunity goes to Jan Martin McGuire, SAA Board Member and a long-time friend of Bateman. He’s been her mentor since she was a young artist and, over the years, they have formed a mutual admiration society.

Following a short general membership meeting, our day with Robert Bateman began. We were treated to a Powerpoint career overview, presented by the man himself. You know how, when the word “Powerpoint” comes up, eyes usually roll? Well, not this time. At the age of 85, the artist has a lifetime’s worth of fascinating and often humorous stories to tell, so the narration and images were anything but dull.

Clyfford Still's 1957-D, NO. 1, oil on canvas

Believe it or not, many of Robert Bateman’s realistic wildlife pieces are inspired by paintings like this one by Clyfford Still (1904-1980). 1957-D, NO. 1, oil on canvas, collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

"Little minds are interested in the extraordinary; great minds in the commonplace".

Loved this!

The Importance of Reference Material
After lunch, we met briefly in the parking lot of the Marriot, while the artist talked about how he goes about gathering reference materials. He said he had no idea what he was going to paint for us, but he’d brought an assortment of bird reference (on his tablet) and then looked for suitable habitat outside the hotel. He shot some detail pictures of one of the white pines, thinking it might work with an owl.

Robert Bateman discusses his reference-gathering thought processes in the parking lot of the Marriott.

Robert Bateman discusses his reference-gathering thought processes in the parking lot of the Marriott.

Then we walked over to the other side of the building to a semi-wild buffer area that separated the parking lot from a nearby divided highway, where a stand of phragmites caught his eye. Phragmites are an invasive species in wetland areas the world over, so the idea here was to use the reeds as a background for a demo of a Great blue heron.

One interesting tip he shared was to include some object of a known size – he used his folded glasses – in your reference shots as an aid in determining correct size relationships when incorporating birds or animals into the scene later.

Bateman always uses multiple photos as reference, sometimes as many as fifty for a single painting, because he hates what he calls “cooked up” work – that is, inauthentic images where much is clearly “made up” out of the artist’s imagination. Paintings that are concocted in this way simply don’t have the verisimilitude that is the hallmark of quality wildlife art. He’s not a slave to the reference, however; never copying a single photo, he refers to the collected information to ensure his depictions of nature are authentic.

Robert Bateman discusses the importance of keeping a sketchbook.

One of Bateman’s many sketchbooks.

Back inside, Bateman showed us an example of one of his many sketchbooks. He later passed it around so we could leaf through it. Many of us took photos of our favorite pages.
Two pages from Bateman's sketchbook.

Two more pages from Bateman's sketchbook.

On to the demo!
Bateman’s emphasis was on the thought process involved in the development of a painting, so the actual demo only took about an hour and focused on the starting block-in. After some back and forth, he finally settled on the phragmites-with-heron idea and did a lot of thinking out loud as he jumped into the painting process. Although he didn’t do it this time, he said he usually does some compositional thumbnails to play with different options before starting in.

Working on a piece of acrylic gessoed hardboard with acrylic paints, and with his two references visible – the heron on his tablet and the phragmites on the main screen – he began by blocking in some directional lines to indicate the reeds.

Reference photo of the phragmites taken outside the hotel.

Reference photo of the phragmites taken outside the hotel on the big screen.

Using a neutral gray-green, values are blocked in quickly in a series of steps.

Basic block-in of shapes on the painting.

Basic block-in of shapes; heron reference on the tablet. Note the composition; the artist hates what he calls “fried eggs” – paintings with the subject just plopped down in visual center.

Reeds and bird are blocked in.

Reeds are scrubbed in and the first indications of back, or rim lighting appear on the heron. He hates front lighting, preferring side- or back-lighting.

Developing light and dark 3-D forms.

Highlights are developed, and vegetation is indicated in front of the bird to help integrate it into the setting.

At this point, Bateman decided it was time to “kill it”. That’s his term for using a transparent glaze (either light or dark; he had both mixed up in small jars, ready to use) to unify and neutralize the elements, helping to create that first hint of mystery that is characteristic of his work. In this case, he used the light, milky glaze, pouring a small amount on a piece of damp foam rubber (the kind you stuff furniture cushions with) and patting it on evenly all over the painting.

The painting after Bateman "killed" it (knocked back the contrast), with a light milky glaze.

The painting after Bateman “killed” it (knocked back the contrast), with a light milky glaze.

After the glaze dried, he increases the contrast again – punching up the darks and the highlights.

Punching up the darks and lights after the milk glaze

Restating the darks (especially around the heron’s neck) and lights after “killing” the painting with the light milky glaze.

By this time, it was 5:30 in the afternoon, so the demo ended. But to finish the painting, he would continue working in a similar manner, refining, adding texture of fur or feathers, building color, lights and darks, and occasionally “re-killing” it all with the transparent glazes, and then reworking it all again.

Great Blue Heron in the Rain

One of Robert Bateman’s finished heron paintings. This is Great Blue Heron in the Rain (2003). Acrylic, 18″ x 30″.

Bateman said he really can’t say how long it takes him to finish any one painting, because he usually has five or ten in various stages of development and he rotates among them. Eventually – it could take weeks, months or sometimes, years – his paintings are completed.

If you’ve enjoyed this overview of his process and his work, check out the many books on his art. You can also view a selection of his work on his website.


The 55th Annual Members’ Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists, Art and the Animal, will be on display at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York through October 25, 2015.


 

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A really grand opening weekend

"Clockwork" on display at the Society of Animal Artists' Annual

My painting, Clockwork (right) on display at the 55th Annual Members’ Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists.


On August 26, at around noon, I boarded a westbound Amtrak train at Utica’s (NY) Union Station, headed for “the big city” – Buffalo – and the Buffalo Marriott Niagara.  The Marriott was this year’s designated headquarters hotel for the opening weekend of the 55th Annual Members’ Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists (SAA), Art and the Animal – which includes my oil painting, Clockwork. (Many thanks to the jury!)

The “Grand Opening Premiere” of the exhibit was being hosted by the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History (RTPI) in Jamestown, New York, about 80 miles south of our hotel. Jamestown is small (pop. about 30,000) and since it was late in the summer tourist season, didn’t have the hotel and banquet facilities to accommodate our group of 70+ artists and spouses. So all activities other than the opening reception were held at the Marriott and the Society booked a tour bus to take us down to Jamestown for the Friday night opening.

All this meant that once I arrived in Buffalo I wouldn’t really need a car, so why put myself through the aggravation of driving to get there? After calling the hotel to see if they offered a courtesy shuttle pick-up at the station (they do), I looked up the Amtrak schedules and booked my seat.*

During "The Great New York State Fair" in the last two weeks of August, Amtrak adds a stop at the fairgrounds in Syracuse.

During “The Great New York State Fair” in the last two weeks of August, Amtrak adds a stop at the fairgrounds in Syracuse. Cool sky!


 

The 19-story Kodak tower in downtown Rochester, New York.

The 19-story Kodak tower in downtown Rochester, New York.


Anyhoo, I digress. Back to the opening festivities.

The rising mist plume from Niagara Falls, visible from my 6th floor window.

The rising mist plume from Niagara Falls, visible from my 6th floor window at the Marriott. The generating stations on both the American and Canadian sides of the falls produce 25% of New York’s and Ontario’s power, so forests of power lines are an ever-present feature in the area.


Thursday
Thursday’s events included afternoon one-on-one “career advice” sessions by SAA Signature Members for any other members (especially Associates) who felt they could benefit, and later that evening, an informal “mixer” for members in the lounge area of the Marriott’s restaurant.

Friday
Friday morning was taken up with a few more advice meetings, so I had the morning free, and then at 1:00 PM we had a photo session in the hotel’s courtyard. A wildlife rehabilitator brought in a Red-tailed hawk and a Barred owl for the artists to sketch and photograph. Several of the hotel staff were completely fascinated by this; I daresay it was a first for the Marriott!

Artists sketching and photographing a Barred owl and a Red-tailed hawk in the Marriott courtyard.

Artists sketching and photographing a Barred owl and a Red-tailed hawk in the Marriott courtyard.


 

Male Red-tailed hawk

The Red-tailed hawk (a male) was about 20 years old and had been hit by a car, leaving him with injuries to the muscles in his chest area and limited flight abilities.


 

Female Barred owl

The female Barred owl also had had a run-in with a vehicle and now has a permanently damaged wing.


 

At 3:30, we all boarded the tour bus and hit the road for the 90 minute trip to the opening reception at RTPI. Jamestown was the boyhood home of famed author, artist, ornithologist and naturalist, Roger Tory Peterson, the “father” of the first field guides that created a simplified bird identification system for lay audiences.

The lobby of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute (RTPI).

The lobby of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute (RTPI).


 

Some of the sculpture on exhibit in the SAA Annual at RTPI.

Some of the sculpture on exhibit in the SAA Annual at RTPI.


The Institute is now housed on the campus of Jamestown Community College, in a specially designed building with Adirondack/Arts & Crafts overtones that opened in 1993. It includes multiple galleries as well as archives that preserve Dr. Peterson’s life work – including original artwork, books, film and photographs, study skins, correspondence and much more.

Of course, everyone’s first priority was to see the show which was beautifully presented in the several modestly sized galleries on the ground floor, as well as in the balcony area above. About two hundred people attended the opening, including many patrons of the Institute all of whom seemed genuinely interested in the artists and learning more about their work.

A large tent was set up behind the building, serving gourmet nibblies, wine, and "craft" brews.

A large tent was set up behind the building, where gourmet nibblies, wine, and “craft” brews were being served.


Behind the building, a large tent housed a “Farm-to-Table Tasting Event” featuring hors d’oeuvres prepared by chefs while you watched. All ingredients were sourced from farms and producers in the Jamestown area. The reception also served as a birthday party of sorts, as it was the 107th anniversary of Dr. Peterson’s birth in 1908.

Robert Bateman in conversation in the hallway at RTPI.

Artist and naturalist Robert Bateman in conversation in the hallway at RTPI.


Saturday
Back at the Marriott, Saturday morning started off with a short general membership meeting of the SAA, followed by a slide presentation by a special guest, world renowned artist and naturalist (and SAA Master Signature member) Robert Bateman, who regaled us with fascinating stories and images of his career through the years. After lunch we were treated to a workshop by the artist, where he discussed the thought processes that go into the development of a painting followed by a one hour demo showing how he gets started on a piece. Since this took up the entire day, I’ll cover this more in my next post. It really was fascinating.

The weekend concluded with a banquet on Saturday night. The food was excellent, and everyone was in high spirits after such a fun and busy weekend. Robert Bateman was the keynote speaker (he may be 85 but he’s like the Energizer Bunny!), followed by a very interesting program.

Robert Bateman, the keynote speaker at the Annual banquet.

Robert Bateman, the keynote speaker at the Annual banquet.


The Annual Awards were announced and after that, a number of small original artworks were “rehomed”. Several Signature artists had donated these pieces which could be had if your name was drawn from a bag. However, before the lucky winner could claim their prize, they had to tell a story (art-related or otherwise) after which they drew the next winner’s name. Alas, I was not among the lucky few to take home a piece but the stories – some thoughtful and others just plain funny – were all entertaining.

Some of the crowd at the Annual banquet on Saturday night.

Some of the crowd at the Annual banquet on Saturday night.


Much credit goes to the Board of the Society of Animal Artists for putting together such an event-packed weekend. It all ran like “clockwork” (wait, wait…wasn’t that the title of one of the paintings? :-) ) and remarkably, other than my travel and hotel expenses (and a small fee for the bird photography session) everything was free to the attending members, including Robert Bateman’s presentation and workshop. (I guess membership really does have its rewards!) Kudos to our hard-working Board!


The 55th Annual Members’ Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists, Art and the Animal, will be on display at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York through October 25, 2015.


 

*So here’s my plug for train travel: The great thing about it is you can get up and walk around, have a snack, use the restrooms, and sleep, read or watch the scenery go by. According to Amtrak, it would take about the same amount of time as driving. In reality, the trip out – on a weekday – did in fact take somewhat longer than scheduled (which I had been warned about), because existing trackage just isn’t adequate for the traffic.

Once upon a time – in the heyday of train travel – there were separate pairs of east- and westbound tracks for freight and passenger service crossing New York State, but back in the ’60s and ’70s, half of that was torn up. These days, with freight service booming and so much demand for passenger service that there’s a shortage of available coaches, two tracks simply aren’t enough. Freight has priority over passenger, so we were forced to slow on several occasions, and had to come to a complete stop twice while we waited for freight traffic to clear. In all it took me about an hour longer to get there than it probably would have if I’d driven (counting the “pit stops” I would have made) – at least on the trip out. Coming back on Sunday, the train made much better time because there were far fewer freights. All in all though, I’d do it again. It really was fun. (Oh, and did I mention that my tickets cost less than driving?)

 


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