Friday, October 7, 2011

Four Seasons on Assateague Island

Sandra Blair Launches Kickstarter Project:

SAA Signature Member Sandra Blair has launched a fundraising campaign on to finance a painting project called “Seeking Refuge: Four Seasons on Assateague Island.” With the support of this funding, she’ll create a series of approximately 20 small but very detailed paintings depicting the wildlife on Assateague Island during each of the four seasons.
Assateague Island, a tiny barrier island on the Atlantic Coast of Maryland and Virginia, is home to Assateague Island National Seashore and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The United Nations has designated Assateague as a World Biosphere Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Interior has designated it a National Natural Landmark. Its pristine beaches, maritime forests, and salt and freshwater marshes are fragile but vital habitats for a spectacular variety of birds, plants and animals. Because of its key position on the Atlantic Flyway, songbirds, shorebirds and raptors migrate through the refuge in spring and fall; herons, egrets, ducks, osprey and the threatened piping plover nest on the refuge; and winter brings thousands of Brandt and Snow Geese and numerous species of ducks. Animals that live on the island include endangered Delmarva fox squirrels, Sika elk, whitetail deer, red fox, river otters and the famous Chincoteague ponies.
As a wildlife artist, Sandra feels that her role is to reveal the unique beauty, power and grace of each creature that shares our world. Her goal is to inspire a new level of respect for every living creature and the recognition of how intricately the health and well-being of the natural world are woven into the fabric of our own survival. Until we truly see, we cannot fully understand the devastation that is occurring through loss of habitat and vanishing species. Seeing fosters thinking; thinking fosters action.
With the support of this funding, Sandra will create a series of approximately 20 small but very detailed paintings depicting the wildlife on Assateague Island during each of the four seasons. She will make numerous trips to Assateague beginning in the winter of 2011 and continuing through fall 2012 to photograph and sketch the wildlife for reference material and hopes to have an exhibition of the paintings in 2013. Your contribution will finance travel expenses; art supplies and custom frames; creation of the various rewards for the contributors; a book of her paintings and photographs from Assateague Island; and the Kickstarter/Amazon fees. 

Kickstarter projects are all-or-nothing funding so Sandra will only receive your pledges if the total project goal is met by November 11, 2011. Please visit to read the proposal and see the video and rewards. Any pledge you can make, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated. 


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"One Man's Trash"

Congratulation to SAA Board Member Paul Rhymer!

Paul's sculpture "ONE MAN'S TRASH" won The Ethology Award for Best Depiction of Natural Behavior at the 51st Art of the Animal exhibition which is going on now at The Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Michigan.

"The Ethology Award for the Best Depiction of Natural Behavior, is an award that best represents NATURAL BEHAVIORS. It may be awarded to either 2-D or 3-D work, but the work should depict the subjects engaged in doing SOMETHING that is representational of natural behavior. For example, animals may be engaged in feeding young, courtship, a kill, or grooming – but they should be depicted performing some natural behavior which says something informative about that particular species."

Read a recent article about Paul's sculpture in Wildlife Art Journal titled "Here's To Microfauna!"

The 51st Art of the Animal exhibition will be displayed though December 30, 2011


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

51st Annual Art and the Animal Award Winners!

Congratulations to all the Award Winners!


James Coe - "Reflections of April"

Sean Murtha - "Sun and Spray"

Cristina Penescu - "Within Reach"

Lori Dunn - "Canine Ancestry"

Brian Jarvi - "Buffalo Spa"

Terry Miller - "Up for the Challenge"

Fred Thomas - "Plenty for All"

Patricia Pepin - " La Vie En Vert"

Kay Witherspoon - "Moose Creek Crossing"

Rick Pas - "Ring Neck III" - Patricia A Bott Award for Creative Excellence
Ken Rowe - "Express Male" - The Evelyn and Peter Haller Memorial award for Sculpture
Carel Brest Van Kempen - "An Atlantic Brackish Swamp" - The Presiden't Award
T. J. Lick - "Inside the Throne Room" - Leonard J. Meiselman Memorial Award for Realistic Painting
Louise Peterson - "Tickled" - The Leonard J. Meiselman Award for Realistic Sculpture
Paul Rhymer - "One Man's Trash" - The Ethology Award for Best Depiction of Natural Behavior
Lisa Egeli - "The Life Exotic" - The Newcomer Award for First Time Participant in exhibition
Sue Westin - "Cashmere Glow" - Southwest Art Magazine Editor's Choice
Jason Tako - "Courtship" - Western Art Collector's Magazine Editior's choice
Robert Bateman - "Wildebeest and Egret's" - Hiram Blauvelt Art Musuem Purchase Award

Monday, September 19, 2011

Good luck to David N. Kitler!

We would like to say Good luck to Society of Animal Artist Signature member David N. Kitler and his painting "Along the Watefront" in the upcoming ArtPrize competition.

David Kitler's "Along the Waterfront" will be part of ArtPrize 2011 (  He is among the 1,582 artists from 36 countries and 43 states, who will be showing their work in 164 venues within 3/4 miles of downtown Grand Rapids.  Each artist will compete for the world's largest prize for art ($250,000).

Inspired by such competitions as the X-Prize, and large scale events like the Sundance Film Festival, ArtPrize is among the most unique competitions in the art world.  It has no formal jury, curator, or judge, asking the public to vote and decide winners using mobile devices and the web.  ArtPrize organizers expect more than 500,000 people to attend this year's 19-day event.

David's ArtPrize profile and entry is available at  However, this is a large painting that needs to be seen up close to be fully appreciated.  David will also be doing live painting demonstrations on Sept. 21-25.  So if you live in or near Grand Rapids, check out his painting at the Independent Bank (86 Monroe Center NW).  And, while there, make sure to vote for your favorites!  To cast your vote for David's painting, use voting ID 47281.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The International Society of Scratchboard Artists

Society of Animal Artists Signature Member Cathy Sheeter  shares some exciting news...

First Ever Scratchboard Art Society Forming:
The International Society of Scratchboard Artists (ISSA)

Scratching, as an art form, has been around since the first people painted and scratched on cave walls. Today’s scratchboard is much more refined, allowing for intricate detail and a wide variety of styles. Scratchboard Art involves using a variety of abrasive tools to remove a dark color (usually black) to reveal a white layer below. Artists may leave the artwork in black and white or color it with a variety of mediums. Scratchboard has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity, is now finding its way into many fine art circles, yet still most people have never even heard of the medium.

With almost all other mediums having their own societies representing them and helping to promote their interests, it was felt that a similar society dedicated specifically to Scratchboard Art was overdue. ISSA has the goal of lifting the profile of scratchboard art internationally; providing exhibitions to showcase this art form, organizing workshops, uniting all artists working in the medium, and endeavoring to continue educating about the medium to the arts and public communities.

Membership within the society will include a variety of levels to encourage artists from novice up to professionals. Top tiers of membership and all shows will be carefully juried to encourage and promote excellence in the medium. At least one international show of scratchboard art will occur each year. In 2012 all scratchboard artists, worldwide, will be welcomed and encouraged to submit for jury to the inaugural ISSA International Exhibition of Scratchboard Art. The ISSA will begin accepting members in Fall of 2011. Its web site, presently still under construction, can be found at

The Founding Board Members of the ISSA are Lorna Hannett and Sue Rhodes from Canada, Patrick Hedges from Australia, Diana Lee, Ken MacFarlane, Cathy Sheeter (an SAA Signature Member), and Sandra Willard from the US. 


Friday, June 3, 2011

Photo shoot & Workshop!


Hinkley and Sandstone Minnesota
June 24-26, 2011

Internationally collected artist and SAA board member JanMartin McGuire, along with her internationally published photographer husband James Hines, will be giving a very valuable workshop in a few weeks.

Wildlife artists need good reference photographs to work from to create their art – getting the best photos (and your own experiences), interpreting them, understanding how photos lie, combining reference sources are all challenges for artists.

The 3 day workshop will include 6 sessions of photography in natural settings of animals such as wolves, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bobcat, lynx etc. including adults and also babies – provided by MINNESOTA WILDLIFE CONNECTION.  Back in the classroom Jan and James will work with you to understand your camera better, how to compose photographs, lighting etc.  And then Jan will do lectures on using photography as a tool to create your art.

Open to all levels of artists in all mediums.  The workshop is $1295 – but due to a last minute cancellation with a non refundable deposit the first person to contact Jan will get the workshop for $1045!  The photo reference alone make this a great opportunity – one painting from the reference will pay for the trip!

You can reach Jan by emailing her at or by calling 918-336-9021


Friday, May 13, 2011


The Society is pleased to announce that the following members will have work in the 51st exhibition of "Art and the Animal". More information soon!

Adair, Sue deLearie
Agnew, Al
Aja, Douglas
Allmond, Charles
Altenburg, Tom
Askew, Julie
Bacon, Chris
Balciar, Gerald
Bality, Tammy
Bateman, Robert
Bell, Julie
Bemis, Renee
Bishop, Thomas J
Blagden, Allen
Bork, Beatrice
Boyce, Peta
Brent, Burt
Brest van Kempen, Carel P.
Burgette, Dan
Chen, Dan
Coe, James
Coheleach, Guy
Cornish, Mary L.
Crouter, Anni M
Davis, Patricia M.
Denman, Andrew
Diment, Kimberly Rae
Dodge, Kelly Ann
Doellinger, Mick
Dunn, Lori Anne
Egeli, Lisa
Ellison, Lyn
Faust, Anne S.
Fisher, Cynthie
Fox, Susan Lynn
Friedenberg, Kathleen M.
Gersch, Anita P.
Gilmore, Jim D.
Gilmore, Pat E.
Glanz, Daniel B
Gombus, Sue M.
Gould, Shawn K
Gray, Peter Clinton
Hacking, Grant
Harvey, Guy
Heaton, Janet N.
Howe, Nancy
Hutto, Leslie Jane
Hyde, Wes
Jammer, Clint Dana
Jarrett, Brett Malcolm
Jarvi, Brian Keith
Jesic, Stephen A
Johnson, Brenda D.
Kestrel, Steve
Kidera, Brenda Will
Kiesow, James R
Kobald, John K
Langley, Brent A.
Lawrence, Rod
Lick, T.J.
Mason, Diane D
Matia, Walter T.
Maxwell, Sally
McGuire, Jan Martin
McHuron, Gregory I
Miller, Darin T.
Miller, Terry
Milligan, Billy-Jack
Murtha, Sean R
Newman, Ken
Newmark, Marilyn
Nicholls, Alison
Offeman, James M.
Okada, Munenori
Osborne, Leo
Parcell Evans, Beth
Parson, Leon
Pas, Rick
Penescu, Cristina G
Pepin, Patricia
Peterson, Louise
Petlowany, David
Pettit, Bryce L.
Potter, John R
Rheinish, Arlene A
Rhymer, Paul D
Ross, Joan Binney
Rossin, Linda
Rowe, Kenneth R.
Royal, Edward
Ruehle, Jon
Rulon, Bart Coleman
Russell, Terri L.
Sainsbury, Jonathon
Salari-Sander, Sherry
Saunois, Laurence
Schafer, Sharon K
Schelling, George L.
Seerey-Lester, Suzie
Sharkey Thomas, Jan
Sheeter, Cathy
Siegrist, Rachelle
Siegrist, Wes
Solberg, Morten
Soos, Heather
Stajcar, Pati
Stevenson, Tiffany
Sulkowski, Joseph H.
Sweet, Francis Edward
Swibb, Darlene G
Tako, Jason L
Taylor, Kristine Davis
Thomas, Fred W.
Thompson, Dana Lee
Tremblay, France
Trent, Debra L
Tryggmo, Gunnar
Turner, David H
Ullberg, Kent
Vlaanderen, Lani
Westin, Sue
Williford, Ronnie
Witherspoon, Kay Elizabeth
Worthington, Steve
Yount, Aaron C

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wildlife Art on the Couch: A Struggle for Identity in the 21st Century by Andrew Denman

SAA Signature Member Andrew Denman recently posted this essay on his Facebook public page and included it in his latest newsletter. With his kind permission, it is reproduced here.

Wildlife art is in serious need of a therapist, or at least a conscientious and impartial friend who's willing to lend a sympathetic ear. Over a decade into the new millennium, wildlife art seems to be in the midst of an identity crisis. I see the evidence sprinkled throughout museum and gallery shows, hear it whispered at workshops and art receptions, and encounter the debate in social media forums. Certainly among my closest colleagues the question comes up with some regularity: just what is the future of wildlife art?

The online publication, Wildlife Art Journal has been one of the more lively participants in this discussion. Two recent articles are a case in point, sculptor Simon Gudgeon's "A Meditation on Wildlife Art" and painter Ron Kingswood's provocatively titled essay "Is Animal Painting Dead?" Both authors make the case that 21st Century artists must abandon pure representation and go beyond the thing observed if animal art is to remain artistically relevant. It's certainly a clarion call that I, as a more contemporarily leaning animal painter, respond to with favor.

Gudgeon astutely points out that wildlife is a subject, not a style, and that "wildlife art" has straddled many different genres throughout history. But if wildlife art is not a cohesive genre, why have so many animal artists subsumed into the weary stylistic homogeneity that dominates the field today? Other subject matter driven art forms, figurative work for instance, don't seem to make this error. While there will always be popular trends, there seems to be no broad social or market pressure for every figure painter to approach figures in the same way; instead there's plenty of room for this more interpretive approach, that more objective one, this one more painterly, that one more photorealistic. Amongst friends of mine who paint figures, I've never encountered with the same frequency or forcefulness the desire to "correctly" represent their subject matter that I've experienced among wildlife artists (and even felt myself). Certainly wildlife has always been approached in a diversity of styles, but the natural history and scientific illustrative roots of animal art, coupled with the commercial dictates of the print market, and even today's popular emphasis on ecological narrative, have all lead to a certain orthodoxy in wildlife art, one that overwhelmingly values the objective over the subjective, the commercially acceptable over the personally fulfilling, and the "technical skill" of the artist over his intellectual and spiritual vision. Every animal artist, whether he agrees with it or not, knows that the overarching expectation of the market is this: a detailed animal painted in a detailed environment engaged in a natural behavior. In such a climate, it's easy to see how paintings like mine and many of my closest contemporaries that use the natural world not as a template for pure mimicry, but rather as a springboard for less objective explorations, stand out as oddballs. Is it any wonder then that so many animal painters who don't play by the rules of wildlife art are reluctant to call themselves wildlife artists at all?

Though in my childhood my primary focus was fantasy art, I've painted wildlife all of my life, and when animals began to assert themselves as my primary subject of choice at around age fifteen, I was thrilled to discover that wildlife art seemed to be one of the few artistic communities that appreciated representationalism for what it was rather than scorning it for what it wasn't. I had the unique experience of being inducted into the professional wildlife art world at a very young age, exhibiting with Pacific Wildlife Galleries in Lafayette, CA, since age 16, an association that granted me the opportunity to meet Bob Bateman, John Seerey-Lester, Terry Isaac, and Carl Brenders, among others. Every artistic evolution begins with observation and description, and at the time, these artists provided me with great motivation to hone my skills. The more I struggled to draw and paint what was in front of me, the more I became aware of how the "mainstream art world" dismissed my chosen field. I regarded the snobbery of the academic art elite with my own resentment, carrying an attitude not unlike that of a misfit child who asks, heedless of the irony, "Why don't those popular jerks like me?" It wasn't until my own experimentation led me to move away from a more illustrative format that I began to understand the struggle of which I was a part. I became aware that many wildlife artists, Bob Bateman being perhaps the most vivid example, were far more modern painters than I had realized, and that it was their association with the term "wildlife art" more than anything else that caused them to be marginalized by the cutting edge art world. The San Francisco Chronicle art critic who described Bateman's work as "mere illustration" is only one case in point. As I began to appreciate my mentors for reasons quite apart from what had originally drawn me to their work (the subject matter), my views began the shift. Gallery owner and mentor Dennis Salvo introduced me to Ray Harris-Ching, whose wild bursts of contemporary experimentation and total refusal to be categorized gave fuel to my own explorations. A rigorous study of art history in college expanded my world view in ways for which I will always be thankful, and the insularity of the wildlife art community in general began to look less like the bullying of the bigger artists on the playground and more like what it was, a very limiting and self-imposed isolation.

It wasn't long before decidedly modern elements began creeping into my work, and to my surprise, the market I was already in the process of building seemed pleased. I've often wondered how different my work (and life) would be today if those first steps out of bounds had been met with derision and empty bank accounts rather than delight and sold out shows. Certainly (and understandably) it is the necessity to make a living that is the most common and pernicious source of artistic self-editing. I recall quite vividly the skepticism with which then gallery rep Dennis Salvo looked at some of my first experiments with the non-objective, most notably my Resurrection of Flight series, five works featuring realistically painted birds wheeling through miasmic swirls of chromatic space, their flight paths prescribed by arcing lines and streaks of color. I recall him praising them as "artistically fabulous" which I already knew to be code for "Great work Andrew, but these will never sell." To his credit, however, he hung the pieces, and to my relief, they did sell. To this day I remain grateful for the success of that show and the role it played in reaffirming my path toward carving out a niche that today is both uniquely mine and, quite startlingly, as successful as it is honest.

I was a marketing presenter at the Susan Kathleen Black Foundation Workshop in Wyoming in 2005 when Greg Beecham complimented the workshop participants on their technical proficiency, but noted that the work was "lacking poetry." For whatever reason, I was approached over and over again during that workshop to clarify what Greg had meant. In addition to the obvious, "You'll have to ask Greg," all I could offer was this: the difference between prose and poetry is economy. The poet uses one carefully chosen word where the novelist would use a hundred. Poetry is not deliberately abstruse; it's simply dense because what is there is saturated with meaning, rather than glazed with it. When Greg asked in his quiet and gentle way for more poetry, I believe he was asking for the same thing Simon Gudgeon is asking for, for artists to bring something of themselves to their work. Art is more than the sum of its parts, and many inexperienced or hesitant painters fill their work with noisy and unnecessary details either to mask what is essentially an unrefined vision, or worse yet, simply because it was there in the photographic reference. It's easy to see how, in a field of art so dominated by concerns about "accuracy," that photographs become dangerous masters rather than valuable allies. Unfortunately, artwork that is blithely drawn from a slew of unfiltered reference material is almost certainly destined to be prose, not poetry, and not very good prose at that. Kingswood and Gudgeon both admonish painters and sculptors not to allow the photograph to supplant one's own artistic vision. There is nothing inherently wrong with being descriptive, but art that has proven itself to be the most historically enduring has done so, not because of what it describes, but because of what it evokes. Between the drudgery of illustration and the vacuity of decoration lies the evocative; that is the province of the artist, and that is the vein that wildlife painters who wish to challenge themselves must mine.

I don't want, however, in this esoteric discussion of artistic intentionality, want to gloss over the commercial realities of life as a fine artist. What if galleries and collectors don't march to the beat of our new drummer? That's always a risk, but I firmly believe that every artist is better off painting what his soul demands and then seeking out those who appreciate his vision, rather than subjugating his own impulses to perceived market requirements. I'd be lying if I claimed that I had not created plenty of "artistically fabulous" (as Dennis Salvo would say) paintings throughout my career that have never found a buyer, but overall I'm shocked and thrilled by how often I find a home for truly unique work that I painted solely for myself without any regard to its salability, and often in full knowledge of its unlikelihood to sell. Hemmingway once observed "The truth has a certain ring to it," and I wholeheartedly agree. Strictly playing the numbers, it's a pedestrian world, and we've all cringed at the sight of manufactured dreck passing as art and raking in a fortune, but true artistic expression, unfettered, naked, and unabashed, exudes the raw beauty of truth, and that is as unmistakable and alluring to the discriminating collector as it is imperative to the artist who creates it. If wildlife art is to evolve in the new century, and if it is to find a way out of this identity crisis, it must shake off the external forces of commercial and critical acceptance and look to satisfy its own needs for its own sake. Whatever our freedom costs in the short run pales in comparison to the burden of dishonesty. With a little luck, the rest will follow.

The good news is that the first steps toward a brighter future for animal art have already been taken. Over ten years after my first major gallery showing, I've become quite involved in our close knit community through organizations like the Society of Animal Artists and the SKB Foundation, my participation in major shows like Birds in Art, and relationships with important institutions such as the National Museum of Wildlife Art, and I've become more and more aware of the pulse of this strange creature we call "wildlife art." In just the past few years, I'm seeing fresh and contemporary work peppering the market with increasing regularity and, in some cases, becoming quite prominent. I believe that a loose but broad movement is afoot within the wildlife art community to take on exactly the challenge that Ron Kingswood and Simon Gudgeon are making, to look beyond the photographic reference, to see beyond nature itself to something higher, something only the artist can see with his inward looking eye, and create work that has relevance beyond its subject matter.

Along that vein I must clarify that I have no desire to impose on other artists the same kind of pressures and expectations I once resented. Just the opposite. If artists begin moving in a more contemporary direction because they don't want to be left behind as wildlife art evolves into the 21st Century, if they make changes to their work simply because the market shifts in a more contemporary direction, the point will be missed entirely, and we are likely to come to a place even more dissatisfying than the current malaise. It would be akin to moving to another apartment in the same building, a different room with the same tired view. The challenge I offer is only for self-identifying wildlife artists to honestly ask themselves the question, "Why am I painting what I am painting the way I am painting it?" If the answer is, "Because it pleases me," then there is no reason to change, regardless of whether or not your work is riding this contemporary wave. If, on the other hand, the question makes you uncomfortable and the answer does not come readily, at the very least it is time to honestly reevaluate your work and its direction. If enough animal painters and sculptors do that, then we can be assured that whatever identity wildlife art finds in the new millennium, it will be one that is more honest, more appealing, and ultimately more meaningful than its current incarnation.

Ron Kingswood's "Is Animal Painting Dead" and Simon Gudgeon's " A Meditation on Wildlife Art" can be found in the Winter 2010/11 and Fall 2010 issues, respectively, of Wildlife Art Journal, available at

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kitler's Work Features in The Artist's Magazine

Society of Animal Artists member David N. Kitler and his work are being showcased in a feature article in the April 2011 issue of The Artist's Magazine, on newsstands now.  The multiple-page spread includes several of David's latest pieces - with an emphasis on David's quest for uniqueness and originality in his work - along with a step-by-step demo on acrylics techniques.

With a circulation of over 140,000 copies, The Artist’s Magazine is the world’s leading magazine for artists. It focuses on spotlighting the processes of the best artists working today, while keeping readers abreast of professional practices that can help advance their own careers.  A regular contributor in the "Drawing Board" column, David has also won First Place in the magazine’s prestigious Annual Competition (Animal/Wildlife category), and was later honored to serve as its Juror.

Visit to check out the extra online materials:

- Masking with Cellophane:    

- Perceiving Transparent and Opaque Colors:


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Diane Mason featured artist at NatureWorks

Congratulations to Society of Animal Artists member and president Diane Mason, she will be the featured artist at this year’s NatureWorks Art Show & Sale in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

March 5th and 6th, 2011
RENAISSANCE Tulsa Hotel & Convention Center
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Diane has been a proud member of the SAA since 2003, and she has served on the Executive Board since 2005, becoming President in November of 2008. She has received the Leonard J. Meiselman Award for a Representational Sculpture in the Academic Manner in 2003, and an Award of Excellence in 2010 for her service as President.
“The Award of Excellence was the most appreciated and valued award of recognition that I could ever imagine receiving. This organization is very, very special to me – as are all of the artists in it.”
-Diane Mason