Saturday, August 30, 2014

America's Parks II

A special encore edition of AMERICA'S PARKS II will be displayed from December 19, 2015 - April 2, 2016 at the St. George Art Museum near the entrance to Zion National Park in Utah. 
The exhibition will complete is initial tour at The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Art Institute Ironwood Gallery, Tucson, AZ this coming Fall from September 13 - October 26, 2014, following display at The Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Missouri, and The Wildlife Experience, in Denver.  The organizers of the exhibition are particularly pleased to be able to add to the itinerary, the St. George Art Museum.
Works included in the AMERICA’S PARKS II exhibition were selected from a competition open to all artists, the purpose of which is to recognize and promote excellence in original artworks depicting any park (national, state, provincial, county, city, or private) in Canada, Mexico and The United States, with an emphasis on parks in Northwestern Mexico, particularly in Sonora, and states in Southwestern U.S. including (in alphabetical order) Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah; and States in Northwestern Mexico. Selections were made by a professional jury consisting of:             Pam Dean Cable, Executive Director, Susan Kathleen Black Foundation             M. Stephen Doherty, Editor, PleinAir™ Magazine             Todd Wilkinson, Managing Editor, Wildlife Art Journal
Jurors selected an impressive array of 120 flatworks and sculpture for AMERICA'S PARKS II, an international competition and exhibition, the purpose of which is to recognize and promote excellence in original art depicting parks in North America.  New for AMERICA'S PARKS II is the eligibility of sculpture.  

Scott, Sandy
"Nesting Heron"
Grand Canyon National Park
Honorable Mention

Clayton, Pat
"Canyon Glow"
Grand Canyon National Park
Honorable Mention


Solberg, Morten E.
"Desert Bighorn Sheep"
Anza Borrego Desert State Park
The Priscilla V. and Michael C. Baldwin Foundation      Sonoran Desert Art Award

Juried artworks appear on-line at:  Artworks which appear in bold below are included in the initial AMERICA'S PARKS II traveling museum exhibition.  The exhibition tour itinerary appears below.
AMERICA'S PARKS is produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C.  The company's President proposed the very first tour of the ARTS FOR THE PARKS exhibition, served as a Juror for that exhibit, managed the ARTS FOR THE PARKS tour for its first five years (1988–93), and served on the Advisory Board of its parent organization, the National Park Art Academy.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Scratching for Crocodiles 

"New Guinea Crocodile" 8x10 scratchboard

On July 19 of 2014, my Crocodile Scratchboards exhibit opened its first venue at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  A traveling exhibit produced and promoted by David J. Wagner, L.L.C.,  it has been a long time in production as my scratchboard technique is long and tedious. Artists used to producing impressionist plein aire pieces or abstract expressionist works would question my sanity, but I enjoy the results so much that I tough out the tedious process of scratching out my work one stipple or scratch at a time. It takes about six weeks to complete an 11 x 14 inch drawing. The exhibit at the ASDM is a preview, or cameo exhibit, in that it is not the completed crocodilian series. I have filled in with my scratchboard drawings of other subjects, including caves, troglobytic (cave-adapted) animals, and bats, all of which make excellent subjects for scratchboard. While at the ASDM I gave a three day workshop on my scratchboard techniques and acrylic painting methods at the museum's Art Institute.

Title wall for my scratchboard exhibit
Opening ceremony at the ASDM
A view of the installation at the ASDM
My workshop group at ASDM's Art Institute

In May of 2014, I also gave a small preview of my crocodile scratchboard art to the Crocodile Specialist Group who met in Lake Charles, Louisiana. It was somewhat nerve-wracking to present my work to the world's experts on the subject matter, but I seem to have passed my exam and my art was well received.

In Lake Charles, LA, with the Crocodile Specialist Group

My interest in crocodilians goes way back to the Mesozoic period of my childhood, when I spent hours working out dramatic scenarios with my plastic dinosaurs. As an adult, I see Tyrannosaurus rex when I watch a living crocodile in battle with a rival or subduing a prey animal.  Crocodiles were contemporaries of the dinosaurs, and even ate them for lunch. Although the giant dinos disappeared, leaving us with only the small avian dinosaurs that we call birds, crocodilians persist today in the giant scaly form reminiscent of our dinosaur fantasies.

"Crocodile Dreams" 11 x 14 scratchboard

This is the source of my fascination, although their textures, forms and habitats excite my artistic imagination. I think that they make excellent subjects for scratchboard, a B&W, contrasty medium. Dramatic lighting works best with scratchboard subjects, making good use of the push and pull of black and white. Scratchboard artists use a variety of tools and techniques, but I keep it simple, using only a #11 Xacto blade in a handle. No steel wool, special tools or airbrush, I like the simple push and pull of white lines on black to create tone and value.

Morelet's Crocodile, 11" x 14" scratchboard

The easiest place to find crocodilians is in zoos and alligator farms, but to get a real sense of how they live, it is best to visit them in their habitat. This means traveling long distances to places that are not the most comfortable for a northern hemisphere resident like myself.  Swamps, rivers and lakes in the tropics are where you'll be likely to find crocodilians. I have visited caimans in the Amazon basin, giant Saltwater and Siamese crocs in Thailand and Malaysia, Tomistoma, a Slender-Snouted croc in Borneo, Nile crocs in Tanzania, Morelet's Crocodiles in Belize and of course, our resident American Alligator and American Crocodile in south Florida.

Hunting for Tomistoma crocs in Borneo
Capturing Spectacled Caiman in the Peruvian Amazon

Most of my reference material is in the form of photos. Doing plein aire sketching in tropical environments is not easy, due to the insects and heat. Still, I try to at least capture the flavor of the animals and habitat with sketches. Photographs fill in the detail for my accurate scratchboard renditions.

A sketch of alligators at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm in Florida

The exhibit at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is open until September 7, 2014. The premiere opening of the full Crocodilian Scratchboards exhibit, will be at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, Texas, September 1- October 25, 2015, followed by the Coastal Discovery Museum in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.    
I would like to thank the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's Art Institute and its founder, Priscilla Baldwin, for making this exhibit possible. There are few venues of this quality available for exhibits of animal art.
                       ----John N Agnew

Exhibit produced by  David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Curator/Tour Director
Exhibition Tour Office
Phone: (414) 221-6878 

My website for the Crocodilian Scratchboard exhibit:
More scratchboard art of mine:

Sunday, June 1, 2014


The Wildlife Experience, Parker, CO, Founded by Dave and Gail Liniger

THE 2014-2015 ANNUAL EXHIBITION AND ART AND THE ANIMAL TOUR are largely due to individuals who have dedicated themselves and their resources to the Society of Animal Artists beginning with Dave and Gail Liniger, co-founders of The Wildlife Experience in Parker, Colorado.  Dave and Gail made a personal commitment of their considerable resources to the continuous display of exhibitions by members of The Society of Animal Artists in the name of art, conservation, and education at The Wildlife Experience beginning with the museum’s inaugural exhibition in 2002.  In September of that year, the Linigers celebrated the Grand Opening of The Wildlife Experience by hosting the premiere of the 42nd Annual Exhibition of The Society of Animal Artists.  Five years later, in 2007, The Wildlife Experience hosted the Society’s 47th Annual Exhibition.  And now, in 2014, The Wildlife Experience is again hosting the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists, this time, the 54th.   

 Dave and Gail Liniger and their dog, Max

  But  that is not all that Dave and Gail Liniger have done for The Society of Animal Artists.  Far from it.  Thanks to their continuous support, The Wildlife Experience has displayed the Society of Animal Artists’ Art and the Animal traveling exhibition in each of the other years of the museum’s first decade.  And, The Wildlife Experience also hosted numerous other traveling exhibitions that have featured artworks by members of The Society of Animal Artists, including many that I have been involved with such as America’s Parks, American Birds - A Flight Through Time, Art of the Rainforest, The Art of Robert Bateman, Art of the Dive: Portraits of the Deep (inspired by Dave Liniger's own passion for scuba diving), Biodiversity in the Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, Blossom  ~ Art of Flowers; Exquisite Miniatures by Wes and Rachelle Siegrist, Feline Fine: Art of Cats, LeRoy Neiman: A Retrospective, Paws and Reflect: Art of Canines, The Sea of Cortez, Kent Ullberg: A Retrospective, and others to come including Andrew Denman: The Modern Wild and Crocodilian Scratchboards by John Agnew.  Speaking from years of experience as a museum director, curator and tour director, I know of no individuals who have personally done more to showcase the work of The Society of Animal Artists than Dave and Gail Liniger.         
The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in Oradell, New Jersey, is the first venue this year on the Art and the Animal Tour.  But The Blauvelt is not new to The Society of Animal Artists.  The Blauvelt was an Art and the Animal tour venue in 1998.  In 2003 and 2004, The Blauvelt hosted The Society’s 43rd and 44th Annual Exhibitions.  Under the leadership of James Bellis, Jr., who assumed the duties of President of The Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation in 2010, The Blauvelt hosted  the 52nd Annual Exhibition in 2012, committed to be a tour venue in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and pledged to host  The 57th Annual Exhibition in 2017.  Since 1993, The Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation has made Purchase Awards from The Society of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition for the purpose of building the permanent collection of The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum.  Recipients are as follows: 1991 Dennis Anderson, 1994 John Schoenherr, 1996 Walt Matia, 1997 Renee Headings and Wayne Trimm, 1998 Lanford Monroe, 1999 Terry Miller, 2000 Kent Ullberg, 2001 Walter Matia, 2002 Julie Chapman and Matthew Hillier, 2003 Daniel Smith, 2004 Pete Zaluzec, 2006 James Coe, 2007 Dino Paravano, 2008 Paul Rhymer, 2009 Matthew Hillier, 2010 Peter Clinton Gray and Stephen Quinn, 2011 Robert Bateman, 2012 Mick Doellinger and Cynthie Fischer, 2013 Kim Diment and Kathleen Partridge.  The Blauvelt has also maintained a robust artist-in-residence program which has included members of The Society of Animal Artists, and hosted any number of one-man shows including Ocean Life by Stanley Meltzoff, and the two-man show earlier this year of work by Guy Harvey and Kent Ullberg.
An individual who is responsible for bringing Art and the Animal now five times to the state of Missouri for display at The Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art in Bolivar is Director, Jo Roberts.  In addition to the on-going display of work by members of The Society of Animal Artists, The Dunnegan has also hosted America’s Parks I and II which featured work by numerous members of The Society of Animal Artists several of whom received awards, and various other traveling exhibitions produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., for which I am also exceedingly grateful. 
I’ve often thought that true proof of success and a compliment to any businessman including one in the arts like me, is repeat business.  That is why I am so grateful to people like Dave and Gail Liniger at The Wildlife Experience, Jim Bellis, Jr. and his father before him at The Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation, and Jo Roberts at The Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art.  But without new business, it’s impossible to achieve growth.  And that’s why I am pleased all the more to add a new venue to the long list of previous venues which have hosted Art and the Animal over the years; one, I’m sure, that will be a source of great pride for members of The Society of Animal Artists: The National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia. Several individuals played a role in making the display of Art and the Animal at the NSLM a reality.  As early as 2009, Turner Reuter of Red Fox Fine Art in Middleburg, encouraged NSLM to host Art and the Animal, as would SAA member, Anita Baarns.  Curatorial Assistant, Hannah Reuter, and niece of SAA member Diana Reuter-Twining, subsequently advocated display of the exhibition at NSLM.  Advancement of display from concept to reality finally coalesced thanks to the initiative of Claudia Pfeiffer George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator, and Melanie Leigh Mathewes Executive Director, to whom I am now indebted.
I encourage all members of The Society of Animal Artists and anyone else interested in helping advance its mission and cause, to contact me with leads and suggestions for other new venues, so that I may continue the campaign to share the extraordinary outpouring of work that comprises the Society's Annual Exhibition and Art and The Animal Tour with new audiences far and wide into the future. 

David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
Tour Director, Curator, and 
Author, American Wildlife Art


(Dates/Venues subject to change.)

The Wildlife Experience
August 23 - October 22,  2014
Parker, CO

The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum
November 15, 2014 - January 4, 2015
            Oradell, NJ

The Ella Carothers Dunnegan Gallery of Art
February 1 - March 15, 2015
Bolivar, MO

The National Sporting Library and Museum
April 17 - August 30, 2015
Middleburg, VA

(414) 221-6878;
David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Tour Director
Member, American Alliance of Museums; International Council of Museums

Thursday, May 8, 2014

SAA member Lyn St. Clair offers her insights on entering competitions. This is about "Birds In Art" at the Leigh-Yawkey Woodsen Art Museum, but it applies to all competitive shows, including our own "Art and the Animal."

Are You "In" or are You "Out"?

Today hundreds of artists are turning on their computers and checking email with a mix of anticipation and dread. The jury results for the Leigh Yawkey Museum's "Birds in Art" are in and the email notifications have been sent out.

Rejection is one of the most difficult things artists face.   What we create is deeply comes from our hearts, our minds and our souls…the true artist creates work as unique as they are.

Beyond the ability to draw/paint/sculpt...artists must have the willingness to expose themselves to criticism, mockery, judgement, rejection and a public that sometimes simply might not "get" what it is we do.

Being an artist is not so simple as having "talent".  It means having fortitude, grace, determination, compassion, an open mind and a very thick skin.

The rest of the world views our work from their own perspective.  They look at it through eyes that see things differently than we do…maybe a little differently, maybe a lot.

Still, we strive to create something that describes what we want to say about our world...because that is who we ARE.

It is important for artists to remember that art is subjective...
everyone sees something different in a piece based on their own set of life experiences.

Try not to let a jury decision (bad OR good) carry too much weight...

Though it is tempting to try to fit into the niche you want to be a part of….being an artist means being true to that uniqueness within your own soul.

Sometimes it is brutally difficult to "own" your individuality…ask any high school kid!
Regardless of the endless work, the pain, the hard knocks, the string of rejections…nothing matters more than pouring your heart completely into what you do and being true to your own perfectly unique vision.

It is worth it...and soulful intent will shine through in the work you do.
The technical end is relatively easy…most anyone can learn the craftsmanship of making art.  Most anyone can copy a style or a photo and create something that someone somewhere would be happy to have in their home.

The hard part, what separates the wheat from the chaff, is being willing to step outside the box, out of your safety zone…and choosing to leap boldly off the edge without looking for a net.

As Agnes DeMille said:
"The artist never entirely knows.  We guess.  We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark."

THAT is what makes the truest of artists:  no matter what style they embrace, from abstract to impressionist to representational...
they honor their unique way of expressing themselves through their art.

And no matter how many times they fall...they keep leaping!

Living your creativity in such a way means finding a delicate balance between being true to your vision and learning to find the positive in criticism and rejection.  This is how we become better artists.

One of the things I love most about art is that you never get "there"...
there is always something new to try and there is always room for improvement.
In hindsight, I wish I'd saved the plethora of rejections that have landed in my mailbox (it would be an impressive stack of "no"!)…but it would also be a reminder of the sheer determination that is a big part of my foundation as an artist.
Over the years I have won over 90 awards for my art and my work hangs in museums and collections all over the world...

Along the way, I have also been rejected from more shows than I can count.

If I miss out on an award or get a rejection...I work harder to push that envelope next time.

If I win an award or get "in"...I work harder to push the envelope next time.
Ribbons or rejections...either way, it changes nothing.  I am an artist...and no jury decision can change that.
No matter how many rejections come my way...I will continue to try to break free of my comfort zone and make art straight from the heart.

This is a journey, my friends.  The true artist's path is no yellow brick road…it is fraught with washouts, thorny patches, ruts and blind curves.

Choose your steps carefully, trust your heart, listen to your muse and find joy in the fact that there could be something wonderful to learn just around the next bend.  

"In" or "out", I am grateful for shows like Birds in Art that give us reason to raise the bar and take flight as artists.

Heartfelt thanks go out to the fabulous staff of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum for, to paraphrase Pooh, giving us something that is so hard to not get into!

Congratulations to ALL of the artists who spread their wings to even TRY for this show...

every one of you is "in" in my book!

By the way...
ALL of the paintings that illustrate this post represent just SOME of my Birds in Art "rejects" over the 20 years I have applied...(and, yes, there were some others that DID get in!)  :-)

Re-posted from Lyn St. Clair's blog: "Wandermuse"

Friday, April 18, 2014

Exhibits at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute

The Roger Tory Peterson Institute will host Environmental Impact  from May 24 – July 6, 2014 followed by
Exquisite Miniatures by Wes & Rachelle Siegrist from July 12 – October 31, 2014


The mission of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute is to honor and continue the work of Roger Tory Peterson to foster understanding, appreciation and protection of the natural world.  Roger Tory Peterson (1908 – 1996) was a long-time member of The Society of Animal Artists, and the pre-eminent American naturalist who illustrated and chronicled the natural world to the public in the 20th century. Over a long career that began with nature study in the seventh grade in Jamestown, New York, he observed, recorded and published for lay audiences the incredible beauty and diversity of plants and animals from North America and around the world. He is best known for his seminal 1934 Field Guide to the Birds, and subsequent Field Guides of all kinds.
The Roger Tory Peterson Institute is a short drive from The Chautauqua Institute which, in 1992, hosted a world-wide conference on wildlife art organized at the behest of Roger Tory Peterson by Dr. David J. Wagner to mark the opening of new facilities for The Roger Tory Peterson Institute and the premiere in Jamestown of the 32nd Annual Exhibition of The Society of Animal Artists.  David Wagner recently arranged to have the Society of Animal Artists 55th Annual Exhibition at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute again in 2015.

Value in American Wildlife Art, The Transcript from the 1992 World-Wide Forum Sponsored by The Roger Tory Peterson Institute held in Jamestown, New York and The Chautauqua Institute, is available at: I

Friday, March 28, 2014




A Special Edition Exhibition of The Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen will be displayed as the featured attraction at The Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska from June 1 until September 30, 2014 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's signing of the Wilderness Act on September 3, 1963.  The exhibition is produced by David J. Wagner, L.L.C., David J. Wagner, Ph.D., Curator/Tour Director.

Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, Chadron State College,1000 Main Street,Chadron, NE

Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen is a painter of Dutch descent, who explores the rich diversity of the natural world from exceptionally unique perspectives.  The artist’s self-stated goal is to say as much as he can about how organisms live and interact with other organisms and their environments.  Brest van Kempen, who is also interested in prehistoric subject matter, paints from first-hand experience and knowledge.  He has traveled across Africa and Central and South America, and studied both threatened and extinct species and their ecosystems in detail.

            Since he was a child, Brest van Kempen has always been a student of nature.  He spent his youth exploring untracked back country along the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains; drawing, studying, and collecting native flora and fauna.  As a boy, Brest van Kempen practiced falconry and bred lizards.  He began drawing wildlife when he was only three years old and created his first painting at the age of twelve.  At the University of Utah, his studies focused on biology, which he hoped to teach, and field work.  By 1988, his interests in art and nature matured to the point where he could pursue a full-time career of painting.  Though Brest van Kempen is among the most highly accomplished technicians in the entire art world, and among the most creative, he is essentially self-taught.  Brest van Kempen paints in a highly realistic manner.  Unique in the world of wildlife art, Brest van Kempen’s approach is reminiscent of the art of Salvador Dali, which has always fascinated him. There is no other wildlife artist who paints like Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen; his approach and style is truly unique.

                              ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS (Acrylic/Illustration Board, 20x26)

Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen has exhibited his works throughout the world and earned numerous awards.  He is a member of the prestigious Society of Animal Artists which has awarded him awards on multiple occasions, including their highest honor, the Award of Excellence, in 1994, 1996, 1997, 2004, and 2010.

      STRANGE FRUIT-- IVORY-BILLED WOODPECKER (Acrylic/Illustration Board, 37x27)

Public collections containing his works include the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the Springville Art Museum, the Woodson Art Museum, The World Center for Birds of Prey, and Vermont’s Bennington Center for the Arts.

            REANIMATION— COMMON POORWILL (Acrylic/Illustration Board, 36x26)

            A book entitled, Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding—The Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen, which was written by the artist, and includes a Foreword by Belgian painter, Carl Brenders, and an Introduction by Curator, Dr. David J. Wagner, was published by Eagle Mountain Publishing and is available at Eagle Mountain Publishing at (801) 789-4149 or


was previously displayed at The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ; The Wildlife Experience (museum) in Denver, CO; The Wildling Art Museum near Santa Barbara, CA; and The Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum in the great New York City area, and The Kenosha Public Museum near Chicago.

THREE MORE WORLDS—RAINBOW TROUT & OSPREY (Acrylic/Illustration Board, 35x26)

David J. Wagner, L.L.C.
by David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
Curator/Tour Director
Office Phone: (414) 221-6878
Cell: (414) 712-0863
Skype: davidjwagnerllc
For e-mails with large attachments, e-mail:
Recipient of the 2010 SKBF Black-Parkman Award for Art Industry Leadership