Monday, December 21, 2015

Walter Ferguson 1930-2015 

Today I received an email from the son of the painter, Walter Ferguson, a long-time member of The Society of Animal Artists, whose work is featured in Environmental Impact, informing me that Walter passed away on December 18, and that his funeral is today in Israel. Walter worked as an artist for the American Museum of Natural History and the Tel Aviv University, and is best known for his wildlife art.

"Save the Earth" by Walter Ferguson

 Walter was born in New York City in 1930. He received his formal art training at Yale School of Fine Arts and Pratt Institute. In 1965, Walter immigrated to Israel with his wife and settled in Beit Yanai on the Mediterranean coast, where they raised four children.  In Israel Walter maintained an active and successful career.  He traveled extensively over a period of more than 60 years throughout North America, Mexico, The Middle East and Africa, and his travels inspired paintings of the indigenous people, wildlife, and other subjects.  Walter was a versatile artist who began championing environmentalism in his artwork earlier than most.  His large, activist, oil painting, Save the Earth (attached), which is featured in Environmental Impact, is from 1989.  It is one of three paintings by Walter that are featured in Environmental Impact.

I admired Walter and his work greatly. Walter's work was courageous.  And he and his sons were generous in lending it for display in Environmental Impact and other museum exhibitions.   Walter's correspondence with me was always kind, thoughtful, and instructive.  His family's loss is our loss, the artworld's, too. 

David J. Wagner

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tigers, Manta Rays and Racing Extinction!

by Alison Nichols

I have not seen a wild tiger 1. I have not been swimming in the ocean with sharks or manta rays. Although I have not seen these species in their wild habitats, I know that each one fills a unique niche and that the planet will be a poorer place without them.

Racing Extinction – Discovery Channel Global Premiere, December 2, 9pm EST.
Racing Extinction - Discovery Channel Global Premiere, December 2, 9pm EST.

If you are reading this, clicking like, adding a comment or agreeing with my sentiments, then you may already know about the global premiere of Racing Extinction on the Discovery channel tomorrow, Wednesday December 2, showing at various times (9pm EST). If you are planning to watch it, that’s fantastic! But here is the problem – if you are already planning to watch it, then it is likely that nothing in this film will come as a surprise, because you probably already know about the industrial-scale removal and destruction of wildlife and plants underway across the planet, with countless species being decimated for our consumption, either as food, trinkets or products of some other kind.
The problem is, how do we get people who don’t know or care about these issues to watch this film (and others like it)? My plan had been to watch Racing Extinction with friends. I told several that I had already seen the film at a screening at The Explorers Club, so their 1st questions was “How bad is it? Is it graphic?” I can’t lie. Yes, parts of the film are graphic, but that is because what we are doing to other species on this planet is graphic. So several friends said they would not be able to watch it. How many other people, who might start to watch the film, will turn off as soon as they see something too graphic? I have seen many wildlife-related images and videos that haunt me. There are some I could mention right now that I think about probably every few weeks. I will remember them forever. They make me wince and want to turn away and think of something else. But turning away doesn’t help to solve the problem.
So here is my challenge to you, if you find it hard to watch films like this – try to watch the whole film (it ends with some suggestions about what you can do). Because only by seeing the graphic nature of what we, the human race, are doing, will we truly try to alter our behavior. When you feel that terrible pang of guilt, maybe you will stop eating so much meat, decide not to buy that teak furniture for your patio, avoid products containing microbeads2, use the dishwasher and dryer less, decide not to own exotic species as pets, or stop using harmful chemical products and excessive amounts of water on your lawn. That pang of guilt might make you think about your behavior and, ultimately, change. And change is what is desperately needed.
So watch Racing Extinction, preferably with a friend, then #StartWith1Thing !
1 Although I have been growled at by a tiger in Bardia, Nepal, while sitting on an elephant, in grass taller than the elephant, with my feet pulled up around my chest. But that’s a whole different story!
2 Microbeads are tiny plastic particles found in many personal care products. They pass through our water supply and eventually out into the ocean, where many creatures ingest them, accidentally mistaking them for food particles. Visit to download a free app to help you identify products containing microbeads.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Susan Fox with Dr. S. Amgalanbaatar (left) and Dr. Barry Rosenbaum (right) and Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve researchers and staff members Moogii, Baagii, Chuka and Anand


Susan created the WildArt Mongolia Expeditions four years ago as a way to use art to support conservation in Mongolia. She recently returned from her tenth trip to the Land of Blue Skies.

Susan is a Fellow of the Explorers Club (FN14) and had the privilege of carrying a Flag during this years Expedition. Flag 179 has a long and honorable expedition history going back to 1959. It has been carried to, among other places: Mt. Everest, the South Pacific, the North Pole, Ecuador,  the Amazon, Thailand, the Caucasus Mountains , Rwanda, St. Pierre and Yemen. And now Mongolia. You can find out more about the Flags here:

Susan Fox at Khomyn Tal with takhi in the background, Zavkhan Aimag

Her 2013 Expedition, the first, traveled to the remote western Gobi to explore Takhiin Tal, the first location where takhi/Przewalskis horse was reintroduced to Mongolia, and also to an area a days drive to the the north, Darvi and Sharga Soums (counties), which has a population of critically endangered saiga antelope The 2014 Expedition went northeast into the Han Hentii Mountains to visit the site of an important new crane research effort being carried out by researchers from Mongolia, Russia and China and then south onto the legendary grassland steppes to see Mongolian gazelles. You can find out more about those Expeditions on Susans website at

Saiga antelope at Dorgon Nuur, Khar Us Nuur National Park, Hovd Aimag

 In the coming weeks shell be blogging all aspects of the 2015 WildArt Mongolia Expedition, which went to Bayan-Olgii, Hovd and Zavkhan aimags (states or provinces) in the far west to explore:
-Khar Us Nuur National Park, which includes Jargalant Hairkhan Uul, a freestanding mountain extension of the Altai Mountains, which is the home of an estimated population of 37 snow leopards, and three lakes: Khar Us Nuur, Khar Nuur and Dorgon Nuur.
-Khomyn Tal, one of the three locations in Mongolia, along with Takhiin Tal and Hustai National Park, where takhi/Przewalskis horse has been reintroduced.
-and the Altai Mountains, where she began the Expedition with three days of observing and recording argali mountain sheep capture efforts in the Hokh Serkhiin Nuruu Strictly Protected Area. Her hosts were Dr. Barry Rosenbaum, a research associate with the Denver Zoo, and Dr. S. Amgalanbaatar of the Argali Wildlife Research Center, Mongolias leading argali researcher and also the Director of Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. (see photo at top).

Campsite near sacred spring in a valley on Jargalant Hairkhan Uul, Khar Us Nuur National Park, Hovd Aimag
 While at Khar Us Nuur National Park, she was also was able to game drive for saiga antelope and saw dozens of them in less than two days, possibly 10%+ of the population of the area, which encompasses the central plain of the park and extending southeast towards the Gobi.

Khomyn Tal takhi sketches; graphite, Pentalic Nature Sketch sketchbook

Besides takhi and argali, during her total of seven weeks in Mongolia Susan also saw and photographed Siberian ibex, Mongolian gazelles, Siberian marmots, pika, lammergeier (IUCN Near Threatened), Dalmation pelicans (IUCN Vulnerable),  demoiselle cranes, whooper swans, Daurian partridge and black kites.

She did over two dozen watercolors and many sketches and drawings during the Expedition.

Aspen trees, Maikhan Nature Reserve, Hovd Aimag; 8x8 watercolor on Saunders Waterford cold press paper

Ovoo in valley near campsite on Jargalant Hairkhan Uul, Khar Us Nuur National Park, Hovd Aimag; 8x8 watercolor on Saunders Waterford cold press paper

Susan is currently in the planning stages for the 2016 WildArt Mongolia Expedition. If you are interested in being considered for participation, please email her at

Moonrise over Jargalant Hairkhan Uul, from the shore of Khar Nuur, Khar Us Nuur National Park, Hovd Aimag)

Saturday, June 6, 2015

"Where do you get your inspiration?"

by Terry Miller

Artists can be asked that question ten times a day - twenty on a good day! The who, the why, the what, the where . . . for me personally, I find inspiration in all sorts of places and through all sorts of visual goodies and cues. Maybe surprising to some, since I am a rather monochromatic guy - working in shades of black, white and grey - I often find much to be inspired by in the more colorful works of artist friends and sometimes in wonderful discoveries of artists I had not previously been familiar with.
Leaving myself open to those sorts of discoveries wherever they may pop up, I first came across the work of late nineteenth century Norwegian, Frits Thaulow, through a posting of one of his paintings on someone's Facebook page back at the close of 2012. I was immediately struck by the beauty of the composition - well planned, well executed - and the masterful handling of all the elements of the painting. Now why, might you question, would a guy who works in graphite be so - pardon the pun - drawn to such a colorful work? Just because my work is in black and white does not mean that I cannot learn from observing the way a colorist makes use of value and shape and line and texture, all those key elements of a well designed and composed work of art.
As I spent time exploring a larger body of work of this marvelous new-to-me artist, I realized that the work posted on Facebook was certainly not a one-off, a single 'hit', but part of a vast sea of brilliantly executed, very lucid and evocative paintings that spoke volumes to me about Thaulow's ability to pull me into his compositions and make me want to stay forever. As an artist myself, that is the sort of end result I strive for in my work - not every single piece that comes off my drawing board, but maybe every fifth or sixth or seventh piece?
For a rather long period of time after I turned professional as an artist twenty five years ago, I never delved into water in my compositions; it was a texture I felt fearful of attempting in my drawings. I've talked to many other artists who also felt, and still do to some extent, that water is a difficult surface texture to portray in a two dimensional work of art. After looking at dozens and dozens of paintings in which Thaulow really focused on water as the major subject of those works, I was awed by the simplicity of his renderings, yet how liquid, transparent and filled with movement his waterways were.
For the sake of brevity and knowing that I could key into and throw a spotlight upon many aspects of Thaulow's choices of subject matter - his pure landscapes, brilliant in my estimation and the equal of any of the more well known tonalists of the time -  I'll concentrate here on the way he depicted and focused upon water in a staring roll.
The examples below are just a tiny slice of Thaulow's world of water; some depicting its calm, some depicting more of a rush, some focused on watery reflections both in daylight and at night - water in all its seasons. What has struck me the most is the simplicity of his brush work and how fluid the paint seemed to be when applied in broad strokes, not unlike Monet in his grand water lily canvases. In the first image, that marvelous, bright yellow and gold rippling water with splashes of green and mauve, the water shimmers and glows. A detail of part of the water shows bold, impressionistic brush work.

The second full painting followed by another detail, shows the way Thaulow mixed in all sorts of hues to depict the reflection and general swirling character of the water, and the third pairing - the winter scene with another detail following it - shows little scuff marks depicting subtle movement in the otherwise rather still water.

Five more examples of his vast output of water study follow, showing the diversity of his rendering of that single element of design and his mastery of it. Studying such artistry has certainly offered me ideas and insight and, even as an artist who focuses more on other aspects of nature and the animal realm, there is much here that speaks to me and that will inevitably cause me to approach future works on my drawing board in ways I may not have before I was inspired by the works of Frits Thaulow.

Terry Miller is a graphite artist residing in Maryland, USA. He is a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists and on their Board of Directors.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

This is the first in an excellent series of blog posts by Sandy Scott about horse sculpture. Refer to her blog, linked in the right hand column, for the rest of the series.


#616 In the studio: Quadruped anatomy reference for the artist

Several days ago I received an email from a student who had taken one of my bird sculpture and anatomy workshops asking where to find quadruped anatomy reference for the artist.  I only teach workshops about bird sculpture but a large portion of my portfolio depicts a wide range of  quadruped species and over the years, 
I've collected many books about the subject which I use in conjunction with online data. 
Quadrupeds - animals with four legs - as well as humans all have the same general skeleton design. 
All mammals, including horses, dogs, cats, deer, humans, etc. evolved from the same prehistoric source and it's logical that their skeletons are fundamentally the same.  Keep in mind, mammals, like human, have two arms and two legs . . . their two front limbs are arms and their two back limbs are legs. 
 Humans have evolved in such a way as to not walk on all fours like quadrupeds.
The spine is the main support or armature for the body, the skull houses the brain, and the ribs form a protective cage around the heart and lungs.  Quadrupeds come in different sizes and shapes depending on how they evolved and were designed by nature according  to their surroundings and way of life.  Despite the diversity of design, the same main bones such as humerus, femur, etc. are in each creature.  The artist who understands this can easily interpolate known functional data about specific species such as a horse, dog, or cat to other species in the wild which are difficult to study from life.
It's easier to pick up your dog and note how the joints articulate than to attempt handling a wolf or grizzly! 
I have posted two previous blogs about this subject which gives much more information:
Blog #448,  Nature's one pattern  -  posted July 31, 2013   www.Blog #448
 Blog #450,  Comparative anatomy  -  posted August 7, 2013   www.Blog #450

Below, are eight anatomy books that are directed toward the artist. . . I continue to use them all.
I've included the publisher's name and to my knowledge, they are still available and in print.

Author: Gottfried Bammes                               Chartwell Books

Oxford University Press

Dover Publications

Dover Publications

Dover Publications

Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers

Dover Publications

Dover Publications

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


Used copies of the highly acclaimed art history reference book, AMERICAN WILDLIFE ART, have become available at Amazon at the un-heard of price of $12 and change.  (New copies start at $95.00.)

“I knew it [American Wildlife Art] would be good but this is beyond my expectations! It is incredibly well researched and very informative. This volume will stand as the definitive work on the subject for years to come, perhaps forever … David Wagner is the
number one intellectual in wildlife art certainly in America, maybe in the world.”
Robert Bateman, Painter

“Wildlife art could not have a more eloquent or knowledgeable
spokesperson than David Wagner, and I’m sure that all artists
working with wildlife today feel the same gratitude that I do for his dedication of so much of his life and talent to our field.”
Kent Ullberg, Sculptor

“David Wagner’s prodigious research ability has produced what will undoubtedly prove to be the definitive work on the history of
American wildlife art. While others have written on particular facets of the subject, Wagner ties all the strands of the story together and presents it to the reader in a beautifully written illustrated synthesis.”
John F. Reiger
Author of American Sportsmen and the Origins of Conservation

“Although many works chronicle the development of natural history illustration and wildlife art, few provide such a concise, thorough, and scholarly examination of the topic. As one would expect, this work by independent scholar Wagner is handsomely illustrated with carefully selected examples of the evolution of American wildlife art in paintings, prints, and sculpture. Since the 19th century, wildlife art had been ubiquitous in the US, appearing as illustrations in books, magazines, calendars, and other forms of print media. These images and representations of wildlife have helped shape the American perception of the variety and abundance of the nation’s natural world. Often disdained by art critics and the national arbiters of fine art, wildlife art has always been popular with the American people. Although this volume is chronological in its organization, the author provides both additional contextual information and particularly salient information concerning the methods of reproduction of wildlife art and the significance of its mass distribution. Especially useful for students are the meticulous delineations of influences upon each artist, as appropriate, and the detailed notes that appear at the end of each section.”
P.D. Thomas, Wichita State University
Choice Magazine, September 2008



Saturday, April 4, 2015

African Art and Conservation Feature in a New Book by Alison Nicholls
Alison Nicholls’ book features art and conservation in Tanzania.

My Art is Inspired by Africa and this, my 1st book, features a combination of art and conservation, as I share my experiences spending time in Tanzania with the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW). APW works on the Maasai Steppe, helping local communities build their skills, so they can manage their natural resources for the mutual benefit of people and wildlife. They are perhaps best known for their highly successful Living Wall bomas, a reinforced, sustainable, living, boma design, which protects livestock from predators, protect predators from people (retaliatory attacks on predators have dropped because livestock are safer) and prevents habitat destruction (because the new boma design requires virtually no maintenance.
Living Walls is a studio painting based on APW’s successful Living Walls boma program.


I stayed at APW 3 times, for 2 weeks on each occasion, in 2011, 2012 and 2014. Initially the plan was for 2 visits, and my time was to be spent sketching and teaching drawing classes, but it turned into so much more, as I came to know the APW staff and members of the community, who invited me to sketch their daily lives and welcomed me back on each visit. I taught classes at the APW Children’s Environmental Summer Camp, and at 3 local elementary schools. My most recent visit (notice I don’t say ‘my last visit’) included a Village Exhibit featuring laminated copies of my field sketches and work created by the children. My sketches were given away in an environmental-themed quiz for members of the local school’s Wildlife Club. I also helped in the design and creation of a school mural and stenciling of classroom walls with images of wildlife, livestock, alphabet and numbers. During all my visits I was fortunate to be able to sketch in and around the village of Loibor Siret, at the market, in Maasai homesteads, at the village stream and at local celebrations. Prior to my time with APW, my art had focused purely on African wildlife, so sketching people was completely new for me. But now I’m hooked! I send laminated copies of my sketches back to the people who feature in them, and my art is now hanging in the Noloholo Environmental Center (APW’s headquarters) and the Loibor Siret school library. The futures of people and wildlife on the Maasai Steppe, and across Africa, are inextricably linked, and now they are linked in my Art Inspired by Africa!
Examples of watercolor field sketches by Alison Nicholls.

Art Inspired by Africa: An Artist Visits The African People & Wildlife Fund.
Author: Alison Nicholls
Foreword by Laly Lichtenfeld PhD., APW Executive Director
Features field sketches, journal excerpts and studio paintings by Alison Nicholls, a foreword by
Dr Laly Lichtenfeld, Executive Director of APW, contributions by APW staff, information about APW field programs, and photos of Alison’s drawing classes, the Loibor Siret village exhibit and school mural.
46-pages, printed on full-color premium lustre paper, in a softcover 8×10″ landscape format.
Signed copies are available for US$35 until April 30, 2015. After this date the book will be on sale on for a higher price. A donation is made to APW from every sale. Please visit to see more about APW and their work on the Maasai Steppe of Tanzania.

Please email or visit her website for further details.
A field sketch (left) and studio painting by Alison Nicholls, featuring the colorful shukas of the Maasai.