Christine Montague

From Polar Bear to Pet Portrait - It's All in the Eyes

Although I am an experienced portrait artist, over the past few years, my online presence has evolved to that of polar bear artist. Recent followers do not know about my portrait painting service. And so recently, when out of the blue, I was contacted to paint a portrait of a very lovely Labrador Retriever, it was interesting for me to learn that one of my polar bear paintings had inspired the commission!

Golden Lab Commission. 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me  here , or visit  Commission a Portrait .

Golden Lab Commission. 24” x 24” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me here, or visit Commission a Portrait.

How does a polar bear painting possibly relate to a portrait of a beloved pet?

It lies in that fact that I regard all my subject matter as portraiture, and my polar bear art is no different. I paint with the theory the eyes are the “mirror to the soul”. Until I get the eyes “right”, until they feel alive to me, I personally don’t connect to the painting. When that magical moment of connection happens, then the painting is on its way!

All artists have their own way of approaching a painting, especially when painting from photographic reference. Some artists apply the paint inch by inch, finishing each section completely before moving on to the next.

I use the more “whole painting” approach in my technique, but I start each session with the eyes and work out from there. As each new layer of paint is added, my focus remains on the eyes, until finally, the portrait comes to life in my imagination.

I have a biology degree, a fine art degree and most of an illustration degree. As a result, I like my portraits to be realistic and anatomically correct, yet emotional, too. But my ability to draw from my imagination, honed from my illustration studies, plays an important part in this process, too. One learns to be a bit of an actor - to feel that emotion and spirit of the subject and to try transfer it to the canvas.

For example, when I was commissioned to paint Dr. Oscar Peterson (Living Arts Centre, Mississauga, ON, Canada), I was honoured and thrilled to paint the jazz great’s portrait, but I had also never seen or met him in person. This was a larger than life portrait and I was working from someone else’s photographs. .

How was I to connect to the subject and make it more than a copy of a photograph?

First, I brought the whole painting to the edge of completion. It was a large painting (larger than life) and a complex one , as in fact it was multi-portraits.. Dr. Peterson’s piano was to be accurately represented. His hands were a portrait in themselves. And his face was clearly selected in the piano top!

So with the face roughed in, I began the final painting of it as I listened to the emotion- filled, heartfelt tribute of music and song that aired on CBC Radio that day. As his teenage daughter spoke lovingly about Oscar Peterson, the father, I did the final paint of his eyes and face.

So, when I began to paint polar bears, I wondered, how to bring the bears alive? How to make them more than a reproduction of a photo I took of a polar bear at the Toronto Zoo?

So for the painting below, Polar Bear Portrait Study 1 (Wistful Bear) ( and a couple of others in this earlier series) I placed my laptop on a stool in front me, as if a portrait model on a chair. One of my polar bear photos was up on the screen. I then created the polar bear portrait as if the bear was seated there in front of me. (wouldn’t that have been fun, although short lived.) Once again, the eyes say it all in this painting. (Read more about this painting here)

Wistful. Polar bear portrait. 12” x 12” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me  here

Wistful. Polar bear portrait. 12” x 12” x 1.5” oil painting on canvas. ©Christine Montague Contact me here

So when Ottawa’s CTV news reporter and anchor, Christina Succi contacted me to paint a portrait of her beloved dog, I was flattered, but also surprised to learn that it was one of my polar bear paintings that inspired her request. But then I learned which painting and then saw a photo of her dear doggy,

Can you see the connection?

Wistful Bear      and the  dog portrait  it  inspired  side by side. ©Christine Montague

Wistful Bear and the dog portrait it inspired side by side. ©Christine Montague

If you would like to know more about my polar bear art , or info on how to commission a portrait, please feel free to contact me here.

Beauty in Suspense

A flash of northern lights reveals a beautiful polar bear suspended beneath the surface of the sea. A buoyant animal, and a strong swimmer, it is comfortable in this underwater space.

But the frozen sea is its true place, vital to travel, hunting, mating, denning.

Due to climate change, sea ice forms later in the fall, and melts too soon in the spring, leaving the fate of the polar bear species, in suspense.

But for the time, in this painting, we can admire the beauty, and power of the bear, envy its solitude, see the intelligence in its bright eyes. Beautiful deep blues, green, and unlike the situation, black and white.

Contact me here more more info about Polar Bear Beauty in Suspense.

Beauty in Suspense . ©Christine Montague 2018 30” x 30’ x 1.5” oil painting on canvas.

Beauty in Suspense. ©Christine Montague 2018 30” x 30’ x 1.5” oil painting on canvas.

Detail of  Beauty in Suspense ©   ChristineMontague.com

Detail of Beauty in Suspense ©ChristineMontague.com

Beauty in Suspence  was recently on exhibition at  In Situ 2018,  an exciting multi arts festival held at CreativeHub 1352 (Small Arms Inspection Building), Mississauga, ON. Canada. Although this photo is anything but exciting (I don’t have permission to publish the works it was hanging by.), it does give a good representation of how it looks on the wall, and how the edges are painted.

Beauty in Suspence was recently on exhibition at In Situ 2018, an exciting multi arts festival held at CreativeHub 1352 (Small Arms Inspection Building), Mississauga, ON. Canada. Although this photo is anything but exciting (I don’t have permission to publish the works it was hanging by.), it does give a good representation of how it looks on the wall, and how the edges are painted.

The Fall

The Fall is a portrait of a polar bear on its solitary journey in the arctic night, unaware that a red maple leaf (Canada’s national symbol) falls before it from above. The fall colour of the maple tree isn’t part of this bear’s autumn landscape, but the frozen sea, so vital for its survival, is. Increased periods of open water from spring to fall, due to climate change, increases the polar bear’s vulnerability.

Painted in wonder and warning,The Fall pays tribute to an iconic Canadian animal, and connects Canadians in the responsibility to protect it, thereby protecting and saving ourselves.

The Fall. An original oil painting ©Christine Montague 2018

The Fall. An original oil painting ©Christine Montague 2018

Why the Canadian connection? Although one of the world’s most favourite animals, polar bears are only found in Canada, Alaska (USA), Russia and Norway. 60 - 80 % of the world’s population are found in Canada. The Fall has a “sister” painting, the award winning “The Canadian Flower Crown”. Read about it here

I am pleased to announce The Fall has been accepted into ARTWORKS 2018, the OCADU Alumni Show, December 2 -8, 2018. The Great Hall, OCADU. 100 McCaul St., Toronto. More Info and opening reception date & time here

Toronto Dark Water

You are invited! Below is the invitation to my solo show of new paintings about polar bears and climate change. Special Guest: James Kushny, a University of Toronto researcher, and Board Director for the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, the remarkable, Leed certified centre in Churchill, Manitoba, where scientists from around the world, study northern sustainability . A portion of sales will be donated to this independent, not for profit, Canadian research centre. 

An RSVP for the opening night would be appreciated. For more info, directions or to RSVP please click here

Polar-Bear-Flower-Crown-invitation-sm.jpg

Polar Bears in Williams Mill. Etobicoke, too

Halton Hills Bears

The weather has been great here in the Greater Toronto Area, and for that I am grateful.

It meant that I could journey to the Williams Mill Gallery in Halton Hills, for the opening night of The Joy of Art, snow, and anxiety, free.  Opening nights are always anxiety filled for us introverted artists, even if a happy event in which I have 6 large paintings and a selection of little polar bears on panel on show.

The Joy of Art exhibit continues until Christmas. And not only would I love if you could see my polar bear paintings in person (and perhaps make one your own),  but I'd also love you to experience the beautiful venue in which I once had my studio, and resided on the Board. The historic Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre, that houses the gallery and a multiple of working artist studios, is centre to the unique picturesque hamlet of Glen Williams.  

Williams Mill is located at 515 Main St., Glen Williams. Only 20 minutes north of Mississauga. 40 minutes north of Toronto. The gallery is open Wed. - Sun., 12 - 5 pm. The 25 + artists studios are open Fridays to Sunday 12 - 5 pm.

As well as myself, other guest artists include Tina Newlove (painting), Naomi Assenheim (jewelry), Bonnie Glass (couturier), are a few of the names that come to mind. 

Visitors to the Williams Mill Gallery discussing Christine Montague polar bear paintings.  ©Christine Montague

Visitors to the Williams Mill Gallery discussing Christine Montague polar bear paintings.  ©Christine Montague

Upcoming: Polar Bears to Artworld Fine Art Gallery

On Saturday, December 9th , 1 pm - 4 pm - I will have sneak preview of two of my new polar bear paintings for my upcoming solo show of polar bear art (March 2018) at the  TWAC exhibit and meet the artists, which is just part of the creative holiday fun at the Artworld Fine Art Gallery Holiday Open House. If you would like to participate in the "Paint with Briar Edmond" event please be sure to RSVP with the gallery.  NHL legend Red Kelly will be signing his book "The Red Kelly Story". A portion of proceeds will go towards St. Joseph's Health centre in Toronto. 

I hope to see you there!

Artworld Fine Art Gallery is located at 365 Evans Ave. Toronto, ON M8Z 1K2

Polar Bear in Dark water

Dark Water 1 is an oil painting portrait of a beautiful polar bear swimming.  The water is dark, as daylight is diminished in the arctic fall.

Polar Bear in Dark Water. ©Christine Montague Available at  Artworld Fine Art Gallery  until July 20, 2017. 365 Evans Ave. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

Polar Bear in Dark Water. ©Christine MontagueAvailable at Artworld Fine Art Gallery until July 20, 2017. 365 Evans Ave. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

But dark water has another implication. The earth’s bright white polar ice cap, which serves as a giant reflector for the sun’s heat, is being diminished by climate change from carbon emissions. The melting polar ice increases the darkness of the planet’s surface (hence “dark water”), decreases the sun reflected back into space, and increases the heat absorbed by the earth. More ice melts, which creates more dark water,  and so the loop continues.

This loop of sea ice loss and increased dark water endangers the polar bear. Although this magnificent bear is a highly intelligent (think great ape), top-of-the-arctic-food-chain marine mammal (the only bear that is such), and is a powerful swimmer (slightly webbed front paws, highly insulated and buoyant body), it is dependant on the frozen sea for hunting (only seal fat sustains them, not berries or birds’ eggs), resting, feeding (can’t nurse in water) and denning (necessary for mother bears with cubs, semi-hibernation, and to ride out storms).  The increase of the period of open water from spring to fall, and the distance between ice tops in winter, leaves the polar bear and its cubs vulnerable to starvation, attack, and drowning.

The polar bear in Dark Water 1 gazes back upon her path, her body twisted as if in question.

It is up to the viewer to imagine how far outside the picture frame the next ice floe waits, and whether or not, until this moment, her journey was a solitary one.

A Very Blue Prince ( A Polar Bear Tale)

A Very Blue  Prince ( A Polar Bear Tale)

Meet The Blue Prince, a  30" x 40" polar bear oil painting.  Why have I titled this painting, The Blue Prince? ...this mighty polar bear painting is created in dramatic shades of blue,.. is a portrait of arctic royalty,  and polar bears, highly intelligent, and the largest and mightiest arctic predator, are often referred to as the Lords of the North.  

Read More

Shrodinger's Cat, er, Polar Bear

A Polar Bear Cub Painting

The polar bear cub painting below,  is the second in my Sink/Swim series of polar bear  oil paintings. This painting comments on  sea ice loss and its negative effect on the polar bear habitat. 

Sinking or Swimming?

©Christine Montague. Sink/Swim 2. 12" x 6" oil painting. 

©Christine Montague. Sink/Swim 2. 12" x 6" oil painting. 

Climate change has decreased the amount of sea ice necessary for the mother bears to hunt seals, feed their young, and sometimes den. The season of open water from spring to fall has increased, delaying the opportunity to hunt. Cubs do not yet have that great insulating layer of fat and so the mother bear must carry the baby bears on her back as she swims to the next ice top.  These trips  are not always successful. Polar bear cubs just simply vanish along the route, and sometimes the mothers do, too.

The bear cub above, does not seem distressed. Like with the experiment Schrodinger's Cat, it is up to the viewer's thoughts about what this bear's state of being is.

For my online gallery of polar bear art – paintings and portraits, please visit ChristineMontague.com

 

 

Sink/Swim 1: A Polar Bear Cub & Vanishing Sea Ice Painting

New Polar Bear Cub Painting Series

The polar bear cub painting below comments on sea ice loss and its effect on polar bears. 

Sink/Swim 1  (private collection). 12" x 6" polar bear cub oil painting  ©Christine Montague. www.ChristineMontague.com

Sink/Swim 1 (private collection). 12" x 6" polar bear cub oil painting  ©Christine Montague. www.ChristineMontague.com

You may know that, thanks to climate change (global warming)  mother polar bears, polar bear cub(s) atop their back, must swim greater distances in search of ice tops on which to hunt, rest, feed and occasionally den. The greater distances, and greater sea ice loss, means these trips, are not always successful.  Polar bear cubs just simply vanish along the route, and sometimes the mothers do, too.

I've heard some human babies continue to play as they sink to the bottom of the swimming pool, unaware they are in danger of drowning. I don't know if this is actually true, but, with this concept in mind, I've painted this little bear. This polar bear cub is under water, and not in distress. It's looking right at us though, leaving us to decide the innocence or tragedy of the scene. What do you think happens next?

For my online gallery of  polar bear art - paintings and portraits, please visit ChristineMontague.com

For everything polar bear, please visit Polar Bears International, the not for profit organization noted for their research and advocacy roles re: sea ice loss and effect on polar bear life.

Polar Bear Dreams

About Polar Bear Dreams

These polar bear oil paintings are part of the Polar Bear Dreams Series, a dreamlike, wistful, and spiritual tribute in oil to the mighty polar bear, whose threatened future always seems open to debate.

Polar Bear Dreams. On the Move. Oil Painting ©Christine Montague

Polar Bear Dreams. On the Move. Oil Painting ©Christine Montague

Symbols

In dream intrepretation, the symbolism held by a bear is independence, strength, death and renewal, and/or resurrection.

And, if that bear is a polar bear? Reawakening.  

I try to show the physical beauty and power of the bear in my paintings. The night sky, the aurora borealis (northern lights) , the use of color, and lack of detailed landscape show how this beautiful bear has a foot in our world, but may be edging closer to the spiritual one. Hopefully,  knowledge, awareness, and empathy, will ensure that the ursus maritimus remains firmly planted in this world.

The limited color pallette of Prussian (or Indigo) blue, white,  black, (and sometimes green ) creates the other-worldy mood, spirituality, and mystery.

Polar bears are actually not white, but we do see them that way. (Read the Polar Bears International article on their fur here).

The white in my polar bear paintings represents strength, intelligence, innocence, and hope.

Blue is the most popular colour. Looking at blue is proven to make one feel well, and is helpful to sufferers of SAD. The blue in these paintings is more than representation of the night sky. It symbolizes the earth, the spiritual, the unknown, and beauty, too.

When I paint the green of the northern lights, it is one of the colours of the aurora borealis, but also represents nature, fertility, life and balance. The colour reflects off the bear's fur, connecting it to all this colour represents.

And, as in many of my paintings, the concept of living life "in the moment" and of solitude that is not lonely is prevelent. But, longing lingers there, too.

In these paintings, the longing can be as simple as wanting these polar bears and their progeny to live a long. healthy life. 

I welcome your comments and inquiries. To see more polar bear art, or to make inquiries about my polar bear paintings (portraits, too), please feel free to comment below, or contact me  www.christinemontague.com

Looking to the Future

I hope, like this polar bear,  you can look ahead with hope, and that your year will be full of good health, caring, and whatever success you wish.  

Looking to the Future ©Christine Montague

Looking to the Future ©Christine Montague

Polar Bears in My Kitchen

It wasn't long after the stone tile backsplash was installed in my kitchen, that I started seeing things. Movement, right there in the 2" x 4" tiles.  As I stared, the tan, grey and white striations in the stone shapeshifted into landscapes. Snowy ones. Cloud-filled and foggy ones.  Dark ones.

As if portals to other worlds like in old school Star Trek .

Polar bear  drawing and  fox  drawing by Christine Montague

Polar bear drawing and fox drawing by Christine Montague

Christine Montague fantasy drawings
Christine Montague fantasy drawings

And these worlds, they seemed to be..gulp..inhabited! Polar bears and other bear-like animals, fox, and fish, and others, that I couldn't begin to classify.

I sketch portraits of these creatures when I can.   For the most part, they seem unaware I am there, as they fly, swim, and run past my window to their world. But when some stop  and gaze my way, I confess I sketch faster.

When Strange Neighbors appeared as a category in The Sketchbook Project, I sent my sketchbook their way. I had to let you know what lives with me in my kitchen. Even if you only believe it's all in my imagination.

The Sketchbook Project (www.sketchbookproject.com), is a global, crowd-sourced art project  and interactive traveling exhibition, of handmade books. It  is the flagship endevour  of Art House, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.. It consists of three libraries: Brooklyn Art Library, Mobile Library, and The Digital Library

Cram the Polar Bear World: The Sketchbook Project 2013

Copyright Christine Montague. "In the Presence of Royalty". The Sketchbook Project 2013". Grpahite. The little envelope containing my sketchbook from The Sketchbook Project, somehow was mislaid during my studio move, and completely out of mind with the excitement of family home for Christmas. My memory was suddenly jogged when The Sketchbook Project people wisely sent out a "deadline tomorrow" email yesterday.

There was no way I was going to miss out on this  terrific drawing project where artists from around the world have their sketchbooks (provided by the project) on display in the Brooklyn Art Library (U.S.A.), as well as online, and in a travelling art show.

So, what to do?! With less than 24 hours to fill a sketchbook, I would do the student "thing" and CRAM which, by the way,  became the sketchbook title, and maybe more than that , too.

And what did I draw? Why I followed The Sketchbook Project recommendations:

" The Sketchbook project is a space for new work and experiment - it's not intended to be a portfolio" and  " ...follow your book wherever it takes you and change your mind along the way".

And that's exactly what I did, I veered off the course of the few sketches I had done before Christmas and my move out of my Williams Mill studio, and spent well into the night immersed into my polar bear fantasy world.  You know how it is when you have a good book you can't put down? That's how I felt last night as I worked deep into the night with ease.

To read more about The Sketchbook Project 2013, and to mark it on your calendar to take part in,  visit www.thesketchbookproject.com

Also I'd love to know what you think of my foray into fantasy illustration, and if you'd enjoy more posts on this.

An Artfelt Wish for a Happy New Year

ImageToday was my last day as an artist with an open studio at the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre, Glen Williams, Ontario.  I have had a great three creative years there, including my time as the Mill Artist Group Chair. But a new year and a desire for more time to paint, blog, tweet and more, has me taking new steps. To all the hundreds of people that have visited my studio, and I hope you are one, I wish to thank you for your patronage, and wish you all a happy, healthy and creative 2013!

 

Polar Bears in Orangeville

No danger though, the seven polar bears in question are the 8" x 8" polar bear portrait oil paintings I completed earlier this year. This is their first excursion out of my Williams Mill studio, and you can see them at the Dragonfly Arts on Broadway Gallery in Orangeville, Ontario. Joan Hope, the very personable gallery owner, and a great lover of original art, and supporter of Canadian art & Canadian artists, saw them online and asked that I bring them in. Done!

These Ursus maritimus portrait oil paintings, inspired by Inukshuk, the Toronto Zoo's male polar bear, are studies for future larger artworks. Thus I have priced them similarly to my little portrait painting series (here) . They are 8" x 8" gallery mount canvases,  framed in black floater frames, and are easily shipped.

If you would like to see these polar bear portraits in person or would like more information. Here is Dragonfly Arts contact information: 189 Broadway, Orangeville, ON L9W 1K2 (519) 941-5249 ‎ · dragonflyarts.ca

Here's the google map http://goo.gl/maps/fwP4

Well, I realize not quite like the remarkable story of the British Columbia man who can swim with the polar bears, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7rZTZBOrqQ&noredirect=1 but I hope you enjoy perusing these works online, or at Dragonfly Arts.

P.S. Orangeville has a delightful main street, Broadway, with Dragonfly Arts, home design shops, Orangeville Theatre, an art supply store and a myriad of restaurants for every taste.  Plenty of free parking, too. I can't tell you how great it is to find parking almost in front of the gallery so I can unload my work with ease!

Polar Bear Portrait 1. "Inukshuk" 8" x 8" oil painting copyright Christine Montague

Polar Bear 6 oil painting portrait. Copyright Christine Montague

Polar bear Portrait painting 7 copyright Christine Montague

And for a great story about encounters with a polar besr listen to cbc radios The Wild Side with Grant Lawrence. It's great. http://www.cbc.ca/thewildside/

For some great reading about polar bears in Canadian north, and the effect of changes in snow on reproduction, read this related article

Dogs, Fog, and Collateral

About four years ago, as I turned onto Mayfield Road in Halton Hills, the rumps  of two large dogs, trotting amicably along, appeared immediately before me in the thick fog. Luckily, for the dogs and me, I was driving slowly having just stopped at a light, and that my car's fog lights were doing their job.

Upon hearing the car,  the dogs, both German Shepard, one black, and the other brown and black, traversed  to the opposite shoulder. They never changed pace, or even looked back.  It was only as I snapped a photo, that the brown and black German Shepard,  in the lead,  gave me a glance.

Have you seen the movie Collateral ?  There is a scene where coyotes cross in front of the taxi that holds Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. It was my favorite scene in that film, and that is how I felt when these two dogs crossed my path in the thick of the fog.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago. It was overcast and had recently rained. Driving along 22nd side road, on my way out of the glen, I glimpsed two dark shapes emerge from the trees on the hillside to the marshy field below. My first hope, however unlikely, was that these were wolves. I excitedly turned the car around, and over to the side of the road.

Lo and behold, there they were, the same two dogs I had enjoyed photographing in the fog years before.  I fumbled to get my camera out of its bag, and still keep both eyes on the dogs.  They were on the go, when suddenly, these two "littlest hobos"  plunked themselves  down in a large, dark,  mucky puddle. These two must have need a cooling off, further proof, of just how eerily warm March is here in Southern Ontario.

Before I could snap a shot, up and away they went, into the woods, and out of sight.

Back in the studio,  I took another look at the old photo of them.   I knew the brown and black German Shepard had a collar, but that pixellated item around the black dog is a broken rope? Could they be feral? Lots of good rabbit eatin' here in the glen.

No matter, whether farm dog or feral, they seemed healthy, happy, and a team.

Dogs are usually not my thing, but I love the image of the black dog, his pale breath clear in the fog, and the contented freedom the pair represent.

I immediately started the drawing of the black Shepard in fog on a large canvas. But the Mill  "open studio" days, Friday and Saturday afternoons, are  in reality "clean hands days".   So contentedly I painted  the tidy  18" x 24" oil painting study above.

And the dogs? If they do have a home, and I hope they do, I am uncertain how content the owner will be with their muddy exploits.

Polar Bear Portrait Painting 7

Polar bear Portrait painting 7 copyright Christine Montague The seventh in the series of little polar bear portrait oil paintings joins the fifth and sixth portraits of polar bears in the moonlight. The Toronto Zoo's male polar bear “Inukshuk” is the model.

By painting these little portraits  I am familiarizing myself with the shape of the polar bear's head and the structure of his eyes, snout and ears.

The eyes , although intelligent, are so small, I have to ignore my natural inclination is to paint them larger.  I love painting his thick, rounded fuzzy ears - the only thing "teddy bear" about him. But I'm not fooled. In Portrait 8, which I also finished this week,  I painted Inukshuk's very  large teeth.

Related articles

New Portrait Oil Painting: Polar Bear 6

 Polar Bear 6 oil painting portrait. Copyright Christine Montague

The sixth in the series of little polar bear portrait oil paintings now dries on my easel. The Toronto Zoo's male polar bear "Inukshuk" is once again the model, and as in the fifth portrait, he is lit by the moonlight. Two more of these little portraits are blocked in and waiting completion. Yup. Those big blank canvases are calling for attention now.