nature

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.

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.

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

 

 

Here There Be Polar Bears

Polar Bear Goodness: a New Polar Bear Art Website & Art Blog at ChristineMontague.com

In case you are new to this art blog Camera & Canvas, I  am a visual artist who, until recently, created representational art i.e. realism oil paintings of figurative landscapescommissioned portraituregiant cat paintingscanoes, lakes& more.  After the polar bears were put on the animals "of concern" list, I painted the polar bear painting  With the Northern Lights in tribute.  I continued to have polar bears on the brain when shortly after that I created CRAM, a Polar Bear World for The Sketchbook Project. Increasingly, I found myself thinking about polar bear art, polar bear graphic novels,polar bear vacations...,you get the picture, all the while continuing with my portraiture practice & creating other representational art.

Fantasy sketch by Christine Monatgue www.ChristineMontague.com
Fantasy sketch by Christine Monatgue www.ChristineMontague.com

One Big, Giant, Scary, Polar Bear Step Forward

Onward into a polar bear world of my own!  Polar bear art, polar bear blog, and yes, and trips to Cape Dorset, Nunavut, the Canadian arctic,  to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, polar bear capital of the world, followed (but not at the same time!).

If you love art, polar bears, or think about climate change, I hope you will enjoy (or find some solace in) 

My website ChristineMontague.com is all about my  POLAR BEAR ART.

Myart blog? I hope you will visit www.christinemontague.com/blog

I have a new newsletter for the freshest painting off my easel, why I have painted it, art & polar bear news, art tips, Subscribe

One  thing is certain, in my part of the realm...Here there be polar bears. I hope that here there be you, too. 

The Polar Bear Zone

New Polar Bear Painting

Drying on the easel is the 24" x 18" polar bear oil painting above.  This painting is the direct result of the large painting  I created before it that took a lot of time, focussed attention, and physical effort to create.

How Things Unfold

One of the joys of painting is that artist often goes into "the zone". You may have heard runners speak of this loss of time and in the moment experience, but did you know that painters experience this, too?  

The day I finished the big painting, I still had the time and urge to paint. I spontaneously decided to work on a smaller canvas I had in the studio, and not begin the next large work I had planned.  

Because this painting was unplanned, I had no clear vision of what it would be other than to keep to my Polar Bear Dreams Series theme of monochromatic blue polar bears.  I was pretty relaxed as I blocked in the bear's portrait, as after all, I was basically playing at the end of the day.  As I laid down the blue under painting, I got to thinking how much I enjoy showing movement in the fur, and that I love doing the brush stroke that emphasises this.

Polar Bear painting copyright Christine Montague
Polar Bear painting copyright Christine Montague

Next thing I knew I had a swirly sky with stylized northern lights and stars. And colour followed the day after.  I think the fun and joy I felt while creating this polar bear tribute shines through in the work.  And the portrait has that odd mix  found in the polar bear - mighty, beautiful, intelligent, and somehow goofy at the same time.  My good spirits played a part in conveying the spirit of the bear and sky above.

 

Premonition: Ophelia and the Polar Bear

"Premonition: Ophelia and the Polar Bear", is a 36" x 48" oil painting on canvas, and another work in the Polar Bear Dreams Series.  Like the other polar bear paintings in this series, this art work is a blue, white and black dream-like tribute to the mighty bear.  This painting, however, has a mystery to it, a hint of tragedy, and possibly, foreboding.

The Premonition (Ophelia and the Polar Bear) ©Christine Montague

The Premonition (Ophelia and the Polar Bear) ©Christine Montague

The light of the aurora borealis (northern lights) reveals a young woman trapped in the ice to a passing polar bear. Who is she, and what is her connection to the polar bear and the north?

Artist Notes:

In 2011,  Canada’s Environment Minister declared the polar bear as a species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act.

The woman in this painting is after "Ophelia" by Sir Henry Millais (Tate Gallery, London, England). See the famous Pre-Raphaelite painting that depicts the death of Ophelia and innocence lost in Shakespeare's tragedy "Hamlet" here.

Flowers representing the Canadian provinces and territories replace those found in the garland in the Millais  painting.

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 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

Clouds Over Lake Huron

Clouds over Lake Huron. Photo copyright Christine Montague Have you been to Lake Huron?  A stunningly beautiful, dramatic, (and sometimes dangerous) body of water, where any hint of land on the horizon is a mirage.

It is the third largest fresh water lake on our planet and the second largest of the Great Lakes.  According to a The Beach DJ, empty Lake Huron and all of North America would be in 1.5 meters, or about 5 feet, of water.

One look at the expanse of Huron's turquoise waters, not to mention its white sandy beaches (the wilder ones) , transports me someplace otherworldy, and oceanside.

Lake Huron is a marvel.

This past February, water levels hit a record low, for a number of reasons. The natural cycle of the lake level is a cause, but so also is the dredging done to deepen the shipping channel in the St. Clair River. The dredging has caused the flow of water from Lake Huron and Lake Michigan to accelerate into Lake Erie and Ontario, and to the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

The impact? Very simplified: fish population dwindles affecting fish populations, wildlife food chain, sport fishing and fisheries. Water warms up, algae grows. Water lowers affecting water supply to residents, particularly of Georgian Bay.

Finally, in April, a long-awaited solution was announced. Like anything in life, we take a long time wrecking something, it will take a long time to fix. It is all better explained here. http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/04/29/great_lakes_to_get_relief_from_low_water_levels_porter.html

Wishing us all, blue skies and more turquoise water ahead.

 

 

 

Camera! (No) Action! Animals!

Recently, I have had access to a small private forest.  I set up a motion camera  to get a voyeuristic look at the creatures of the night. My real hope was to get images of a coyote in the brush before foliage appeared. I wanted to use this personally obtained reference for a  painting about solitude and alienation. For the first month the only evidence of any wildlife was the tiny silhouette of a bat far off in the darkness.  At least I knew the camera worked, but I had to reconsider its place. The results?  Something more suitable to a children's story. "Mr. Racoon, Mr. Possum and Ms. Cat live Alone in My Forest".  I have more animal action in my urban backyard.

Recently, when I was able to check out the camera, a new character arrived on the scene.  About 20 minutes after Ms. Cat prowled by, this fellow appears, and changes his course to follow what I believe are the cat's tracks. Hopefully, on my next check of the camera, I will see that this lovely fox was 20 minutes too late.

Fox checks out the tracks

 

Happy Spring Tulips

Happy first day of spring, everyone. We may still have snow in the Toronto area, and it is cold, too, but I can feel hope in the air , can't you? Sending some tulips your way! Cheers! (or is that cheer up?) Tulips at the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre. Copyright Christine Montague

Christine-Montague-tulips-Before-the-Light

Christine Montague Watering Can with Tulips

Christine-Montague-Tulips-Growing-out-of--her-head

 

The Dog's Gone

We've had such a great winter here in the Toronto area. The artists at the Williams Mill have been more than grateful not to face the ice and snow on the steep hills that lead into Glen Williams and the Mill studios.

But still, I felt a great sense of relief that spring officially arrived this past week.   And this expressed itself in the painting seen centre of the photo above.  Meant to be the finished painting "Dog in Fog" inspired by the study at the left  (also done last week ), I 'm thinking it could easily represent the departure of the "dog days" of winter and that the title needs a rethink.

About the chair. My daughter adored this chair  owned by Naomi Assenheim, (Opal Wing Creations) the talented young jeweller here at the Mill.  Naomi was my studio mate in the Stone Building, until her move to a new studio in the Williams Mill Yellow Mill (The  Mill has four buildings housing artist studios).  So I purchased this magical chair as a surprise gift for my daughter, but somehow it's never made it out of my studio.  Any visitors to my studio who are old enough to remember their parents having such a chair, or have owned one themselves,  are not too impressed by this new edition. But for those into retro furniture from the sixties and seventies, it's a definite hit.

And for me, its soft green and gold material inspires thoughts of spring and magic in the air.

What do you think?

PS. Normally, I load my high walls with my paintings. I enjoy this airier look, although it won't last for long as new paintings come to life.

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.

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.

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Canoes in Fog & Other Lake Dreams

"Canoes in Fog' a 24' x 48" oil painting, is the latest  in the Lake Dreams Series, my series of paintings of canoes &  water at the dock's edge.

Torn between labeling the series Dreaming of Summer and Cottage Dreams I did some  "dream"  research online. A dream about a lake that has still water represents a reserve of inner peace and spiritual energy. Such a dream provides solace and  security, as well.

My longing for an end to the gloomy spring and for escape to a lake (any lake!) inspired these paintings.  It wasn't the hot, noisy, splashy days by the water I craved. I dreamed of  those still and solitary moments at the water's edge. Those moments alone on the dock, reflections of clouds and blue sky leaving me wondering which world is real. Or the quiet of early morning, before the others are awake. The mist or fog not yet cleared, and the world  dreamy and undemanding. Time to contentedly reflect and contemplate, the spirit replenished.  Yes, these are definitely Lake Dreams paintings.

But what about canoes and dreams? A canoe in a dream represents serenity, simplicity, and independence. I don't know what six canoes overturned represents though. Normally in art, odd numbers of items, make for more interesting composition. Artistically this still applies to my work, as the overlapping canoes read as one shape. Squint and you'll see what I mean. (See some other canoe paintings here here)

However, there are six of them. In dreams, "six" stands for co-operation, balance, tranquility, perfection, warmth, union, marriage, family and love. Mental, emotional and spiritual states are in harmony.

And the fog? Positive changes are afoot if the fog clears in the dream. In this painting, Canoes in Fog, the fog is lifting. The promise of clear day, with time spent on the water, lies ahead.

Fall is now officially here. I never did get away this summer, or was anywhere near a lake. These paintings, and  the paintings of "dreams" to come, will have to give the solace I need until next summer.

This winter, if you need solace, or a reminder that summer will return,  you are welcome to see what "Lake Dreams" are in my Williams Mill studio most Friday and Saturdays 12 - 5 p.m..

Night Canoes

Night Canoes. Latest work drying in the studio! 24 inch tall by 48 inch wide oil painting on gallery canvas. Glowing in the moonlight these vessels are in limbo between yesterdays adventures and tomorrow's excitement. I wonder what their masters are dreaming of? Where they were, what lies ahead or a jumbled story of both.

Please note: The colour isn't quite correct in  this iphone shot.

New Painting "To Valinor"

Through the looking-glass of the lake, there is another world. Like  passage into Valinor, this indigo world patiently awaits your visit. Can you feel the stillness? The relief and solace from the difficult world beckons. It is time to go.