Return to site

Contemporary and Modern Wildlife Art

Benefits of Contemporary and Modern Wildlife Art

The rewards of Contemporary Wildlife art are many. In this article I will show some of the rewards you can get from Contemporary Wildlife Art.

I am probably fairly biased, because I do paint wildlife in a more “Modern” or contemporary style. I find it to be rewarding in the creating part as well as the viewing, or consumption of it. So, while reading this know it is from a voice of a fan and participant in this genre.

My Journey into Contemporary Wildlife Art.

I guess technically, contemporary Wildlife Art is wildlife art created in a contemporary time period. However, the word contemporary can mean a more modern style. This is what I am talking about. Many people will stick to traditional painting and representation of wildlife in their artwork.

I respect those who follow this grand tradition. Many artists with great talent, ability, and hard work devote their whole careers to this. There is a lot to be said about tradition, craft, hard work, and talent.

I began my university course work wanting to follow in the great footsteps of those artists who worked before me. Many of these inspiring artist were wildlife artist such as Wilhelm Kuhnert, Carl Rungius, and John James Audubon just to name a few. They all had their styles, but they held strong to a time-honored tradition.

I was following in their footsteps. I spent a ton of time taking photos, drawing from life, and examining the anatomy of different animals. I would spend a lot of time studying paintings of different artists I wanted to emulate in my work. I found a bit of kinship in this pursuit. I would find the reward from a finished painting seeing that it looked like a photo, or just like real life.

I went to Brigham Young University and was accepted into the Illustration Design program. In this program we were exposed to more than just traditional artists and illustrators. I was introduced to many modern artists, painters, and illustrators.

I never really thought much of Jackson Pollock until I saw his work in person in the Metropolitan Museum of art. It was really impactful to see his work. I also found myself taken in by a room full of Mark Rothko paintings. This world of contemporary or modern art that I had discounted as being silly or worthless became moving and powerful.

My new discovery of contemporary or modern art did not deter my focus on becoming an ultra-traditional artist. I still wanted to follow in the footsteps and be part of a tradition. I knew that being an artist was a risky profession and I wanted the safest route. That route seemed to be the route of other artist who paved the way before me.

I pursued the traditional route with vigor. I would hear from people that my work was good and looked like a photo. After a while this accolade of making my work look like a photo, or realistic began to ring hollow. I thought, “Why spend all this time and effort making a painting look like a photo when I could spend my time and effort on photography instead?”.

I spent hours and hours crafting a painting, composing the design, getting the lighting perfect, studying the anatomy, and not finishing the final product until it was like a photo; and that was what it was just a representation. I felt some pride when I heard people say, “they liked”, it and “it sure was good”. Then they would move on and were not really moved or impacted by my work other than it was technically good.

One day I was painting another bear. I had painted quite a few in my career up to that point, and they all ranged in various shades of earth tones. I sat their staring at my pallet and saw the brilliant rich colors and knew that I would need to mute them down and grey them out to create the illusion of light and shadow. I thought to myself, “Why not just paint what you want…paint a cadmium red bear!”.

So, I painted a cadmium red bear. I only committed to a small 8x10 board, so if it didn’t work out, I wasn’t out anything much. The risk was low, and who cared if it didn’t work out. I let convention and tradition go for just this one little painting.

I sketched the bear in with a brush and some thinned out oil paint. I still held true to the shape and anatomy of the bear. It was a grizzly bear. I then put down my brush and picked up my pallet knife. I smashed around some cadmium red and scraped it onto the surface. It felt exhilarating. I then used French ultramarine blue for the shadow side. I mashed in cadmium orange and yellow. I let most of my color mixing happen on the surface instead of on my pallet. Holy cow, this was such fun! It was liberating to just paint and let intuition guide me.

When finished with this small little bear I liked it and thought maybe others would as well. I was showing in Buffalo Trail Gallery in Jackson Hole Wyoming at the time. The proprietor was willing to hang my little experiment of art and grizzly bear. The little bear sold within a week. That was the fuel of validation I needed to keep trying this new path of wildlife art.

Grizzly Bear Painting, Available from

Rewards for the artist.

With this new freedom in creating my art, I dove headfirst into the contemporary art world. I didn’t abandon all tradition, however. I found that I enjoyed having the skills of my traditional skills but using them in a different way. I loved to have this juxtaposition of representational and abstract put together. This has become my muse, or method for creation of art at this point.

So, the first reward I see with a contemporary take on wildlife art is for the artist themselves. I find this new process much more enjoyable. I like the idea of controlling the surface and not controlling the surface. I like to let the paint have some say in the creation of the piece itself. That sounds kind of strange maybe, but I will often throw turpentine on my work as I create just to make something unexpected happen. My work becomes more of a creation and a response to spontaneous things that happen. My paintings are a dance back and forth to come up with something completely new and different.

I am also able to paint with more of the symbolic side of meaning. I can create a work that will use color as symbol, value as emphasis, subject as a springboard for meaning. It has allowed me to have more depth to my work.

This new more expressive style of painting has allowed me to have a stronger voice in the art world. Artist have been around since people have been around. So many voices and so many that tend to be similar to each other, bordering on copying and perhaps less authentic. My work is truly unique to me and what I decide. Amore modern approach has had that reward for me as an artist.

I remember being in school and having a critique. I remember all of us students being beaten down and formed into people who could make stuff look like a photo. Don’t get me wrong, I think the academic route of art training is valuable and really gives you tools to work with. I however relished the freedom of expression and creativity that I have now.

Reward as a consumer, or art patron.

I am assuming things when it comes to rewards for an art patron or consumer of contemporary and modern wildlife art. I am biased as I said and can only give what I have heard people say to me about my work.

When viewing more modern styled work like mine it requires an open mind. Why do I paint the way I do? Why do I use the color I do? Why do I choose the subject for the piece? This creates a dialog with the viewer. Whether you like the work or not, it requires some kind of response. Even if the response is, I don’t like it, the work has demanded some thought. My work has that kind of energy. I do appreciate when people find my work to be of value, but just the fact that it is different enough to illicit some thought is powerful.

One reward for the viewer of contemporary and modern wildlife art is that it creates thought and energy. It’s been said of my work that you can’t unsee it. My work creates a conversation piece in whatever setting it is in. If you love it or hate it, you can have a conversation or spend some time with my work, and you will be rewarded. Even if only just seeing something from a new perspective.

Another reward of my work is the creation of mood or spirit in a space. I try to create work that is provocative, perhaps evocative, but not offensive. I don’t want to have you respond to my work out of complete shock, anger, disagreement, or offence. I want my work to provide a place for thought, energy, interest, feeling, and positive value.

There are monetary rewards as well. The art world is seeing quite a surge in economic growth. Lots of people have been investing in art and had good returns. I would like to live in a world where I could just give my work away to those who wanted it, but I need to pay bills and make a living. So, there is an investment side to this thing for sure.

I have been creating work for over 20 years. I have grown my art business over that time as well. When you buy my artwork, you are buying something that is rare, professionally done, and unique. My work has been purchased by many folks and is part of many collections around the world. So, from an investment point of view you are in good company purchasing contemporary wildlife art, and I would hope you would consider my work in your collection.

Another economic reward for purchasing contemporary wildlife art is that you are supporting the current economy of living artists. You are aiding in the support of these new ideas, voices, and artistic creative energy. You are doing good things with your money.

Ultimately the reward for the art patron is to expand their point of view and be moved by the work. A contemporary work of wildlife art will aid in appreciation of wildlife, art, and create an opportunity for a new unique voice.

Contemporary Wildlife Art, School Strength

This Particular Piece.

This particular piece is titled “School strength”. It is oil on canvas and is 72 x 48 inches and is available at Gallery Mar in Park City Utah. Gallery Mar is excellent to work with. I have been showing with them for 10 years and have always had the best professional treatment there.

I find the layers of color intriguing in this piece. The composition creates weight at the top, as well as a peace in the school of trout. I hesitate to describe all that a person could find in the meaning of this painting. I prefer to have people bring their own interpretation and meaning to a painting that I create. That way it becomes an active cognitive experience and requires the viewer to participate instead of being hand fed all the answers.

I will however say that I find strength in the support of friends and family. I find that there are many things that we as people face, and you can survive and thrive through most things if you have the support and strength of friends and family. This can give a little insight into what I was thinking about while painting it.

I really enjoy the shapes and textures in this piece. I have lots of contrast with thick and thin paint. There is uniformity of color with the fish themselves while each fish is a separate distinct individual. They are still a cohesive group and belong.


With contemporary or modern wildlife art, or contemporary art in general, it can often require a bit of effort on the viewers part to gain from it. I have found that my pursuit of traditional subject matter of wildlife in a more contemporary, modern, expressive way to be a positive and rewarding venture.

For those who do not like modern and more contemporary wildlife art, I would encourage you to see some in person. Give it a chance and see what it can bring to you. You may be surprised to find out that this more contemporary art has some power and merit to be found in it.