A Window Into The Wild

People often approach wild animals as if they are familiar, domesticated pets. We struggle with the tendency to objectify animals, or to project our own human emotions onto them, both of which erode our respect for these wild creatures. In reality, they belong in an entirely different category. They have needs wholly other than ours.

My portraits portray animals in a respectful way, each with their own dignity and individuality, avoiding any trace of nostalgia or sentimentality. The background is devoid of details: nothing distracts the viewer from the animal and its presence. I emphasize the eyes, their gaze directed at the viewer as if to say, Look at me. I am as alive as you are. I have needs just as you do.

I paint animals because wild creatures present themselves simply as they are. Theirs is a raw beauty without artifice, the primordial connection with life clearly visible. In this connection, I encounter my own humanity at a deeper level. Coming of age in our engineered, domesticated society, we often lack the opportunity or freedom to truly feel wild and connected to our planet. But when I encounter a wild animal, there is something that awakens inside me, that reminds me I also belong to this wilderness, one I feel compelled to register as it disappears. I feel that someone needs to represent the animal—to create a bridge, to be their voice in a society that continually disconnects us from nature and its inhabitants.

Though I am always in search of realism, I find the wild to be very mysterious, and I choose to echo this by leaving certain passages untold, unclear, less rendered. Drama and chiaroscuro are important to me in creating this sense of mystery. In my mind, it is the role of the artist to create poetry from pure visual information, recreating the emotional as well as the visual experience of what we have seen or even photographed. I consistently return to artists I admire for inspiration on this front, from Caravaggio to Andrew Wyeth, and from Rembrandt to Greg Beecham and Robert Bateman. We can see the humanity of the subject in Rembrandt’s images, and I strive for a similar depth of life and spirit in my animals.

I believe painting to be one of the most beautiful of human expressions, and I feel I have an enormous responsibility to say with my brush what cannot be said with words. In the studio, I can be myself, express myself and the larger, divine force that I feel moves through my hands on a deep level. Each piece, each animal, has a bit of my soul in it. From the beginning, my paintings have been—and still are—an invitation to look outside one’s own window and into the wild.