By Ray Brown
In the interest of giving the viewer some insight into where my images come from, I thought I might expound on what happens during one of my reference gathering trips.
To begin with, I use tons of reference photos to create my drawings. But I use only my own photos and experiences, never pulling image sources other than my own. To compile this reference it is necessary to get out into the fresh air and walk The Wild Path, to use the title of this show. Most recently I was traipsing through snows right here in Jackson and Yellowstone to gather winter imagery for my files as well as my soul. As I had to deliver the drawings for The Wild Path here to Turner Fine Art I thought to myself, Wyoming, winter, blankets of pristine snow simplifying the landscape, animals, animals with snow on them… I nearly started to salivate!
So I called a good friend and fellow artist and made plans to spend a week or so here in Northwestern Wyoming. Calling a friend is important. Reference gathering alone is fun, but doing it with a like-minded soul is awesome. Plus you have twice as many eyes to trained to spot potential reference material. Now off to the wilderness we go!
The romantic idea of the wildlife artist camping for weeks or months in the wilderness is a notion from which I fall woefully short. I love the outdoors in all its grandeur and minutia. The fresh air and dirt the lofty mountains and the quiet brooks the trees and the crisscrossing deadfall, the smell of pine and wet rocks all serve to fill me up and inspire me. But, the reality is we spend much of our time in the car (another reason to pick someone friendly and familiar who will tolerate you to share this experience). Hiking all day one can see a lot and certainly get to all sorts of interesting places that one cannot see from the car but, from the car, one can cover much more ground in a much shorter time. Especially when one is short on time in the first place.
My heart lies here in the mountains with its trees, streams, rocks, and critters. Living in Southern California I get a couple of weeks a year at most to fill my soul with inspiration so I generally choose to use the car to cover as much ground as I can. That is not to say, however, I won’t get out of the car for short excursions to find some of those nooks and crannies that help to fill that creative cup.
For the most part, as we drive along we are searching for wildlife, the birds and animals that are the subjects for most of our artwork. The wildlife play a weeklong game of hide and seek with us. Keeping our eyes peeled and our spidey senses sharp as we drive the snow-covered roads looking for that small bit of movement or an anomalous shape in the passing landscape, hoping for the thrill of something rare or beautiful. Generally, though, it is just another magpie or oddly shaped tree stump. In the meantime, as the animals show off their skills as great hiders and we fumble along as terrible seekers the bounty of the landscape spills before us intriguing us with its play of light and shadow and pattern and form.
The drama of the grand vista or the simplicity of a single twig, the myriad of textures and shapes all a feast to consume as we roll along the park roads and highways the dirt roads and dead ends. I fill my camera with imagery – most of it superfluous or redundant but all serving as sparks illuminating memories and feelings of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. As well as giving me concrete information on the structure of a bird or the texture of a twig or the shape of a leaf.
At the end of the week, the cup of inspiration is overflowing to the point where I can’t wait to get back to the studio to start making new work. It seems when I am in the studio I long to be in the field and when I am in the field I can’t wait to get back in the studio. An endless circle of inspiration and creativity. Good work if you can get it, as they say.
All photos provided by the artist, Ray Brown.