Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Hearts Of The Society of Animal Artists

Although the organizational body of the Society of Animal Artists currently has over 500 members from around the world, it's the SAA Presidents that are the real heart of the organization. In 1958, a group of artistic friends that regularly gathered to paint and sketch the animals at the Bronx Zoo decided to hold an exhibition highlighting their work rendered from the zoo. The public reaction to the exhibition at Burr Galleries was overwhelmingly positive. So much so, two of the friends decided it was time to form an organization to continue upon the success and promote the genre of wildlife art. They founded the Society of Animal Artists in 1960. 

From the inspiration of the founders to the present day, the SAA has been guided by nine dedicated individuals, who have graciously set aside their personal ambitions to focus on helping their fellow artists. I'm sharing with you a little bit about each one of these special people below. and have been fortunate to personally know six of them and experience their warm personalities and dedication to the SAA.

Patrica Allen Bott & Guido Borghi (Founders) 1958-1960



From March 30th through April 12th, 1958 "Animals In Bronx Zoo" featured the works of Walter Addison, Patricia Allen (Bott), Joseph Bell, Rosa Bonheur, Guido Borghi, Joseph Boulton, Paul Bransom, Berta Briggs, Benda Fry, Elisabeth Rungius Fulda, Charles Hafner, Harry Hoffman, William R. Leigh N.A., Ugo Mochi, Carl Rungius, Lloyd Stolper, Nell Van Hook, Clement Weisbecher, Allen Williams, and William Wilson. Many of these artists were founding members of the Society.

Founder Guido Borghi was active on the SAA Board of Directors until the early 1970s. Founder Pat Bott was active until 1993, additionally serving as secretary and treasurer.

Elizabeth Rungius Fulda 1960



Painter Elisabeth Rungius Fulda served as president only one year but worked on the Board until 1967. She came to America in 1905 to join her brother Carl who had been living there for ten years. Under his guidance, she did artistic animal studies at the Bronx Zoo.

Paul Bransom 1961 – 1976



Painter Paul Bransom designed the SAA Catasus logo and served the SAA until 1978. Paul enjoyed the rare privilege of a studio at the Bronx Zoo where he did much of his early work.

Albert Earl Gilbert 1977 – 1983



Painter Albert Earl Gilbert worked with the SAA board from 1974 until 1985. In addition to being the president, he also served as a vice-president for the SAA. Albert exhibited in 17 SAA Annual Exhibitions.  He would have been the first to be recognized as a Distinguished Signature Member.  A designation later adopted by the Society to recognize those artists whose work was juried into 15 or more Annual Exhibitions.

Joseph Vance, Jr. 1984 – 1994



Joe Vance was a painter who began serving with the SAA Board in the 1970s. He was active until 2015 when he graciously became an Emeritus Board member to make room for others. He continued to give advice and was valuable to the SAA with his foresight to save our historical documents. Joe also served as a treasurer for the SAA. He was the first SAA president to receive an Award of Excellence (the SAA's highest artistic honor). Joe was a Distinguished Signature Member having exhibited in 30 Annual Exhibitions. He was additionally recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2005 for his years of devoted service to the SAA and a lifetime of achievement in the genre of animal art.

Charles Allmond, III 1995 – 2000



Sculptor Charles Allmond worked with the SAA Board from 1991 to 2012. Charles received seven awards including six Awards of Excellence in the SAA Exhibitions.  He was the first and only SAA president to have the honor of Master Signature Member bestowed upon him. He was additionally honored to be recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2007.  Like his predecessor Joe, Charles exhibited in 30 Annual Exhibitions and was also a Distinguished Signature Member.

Francis Sweet 2001 – 2003



Fran specializes in scratchboard and was active with the SAA Board from 1999 to 2003. Fran worked with current Executive Director Wes Siegrist to create the SAA's first website in 2001. He received seven awards in SAA Exhibitions including four Awards of Excellence. He was recognized with the SAA Bott-Borghi-Bransom Legacy Award in 2007 and also achieved Distinguished Signature Member exhibiting in 21 Annual Exhibitions.

Leslie Delgyer 2004 – 2008



Leslie is known for her pastels and served on the SAA Board from 1988 until 2015. In addition to being president, Leslie served a long time as an assistant secretary and later as secretary to the Board.  She also exhibited in 15 Annual Exhibitions and achieved Distinguished Signature Membership.

Diane Mason 2008 – 2013



Diane works both in sculpture and scratchboard and has served on the SAA Board since 2005. In addition to being president, she has served as vice-president and treasurer, where she still currently serves. Diane has received two awards in SAA exhibitions for her sculpture and graciously sponsored awards for years. Diane's husband Bob, became the SAA's first Executive Director in 2010. They both maintain the SAA's financial stability.

Reneé Bemis 2014 – to Present



Reneé specializes in bronze sculpture and has worked with the SAA Board since 1995.  She was our longest-serving treasurer prior to assuming her current role as president.  She has received three awards in SAA exhibitions and has graciously sponsored a purchase award with her husband, Brian, for many years. Reneé is a Distinguished Signature Member having exhibited in 25 Annual Exhibitions to date.

Altogether, over 100 people have served on the SAA Board representing close to 900 artists!   These amazing people highlighted above have not only held a diverse group of worldwide artists together,  but have inspired them to collectively achieve something better.  Without these few leaders, the SAA would never have become the world's foremost association of wildlife artists.  It's exciting to see what the future holds for the SAA, and we're excited about returning to our roots at the Bronx Zoo in 2020 as part of our 60th Annual Opening Weekend festivities!

Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA



Thursday, October 31, 2019

Society of Animal Artists Video Highlights from the 59th Annual Exhibition

I've put together for you, a short video showcasing the many exciting highlights during the Society of Animal Artists 59th Annual Exhibition opening weekend at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio, TX this past September. So if you weren't able to attend and join in on the fun, this is your chance to see what you missed!



This year the prestigious SAA Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to most deserving SAA Distinguished Signature Member John Seerey-Lester! The award was given to him by SAA member Matthew Hillier, who gave a most informative and entertaining introduction for this amazingly talented artist.  Here's a video of Matthew's introduction and John's touching acceptance of this prized award. 



While several SAA members demonstrated during the weekend, as well as participated in talks and helped with the community mural project, a highlight was an interview with Master Signature Member, Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen. SAA member Terry Miller did a wonderful job interviewing Carel, delighting the audience with insights from Carel's creative process, while they also kept the audience laughing much of the time.  Here's an edited video showcasing highlights from Carel's delightful interview.



There are several other videos on the SAA YouTube channel as well for you to enjoy, and more will be added in the future.
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Until next time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA



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Friday, September 27, 2019

59th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists Opening Weekend

 
Including participating SAA artists and guests, 375 people attended the opening for the Society of Animal Artists 59th Annual Exhibition at the beautiful Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio recently! The picturesque museum sits nestled among grand cypress trees lining the historic Riverwalk, where the numerous trees and lush gardens all about give one a feeling of being in an oasis, making it a real treat to visit indeed!
 
 
While several artists, including myself, spent Thursday at the San Antonio Aquarium getting up close and personal with lemurs and other delightful critters, most SAA members and their guests arrived at the Marriott Hotel later that afternoon in time to attend the opening that evening. The reception was well attended and the museum was packed with excited attendees and patrons!  
 
 
Opening remarks were made by Michael Duchemin, Ph.D., the Briscoe’s Director, and SAA President Reneé Bemis. This year’s SAA student scholarship recipients were announced and we all enjoyed delicious hors d’oeuvres and drinks.  Then came the awaited time to view the exhibition which was arranged beautifully and an absolute inspiration to see in person!
 
 
The next morning a caravan consisting of dozens of wildlife artists, headed to Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch anticipating another great day! We made many animals very happy as our entourage tossed out piles of food while slowly driving along the scenic loop road. Thankfully it had cooled off some that morning and there was a delightful breeze as we went along feeding wildlife and taking numerous photos. I'm quite sure the animals thought for sure the paparazzi had invaded!
 
 
The group enjoyed a delicious and fun lunch at the restaurant located on the ranch with many of us taking another drive-through afterward.  It’s a wonderful park where you can certainly get up close and personal with their numerous resident animals while allowing great opportunities for taking perfect reference photos... a delight to wildlife artists indeed!
 
 
Most of us spent our free time visiting historic landmarks, swimming in the hotel pool, and strolling along the picturesque riverwalk nearby, and Friday evening at the hotel, we had a great time hanging out and relaxing during the pizza party and game night for the attending artists. The game "Who am I?" gave attendees a chance to guess the mystery artists, after Executive Director Wes Siegrist read aloud different artist's answers to a few unique questions, giving us a chance to get to know one another better.
 
 
The next day was abuzz with numerous activities, starting with the SAA members meeting, and after lunch, we were treated to a most insightful and entertaining interview with SAA Master Signature Member Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen.
 
SAA Board and Distinguished Signature Member, Terry Miller, interviews Carel.
 
The afternoon was filled with SAA artist demonstrations, live bird presentations and a community mural project in which SAA artists helped the kids paint. The public poured in and the Briscoe Museum had a tremendous turnout for the various activities and viewing of the SAA exhibition, and a flurry of activities kept everyone quite busy all day!
 
SAA Executive Director and Distinguished Signature Member, Wes Siegrist alongside SAA Signature Member Robin Huffman having fun painting with the kids!
 
SAA Signature Members, Cynthie Fisher, Kelly Radding and Tiffany Miller Russell demonstrated their techniques and many tried their hand at scratchboard!
 
That evening the air was filled with abundant conversation and laughter during the Annual Awards Banquet, and it was decided that Wes had chosen wisely with the caterer, as the food was truly delicious!
 
 
Following dinner, SAA Distinguished Signature Member John Seerey-Lester was awarded the coveted Lifetime Achievement award by the Society.  This amazingly talented artist, who has achieved so much throughout his career as an artist, even being Knighted at one point, brought tears to the eyes of many, as he graciously spoke of his love for the SAA in accepting his award. Afterward, this year's award winners were announced and can be viewed on the SAA website by clicking here.
 
John brought abundant laughter too in his acceptance speech (shown with his wife Suzie)
 
While attending board members including myself, spent the day in the SAA Board meeting, a group of artists got a chance to visit Bracken Cave located near San Antonio. With more than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats, it's home to the world's largest bat colony, and I'm sure made for an awesome experience for those able to go!
 
 
The SAA would like to extend a HUGE thank you to the amazing Briscoe Western Art Museum for hosting the SAA’s 59th Annual Exhibition, and to the friendly staff that made it such a wonderful weekend for so many of us!
 
 
I'm currently working on producing a video featuring the exhibition at the Briscoe Museum and numerous highlights from all activities that took place during the memorable weekend and will share it on next month's blog.
 
Until Next Time ~ Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Planning for the SAA's 59th Annual Opening Weekend



Yes . . . it may look like just an ordinary stacks of boxes and crates now, but alas very soon the staff at the Briscoe Museum in San Antonio, Texas, will work their magic transforming this collection of crates and boxes into an extraordinary exhibition to experience and behold, that being the upcoming 59th Annual Exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists.

Photos courtesy of the Briscoe Musem

The exciting, opening weekend festivities will begin this month with the Artists’ Reception at the Briscoe Museum (By RSVP only via the Museum) Thursday the 19th from 6 to 8pm. Friday the 20th, our attending members and guests will be going to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch for the day.  Then, that evening, attending artists will enjoy a pizza party at Springhill Marriott, after which we'll be playing a game . . . "Who Am I?" It should be great fun getting to know each other better!

On Saturday the 21st,  Society of Animal Artists (SAA) members and guests will gather for our annual meeting followed by activities that will take place at the Briscoe Museum’s Jack Guenther Pavilion.  Afternoon activites are open to the public and are scheduled as follows . . . 

• Noon – SAA Master Artist Presentation with Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen discussing his career and inspiration as an artist.
• Noon – 4:00PM – Ongoing Community Mural Project (SAA artists will be working with the public having fun and teaching kids and adults how to paint and mix colors)




The ongoing Community Mural Project will be a 5' x 10' project that the public, assisted by SAA artists, will start on Saturday, and will be worked on again at future Briscoe Museum community events.  Our executive director, Wes Siegrist, did the idea sketches for the mural. 



• 1:00 – 4:00PM* – Demonstrations by Cynthie Fischer (Scratchboard), Kelly Leahy Radding (Painting watercolor on vellum), Tiffany Miller Russell (3D Cut Paper) and John Seerey-Lester (Pending) *Times may vary

• 1:00 – 4:00PM* – Panel Discussion “How to Achieve Inspiring Reference” with Anni Crouter, Kim Diment, and Cathy Sheeter on how they collect reference, camera/equipment, field sketching/notation, zoos/animal refuges or game parks. How to edit photos, combine different photo reference to achieve believable compositions.
 *Specific time yet to be determined

Saturday evening, SAA members and guests will gather for our awards banquet at the Plaza Marriott.  We will also be doing a “Little Gem” exchange between members again this year.  This is where participants exchange small orginal works of art between themselves which is always a treat!

A BIG congratulations goes out to Tamara Pokorny on having your piece selected for the cover of the exhibtion catalog this year!




Until next time . . .
Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Society of Animal Artists Works at Benson Sculpture Gardens


Marking the holes
While recently visiting friends and fellow member of the Society of Animal Artists, Diane Mason and husband Bob in Colorado,  I  had the opportunity to see first hand the process of installing a sculpture into a public park.  When we arrived at the park, the cement pad had previously been poured and allowed to completely set up.  Then they hoisted the very heavy sculpture up with thick straps attached to a small crane and lowered it down long enough to mark the holes for the bolts on the base.  After liftling the sculpture back up, they commenced drilling holes with the BIGGEST drillbit I personally have ever seen, and I was surprised at how quickly it did the job!

Using the BIG drillbit

Once they had the holes drilled, they slowly lowered the sculpture while carefully eyeing it and making sure everything lined up properly.  Then the holes were slowly filled with a special epoxy, before carefully lowering the bronze back down and the protruding bolts into place.  

Adding the epoxy and getting everything ready for the final setting

And voilà . . . it seemed like they had finished just mere minutes after starting, and there stood Diane's sculpture "Over-worked and Under-paid" looking very statley in its new home!  Located in Loveland, CO, Benson Sculpture Park is a beautiful city park which wraps around a couple of small lakes, and takes you through grassy areas and flower gardens, as you meander along the varius paved walkways.  Close to thirty SAA artists, past and present, have work on display in this beautiful park, so if you're ever in the area, I recomend a visit to check out the numerous sculptures there representing so many of our talented SAA sculptors!

Diane proudly stands by "Over-worked and Under-paid"

Here's a list of our currently active SAA members who have work in the park  . . .

Gerald Balciar
Tim Cherry
Martin Gates
Daniel Glanz
Sandy Graves
Laurel Peterson Gregory
Tony Hochstetler
Kim Kori
Ronald W. Lowery
Cammire Lundeen
Diane Mason
Walter Matia
Parker McDonald
George McMoingle
Leo Osborne
Dan Ostermiller
Louise Peterson
Carrie Quade
Don Rambadt
Rosetta
Sherry Sander
David Turner
Kent Ulberg


Until next time . . .

Rachelle Siegrist for the SAA