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There is nothing more appealing than watching animals naturally doing what they were created to do, whether it be a pack of Wild Dogs chasing after a herd of gazelle in a hunting situation, or watching a pride of lions relaxing and interacting with each other under the shade of a large acacia tree. Perhaps it’s just the harmony of nature, the “organism” of nature, filled with all it’s dramatic unfolding's– a baby is born and at the same time another life is hunted. It’s the balance of the wild that fascinates me, inspires me. Wildlife art for me is not just about painting a pretty animal on canvas but expressing the essence of wildness in the animal, what makes it react in the ways that it does. The painting must portray the animal in all its characteristics – A leopard is not a leopard because of its spots and feline profile, but for it’s strength and aggression, its instinct and nature, its in the way it was uniquely created to survive. I strive to portray the animal and its story for what it is – Untamed!
Fur and Hair - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2010)
The African lion is one of the most documented of all the cats. They have great character and strength. A very social cat species forming a powerful unit, an impenetrable force. There bond with each other is the key to there continued dominance as being the top predator that earns them the name - "kings of the savannah". They are fearless and yet very gentle and affectionate towards each other.
In this painting I wanted to emphasize the bond that they share. I also took pleasure in working in with fine detail the different textures of their various hair and fur and contrasting it with the dry grass and dust.
"Afternoon Gaze " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
“Afternoon Gaze” was the result of a private commission from a fellow nature lover with a particular interest in lions and leopards. I discussed the concept with him in detail and showed him a sketch precisely indicating the look and feel of the painting. This piece was painted using oil on stretched on a 80cm x 61cm canvas. I placed a male and female lion seemingly distracted by something in the distance. Painting the hair and fur detail required a great deal of concentration and time as every hair was delicately brushed on. I paid particular attention to the expressions of the lions, especially their eye region, to emphasis their intrigued and focused gaze.
"High Hide " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
One of my favorite paintings “High Hide” didn’t stay for long in my studio and was sold straight after it was painted. Yet another commission piece, showing a wonderfully camouflaged and lazy leopard doing what leopards love doing the most. You have to be quite observant when tracking leopards because they are sometimes “invisible” as they blend into there habitat with their intricate spotted markings. A leopard to me, is such a beautiful animal - agile, graceful and striking (in terms of it’s markings and profile) yet on the other hand being extremely aggressive, dangerous and powerful – often seen dragging adult antelope up into trees to prevent any other predator from stealing it’s catch. A stealthy hunter, relying on ambush and pounce tactics to capture it’s prey.
I showed great amount of detail, not only in the leopard’s spots fur and features, but also the bark detail on the branches. This is one animal that I would love to paint more often.
In both these Leopard paintings I portrayed the animals, one in it’s surrounding. This leopard lying almost unnoticed in the shade of the tree, illustrating the perfect design of it’s intricate markings, which help camouflage it.
"Leopard" - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
"Momentary Distraction " - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
“Momentary Distraction” was very much an experimental painting in that the focus of the painting was creating atmosphere and mood. The idea behind this painting was inspired from a trip I took to the Western Cape and Lower regions of Namibia where I found the rock and habitat fascinating - almost alien in it’s uniqueness. The point of this painting was to create a mood, to elicit a response from the viewer. Here a pair of lions are seen obviously distracted and nervous – the atmosphere and mood shown in the rocks seemingly fading out enhancing this feeling. I brought the focus point onto the lions by highlighting a slight indication of late afternoon sun glowing on their bodies.
This painting was painted with oil on a 91cm x 61cm stretched canvas.
"Lions" - (Copyright Craig Bertram Smith-2009)
Another experimental piece, showing two female lionesses resting in the early morning glow. This is an almost dreamlike painting showing a palette of dusty pinks and grey/purples in the background and contrasted by warm browns and oranges emphasizing the depth of the painting. This was one of my earlier pieces and was painted with oil on canvas (75cm x 65cm)
All artwork and text is copyright 2009 Craig Bertram Smith. All rights reserved.
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