Unrealistic Beauty - A Story About What's Possible
I feel very blessed to having been able to live the outdoor lifestyle and experience the things in nature that I have throughout my life. It seems as though that no matter how much one sees, there's always new surprises that await those who are willing.
This painting captures two aspects of what fascinates me, color and the unknown. Ever since I can remember, I find myself thinking about what's out there. I ponder where animals are on the landscape, what they might be doing, or what species are present. Typically if you spend enough time in the woods you'll eventually see what's out there. However one exception to that always seems to be wolves.
Wolves make themselves very well known on the landscape through the sign they leave and occasionally their howls. What intrigues me about them is I don't believe there is another animal in the wilderness who has made their presence so clearly known without revealing themselves to me. Time after time I hear them, cross their tracks, see their scat, and yet never quite catch a glimpse.
I've only seen two wolves in the wild, once crossing the road in Northern Minnesota and once recently while backpacking in Montana. The latter experience is where true understanding can be found and the same goes with any animal. Being in their element, whatever the species, to me is the only way to truly learn about something.
We were crossing a wide open meadow through a large swale surrounded by timber. It was just after commenting on the wolf tracks we had been seeing on the way down through this area. We cut through the bottom of the draw, disappearing beneath a larger hill to our right. A couple hundred yards later I turned my head back around to look at the landscape from the other direction and to my surprise a very large wolf was trotting away from us.
Baffled, I tried to process what just happened. The wolf was barely a hundred yards behind, leaving up the path we just walked down. I eventually realized that it had came from over the larger hill to our right and down to our tracks. What's funny is that I could see everything beyond that hill right before we dropped below it and nothing was there but the wide open, matted down meadow with a distant treeline a half mile off.
That wolf had seen us somewhere, got up to the hill above us to get a look, and then dropped down to our path before deciding to leave. What gets me is we would have never known had I not looked back at that instant for no apparent reason. And how close did it get to us? It was running away by the time we saw it.
I think about this constantly. We are never alone in the wild and our presence, I would be willing to bet, never goes unnoticed. I wonder how often I'm being watched and by whom when I'm out exploring the countryside. That curiosity is in part what drives me to create.
Fast forward to this past winter and the second part of this painting came to be. I was driving up over a pass right after sunset when the sky began to glow bright pink.
The combination of the air, clouds, and sunlight was just right that evening to create one of the most colorful landscapes I can ever recall. The snow on the ground then reflected it all back up, creating a spectacular sight.
I pulled up to the top of the pass and quickly grabbed my skis. I ventured out along the top of the ridgeline to photograph as much as I could.
As the darkness began to fall over the mountains and the color lingered only above in the clouds, it became so still and quiet I felt like my ears would start to ring. I realized while standing up on the top of the ridge on that open hillside that I must be the most obvious thing on the landscape. I wondered what could hear me or perhaps what was watching me. Suddenly the idea of this painting hit me and I instantly knew what I wanted to create.
This painting pushes the boundaries of what is believable and captures the fascination for what I know is possible through God's creations. Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope you enjoyed.
"Unreal Beauty" - 30x40" Oil on cradled canvas board (2.5" depth).
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I'm Chuck Black, landscape and wildlife artist based in Southwest Montana.
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