Living Wild: Animal Artwork Steals the Show

By Claire Larrabee

Who among us does not love wildlife and the opportunity to watch animals go about their business? Eagles soaring overhead, alligators basking in the sun, dragonflies dancing among the cornflowers, graceful gazelles leaping across the African savannah – all of these creatures inspire wonder and awe.

For many artists, wildlife offers rich artistic opportunities. They choose to paint animals for all sorts of reasons. They are fascinated with their shapes, colors and unique abilities that are so different from our own – like flying or living under water. They love to capture the intricate beauty of feathers, fur, scales or leathery hides. They appreciate the chance to lose themselves in the natural world. Whatever the reason, artists who paint animals give the rest of us the chance to experience the same joy and wonder.

At the upcoming Paradise City Arts Festival, the animal kingdom will certainly be out in force! Here’s just a small sampling of the many artists who excel at depicting life in the wild.

Soaring to New Heights

For New Hampshire artist Ira Frost, his best friends might be called, well, a little “flighty”. Ira is a bird lover, and his fascination and unique understanding of the avian world are perfectly reflected in his life-like bird carvings. Through a painstaking process of meticulous carving and detailed painting, he captures what he sees as the “essence” of each bird.

Ira starts with an original drawing to get the pose and details right. He then carves the bird out of tupelo wood, using a band saw. Paper-thin pieces of wood are added for the wing and tail feathers. Using tiny brushes, he captures the bird’s true coloring with acrylic paint.

Ira Frost transformed a block of tupelo wood into a Northern Hawk Owl which became part of a large-scale sculpture commissioned at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton. This family of five owls measures about seven feet wide and high.

Ira completes the process by placing the bird in the context of its natural environment, with humming birds sipping at a morning glory or an owl perched on a twisting branch, watching for a tasty morsel to wander by. He sculpts all the leaves, twigs, grass, flowers and even insects from wood and brass.

Ira Frost’s birds live in their natural environments created with the same eye for realistic detail and accuracy.

The beauty and authenticity of Ira’s work have been recognized internationally. Two of his carvings reside in the White House Collection in Washington, DC, and he was commissioned to create an exhibit of 13 neo-tropical birds to benefit international migratory bird conservation programs.

Capturing Wildlife on Paper – Patience Pays Off

Observing animals is a great way to connect with the natural world, but it can take a lot of quiet watchfulness to catch a turtle sunbathing on a woodland pond rock, or hours of hiking in rugged terrain for a glimpse of bighorn sheep grazing in the late afternoon light. For Kristin Moger, the patience required to interpret the life of an animal on paper is a key part of her art. “Drawing animals gives me an opportunity to slow down and savor the experience of both the animal and the artistic process,” she says.

Kristin’s ink drawings combine realistic depictions and unusual patterns. This juxtaposition of natural forms and unnatural patterning make Kristin’s art uniquely her own. She strives to create a balance between an image that is both pleasing to the eye and provokes further exploration. Her paintings are often whimsical, as she enjoys adding touches of humor and drama to her depictions of animals in their natural environments.

Kristin Moger uses intricate patterns drawn in black ink to create animals full of life and personality.

Kristin’s path to her wildlife drawings has been a winding one. After graduating with a BFA in art education and painting, she tried her hand at many different arts and crafts forms, from mixed media jewelry and painted furniture to children’s clothing. About six years ago, she rediscovered the art of “tangling”, which is a method for creating beautiful images by drawing structured patterns. “It was a eureka moment for me,” says Kristin. “I found it combined my love of illuminated manuscripts and old etchings, realism and whimsy, patterns and design, biology and nature in a single art form.” She applies her tangling skill to all of her animal paintings, with each mark painstakingly made by hand to create shape, form and mood, all using only black ink.

Finding a Rare Creature in the Everyday World

What do an old oboe, a lost domino, and a pencil eraser have in common? In the clever hands of husband and wife team Lisa and Scott Cylinder, these humble objects become the inspiration for jewelry that introduces us to all sorts of fanciful creatures. Both Lisa and Scott are fascinated with found objects that they can deconstruct and transform from their often-industrial function into objects that remind us of all the creatures that surround us.

Their artistic influences are varied and vast – modern art, scientific phenomena, 20th century artifacts, and even film find their way into their jewelry. Lately, they have been particularly absorbed by the artistic potential of old musical instruments. The results are witty jewelry creations mimicking birds, bugs, mice- even slugs- that demand a second look and provoke a smile.

In the hands of Lisa and Scott Cylinder, found objects like old calipers, buttons, musical instruments and scraps of metal become the inspiration for jewelry that reinterprets the natural world.

Lisa and Scott create each piece individually in their home studio, where they have been collaborating in the design and execution of mixed media jewelry since 1988. “We love to explore and manipulate a multitude of materials, removing them from their original context. We want our jewelry to create a narrative that invites conversations through stories, humor, and clever anecdotes. This human aspect gives our work a warmth that is sometimes nostalgic, often curious, and usually joyful,” Lisa and Scott comment.

Live Life on the Wild Side at Paradise City!

Ira Frost, Kristin Moger and the Cylinders will all be displaying their imaginative takes on the animal kingdom at the upcoming November Paradise City Arts Festival which takes place November 22-24 at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Many other talented artists and craft makers working in every media – from traditional oil and watercolor painting to photography, fiber arts, metal and stone sculpture, glass, wood, leather, and jewelry – will also be at this special show. So don’t miss this opportunity to immerse yourself in a wild world of imagination and extraordinary artistic talent. For more information on the November festival including hours, location, admission, and exhibitors, and to buy tickets online, click here.