Today is Arbor day, a wonderful occasion to celebrate the significance of trees world-wide. The importance of trees both in terms of their impact on habitats and cultures can’t be stated enough but often goes overlooked. Check out arborday.org for more info on what you can do to participate this weekend!
This is also a good time to mention my newest upcoming book which has been available for pre-order for a few weeks. It’s called “Trees: Between Heaven and Earth“, and it will be available this fall. It’s full of beautiful photos of trees from around the world and details their beauty and contributions to habitats, cultures and much much more.
There are sample pages to check out on my online store, and don’t forget that all pre-orders through the site will be signed by yours truly before being sent your way!
Have a wonderful weekend, get out there and plant something!
Years back, student Angels Gazquez Espuny of Spain interviewed Art a few years back for a school project. The title was “The Artist’s Psychology”, and considering that Art has made his Photography As Art seminar a continued exploration into the subject matter in the years since, it seemed like a timely re-post! Enjoy!
From your experience, what is art and what is an artist?
A true artist is an individual who creates from their soul be they a musician, writer, dancer, sculptor, painter or photographer etc…They have a need to express themselves in a creative way, revealing a part of themselves in the process. To restrict their creative outlet, whatever it may be, whether they sell their work or not, is to imprison their soul.
Art is a journey, for both the artist and the viewer. An artist will grow and mature over time. Myself, I began with a more realist approach to my painting and photography and have trended towards a greater appreciation for the abstract as I have followed my own journey. The same is true for the viewer. At one point in your life you may not ‘get it’ when you look at another’s artwork; perhaps it is too abstract or unusual; but later in life you may return to these same pieces and see them from an entirely new perspective, appreciating them in a way you couldn’t have before. Everyone sees and interprets art from their own experiences. It is because of this that you can’t simply define “art” or an “artist”, each is an ever changing and growing interpretation for the individual.
For me personally, the highest form of art is something that enriches the viewer and speaks to them evoking an emotional response from within. I fill my home with art, both my own and pieces I have collected during my travels all over the world. Some are highly prized pieces such as centuries old Native American baskets but they run all they way down to simple indigenous crafts I have picked up for a few dollars. I have even transformed my yard over the years into a work of art inspired by the Chinese paintings of the Haung Shan landscapes.
I am an artist, I have been since a child. It was when I was a young boy in middle school the teachers, upon seeing my paintings, were so moved, that they actually paid me for my work. It was right then that I knew I would make a living selling my art, my creations, and I have followed that path ever since. My roots are set deeply in painting. I went to the University of Washington receiving my degree in Fine Arts and I saw this as my path. It was only in my 20s that I would transition to a photography and make my name as a wildlife photographer and in my journey, now at 60 years old, I find myself returning to my roots as a painter more and more.
Why and what motivates you to create, what do you normally create?
As I said before, I am an artist and I have that same drive inside me that all true artists feel which continues to motivate me even after nearly 40 years. When I return from a trip my mind is instantly seeking out the next opportunity – whether it is with my camera in the field, a studio session, or time with paint and a brush, as an artist I will never rest.
I have always been a strong conservationist, even as a child. I grew up spending more time outside than inside exploring the woods near my home in West Seattle, Washington getting to know every bird, reptile, mammal, and plant I could find. At a young age I could see the need to protect and preserve our fragile natural resources. I strive to capture the natural beauty in works of art with the hope that it will inspire the viewer, evoke that emotional response, to see the need to preserve and protect our diminishing resources.
In my career as a photographer, I first began photographing animals and landscapes and that is perhaps what I am most well known for. Over the years, traveling the world, I was fortunate enough to encounter the elusive animals that inhabit the remote corners of our planet, and at the same time I got to know and appreciate the indigenous people that inhabit these lands as well. Their culture in many cases remains intact as it has been for countless generations. Getting to know these cultures, fostered an appreciation for the beauty of their approach to life and balance with the planet. With a career spanning over 30 years, I have images in my archive that can not be replicated today as cultures give way to outside influences.
Traveling the world I have also been exposed to a wide variety of religions and practices giving me an appreciation for the beauty you can find in each. Over time I have found myself bringing home more and more creations around culture and religion from these travels.
Lastly, as I get older I find myself drawn more and more to the abstract. The photographs you find me taking today are less often about the grand scenic landscape and more often about intimate details, abstracting the elements in the natural world to tell a different kind of story, but one rooted in the same motivation for protecting and preserving the natural wonders of our planet.
Do you think an artist is born or grows with age?
I believe both statements are true. One is born with certain passions in their soul. No matter your level of physical fitness, if you don’t have a passion to climb mountains, you won’t be a mountain climber, that is a drive I believe you have deep inside of you and an artist’s drive is no different. You are born with this drive to create though not necessarily the talent to pull it off, for talent comes with time. This is how an artist grows with age. Some may be self-taught, others classically trained, and it’s the rare exception that may be inherently talented, but even with those, I would argue that you can see their work grow and transform over time as they follow their journey.
Whether your art form is photography, painting, music, whatever…talk with any artist and they will tell you of a journey where they grew as an artist, honing their craft, focusing their talents, changing with time and improving with each creation.
And I continue to evolve, I have taken photos in the last 3 years that I never would have seen just 5 years ago – at 60 years old I continue to get better, look objectively at my art, improve on it and move forward, never stagnating. I will be growing as an artist so long as I am still able to create.
Do you have any reference artists & what inspires you?
I am inspired by the works of many classical and contemporary artists. You will see direct evidence of influences from Jackson Pollack in my work in a composition showcasing the random line and chaos which can be found in nature. I have also long admired the work of dutch artist M.C. Escher. I have photographs that I explicitly composed with his repeating geographic patterns in mind such as the repeating black and white of a tightly composed image of penguins in the artic. As I am photographing in the field, a scene will unfold before me reminding me of a particular artist’s style and I will compose my image drawing upon this style.
As a lifetime student of art, the list of artists inspiring me is a long one. You’ll find all the usual suspects such as Salvador Dali, Renoir, Van Gogh as well as more contemporary artists such as Keith Haring, Jacob Lawrence, Mark Toby… To visit my library at home would provide you an understanding as it is filled with art books spanning the centuries, it would be far too difficult to try and list everyone I draw from here.
Additionally I am also influence and inspired by the original artists, those who left their art on rock and cave walls 10-30 thousand years ago in Australia, southwestern US and the caves of Spain and France. They were true artists abstracting their subjects, suggesting movement and exaggerating their features. They were not simply recoding exactly what they saw, they were creating art.
Lastly, I am inspired by the beauty of nature. The intricate designs you find everywhere you look, from a curled fiddle wad of a young fern to the beautiful colors in the wings of a McCaw. This is why I keep doing what I do, I love nature and all her beauty and I want to share this with everyone in the hopes that they too will fall in love and understand why we need to protect this precious gift.
Do you consider yourself an artist?
Absolutely. Art is my passion and I have been following that passion my entire life.
This week I spent some time with my friends Bill Edwards and Greg Green visiting the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in British Columbia, Canada. It was nice to get out shooting again and it only made me that much more anxious to get out traveling again! This is the longest stretch I’ve been home in the past 40 years or so by a long shot. The variety of birds and their fearlessness when it comes to human visitors was remarkable.
Enjoy, and stay tuned for more new shots from the field as I ease back in to traveling!
World Wetlands Day is celebrated internationally each year on February 2nd. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in Ramsar, Iran, on 2 February 1971. This year’s theme is “wetlands for a sustainable urban future” – recognizing the impact and importance of wetlands to cities. As population is booming, wetlands that provide drinking water, counteract flooding, and filter waste are dwindling. World Wetlands Day 2018 serves to highlight the importance of this symbiotic relationship between population centers and the very ecosystem that makes them a liveable environment. Click here more information on World Wetlands Day.
As you may or may not know, the latest tax bill passed by the Trump administration recently included provisions to lift the decades-old ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska. ANWR is home to more than 250 animal species, and is a location I’ve returned to many times over the course of my career to capture the tranquil and relatively untouched landscape.
Bare Essentials Magazine was kind enough to include my perspective on this very important matter in the latest edition of their online magazine – check it out! My piece, along with several photographs from various parts of ANWR begins on page 111.
Audubon has dubbed 2018 the “Year of the Bird” in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Something to think about if you’re looking for inspiration or the basis for your next photo adventure! For more information on Audubon’s Year of the Bird, click here!
Above are some of my favorite shots of our feathered friends from over the years. If you have a great bird shot you would like to share, post it to Instagram using hashtags #Audubon, #BirdsOfInstagram and #Birdstagram! Audubon is also holding a contest – so send in your best avian photo and win up to $5000!
Sponsored by Angama Mara, The Greatest Maasai Mara Photographer of the Year will win a cash prize of $10,000 USD, as well as an unforgettable all-expenses-paid 5-night safari in the Maasai Mara, with accommodation for two at lovely Angama Mara, a private vehicle at their disposal and return flights from Nairobi.
Your entry fees will go to support these important conservation organizations:
Collaborations for Cause is a two-day event that brings together cutting-edge content creators and front-line organizations for an exploration of how to harness the power of the evolving media landscape
This fifth annual conference builds upon the organization’s 20-year history of facilitating issue-driven visual storytelling. With a mix of presentations by leading experts including Annie Griffiths and Helen Cherullo, and in-depth case studies showcasing real projects, insightful arm-chair conversations, and break-out sessions, participants will leave inspired and armed with fresh approaches, an expanded network of contacts and new resolve to build lasting positive change.
The conference will include interactive, small group discussions hosted by experts on topics such as innovative marketing, funding, image social media and non-traditional publishing. Opportunities for optional private portfolio reviews will also be available.
Who Should Attend:
• Nonprofit program, marketing and communications staff
• Directors and account supervisors at public relations firms
• Communications and education staff at government agencies and universities
• Program directors, exhibit designers and curators at institutions (museums, aquariums, etc.)
• Filmmakers and producers
• Graphic and sound designers
• Concerned citizens, activists and changemakers
In March of 1899, Mount Rainier National Park was founded as the nation’s fifth national park and the first created from a national forest. The pinnacle of the cascade range and an active stratovolcano, Mount Rainier can be seen looming in the distance from the hustle and bustle of caffeinated Seattle. It’s long been a place of study for volcanologists and glaciologists alike.
Coming home from trips to the remarkable places of the world is easier knowing I’m fortunate enough to live in the midst of such incredible places. The verdant Cascade Range is a must-see for anyone traveling to the Pacific North West!
Join me for a workshop at Mount Rainier this August!
This past February, Denali celebrated it’s 100th year as a national park and preserve. Home to the highest peak in North America at 20,310 feet, the park covers 6 million acres of land in Alaska composed of forests, glaciers and tundra.
At a critical time in our history when it comes to protecting our natural places, it’s important to note that Denali was the first national park created to protect wildlife and is home to 209 different species of animals. A natural laboratory for researchers and scientist, the park has been home to various scientific studies for a century now.
Alaska is one of my favorite locations on the globe, so much so that I make it a point to lead workshops in its parks on a regular basis. The scope and scale of the environments here are like no other.
Now is a better time than ever to get involved with our national parks. Click here for a list of events related to the Denali Centennial to see how you can participate!