Toronto Zoo

There's a Bear Model in My Studio

As fascinating as it would be to actually have a polar bear in my artist studio to paint "live" from, I realize the "live" part probably wouldn't apply to one of us for long.

Polar bear portrait study 1.   ©Christine Montague. Polar bear oil paintings on canvas. 12" x 12". Contact Christine  here .

Polar bear portrait study 1. ©Christine Montague. Polar bear oil paintings on canvas. 12" x 12". Contact Christine here.

So to simulate this experience I brought up one of my photos of the wonderful Inukshuk (the adult male bear at the Toronto Zoo) on my laptop.  I positioned my laptop at a distance and height a human model would sit in front of the easel.  Imagining the model before me was 3D,  I blocked in the shapes, values and colours I observed on the blank canvas. There was nothing drawn up before hand.

Detail: Polar Bear Portrait 2  . (private collection). ©Christine Montague 12" x 12" polar bear oil painting. Please feel free to comment below or comments & inquiries are always welcome   here  .

Detail: Polar Bear Portrait 2. (private collection). ©Christine Montague 12" x 12" polar bear oil painting. Please feel free to comment below or comments & inquiries are always welcome here.

 

In this style of painting, the background is more than a backdrop of colour to hide the white canvas. The paint helps carve out  and define the outer edge of the head, helping it to stand out from the canvas. Only at the end of the portrait painting are the fine details, and pure blacks and whites added.

Of course, for me, whether the portrait subject is human or otherwise, the big reward is always when I get to finish the eyes. Thanks to the magic of oils, the polar bear eyes in these portrait paintings, as well as in my imagination, are very much alive.

Polar Bear Portrait Study 3.   ©Christine Montague (Please note that this image is slightly cropped. ) . For comments and questions about any of my art please   contact me.

Polar Bear Portrait Study 3. ©Christine Montague (Please note that this image is slightly cropped. ) . For comments and questions about any of my art please contact me.

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

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

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.

New Portrait Painting: Polar Bear 5

This is the fifth 8" x 8" polar bear portrait oil painting in my "Polar Bear Dreams" Series. Inukshuk, the male polar bear at the Toronto Zoo is my model.

The first four little portraits (here) in these series have aqua blue backgrounds that suggest ice. However, as the larger works in the series will feature polar bear in the night sky, I switched to the dark blue background. As much as I love the first four portraits, I am quite satisfied with the result.

Don't you feel you are there, with Inukshuk, in the moonlight?

A Timbit Paints Another Polar Bear Portrait

"Polar Bear Portrait 1" is an 8" x 8"  head on portrait of  Inukshuk, the male polar bear at the Toronto Zoo.

It is the first of four studies in my  new miniature oil paintings series of polar bear portraits. By painting this little canvases, I' ve improved my understanding of the polar bear face and head.

Polar bear eyes are brown, close-set and face forward. I've learned that their eyesight is similar to our own, and that they are fortunate to have a protective membrane over their eyes may shield them from ultraviolet light. No snow blindness for them.

The polar bear 's rounded ears lie flat against his head when underwater.

And the polar bear does not, as I believed , hide that terrific black nose,with either his left paw (or the right one) when  hunting. You can learn more about polar bear myths and misconceptions at this Polar Bears International page.

Don't you just love the mighty Inukshuk's great big, handsome, snuggly toy of a face? Don't you just want to hug him? But I'm not fooled. I know in Inukshuk's eyes, I'm just a  Tim Hortons timbit in waiting. Better make that a Boston Creme.

Alert! Mini Portrait of a Big Bear

"Alert"  is the fourth oil painting in a new series of miniature polar bear portraits.  Meet Inukshuk, the big male bear in the Toronto Zoo.  He's quite the character . I am familiarizing myself with these wonderful bears in preparation for working further on the fantasy  series "Polar Bear Dreams". See the first painting of the series here.     

 Canada has put Polar Bears on  a "Special Concern" list. Here is the Toronto Star article http://bit.ly/s9FZGu 

New Art: Polar Bear Dreams Swimming in the Night

In my new oil painting, Swimming in the Night, a polar bear swims among the stars. The aurora borealis (northern lights) glows in the sky beyond. The wistful feelings and the ambiguity of water and sky in my  Lake Dreams Series inspired this painting's mood and story.

Recently, I made the journey to the  Toronto Zoo for one last look at the elephants before they're sent away. (Read that story here). But what's a trip to the zoo without a visit to the polar bears?  I love polar bears, an intelligent, beautiful, and mighty creature.

Only one bear was out that day. As she swam idly in the pool below me,  she watched me out of  the corner of her eye.

In Swimming in the Night, the water my Toronto Zoo polar bear swims in becomes the night sky. Reflected light and water ripples become the northern lights and stars. A portrait of a very real bear (Thank you, Toronto Zoo polar bear), this oil painting is also a sad testimony that this spirit in the sky may someday be all we have left of this endangered species.

.