oil painting

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.

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

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

 

 

A Polar Bear Benediction

Polar Bear Blessings

In Benediction, a 36" x 12" polar bear oil painting on canvas a polar bear, suspended upright under blue free water,  seems to be giving a blessing. Who would be the recipient of such a gift, do you think?

As with other paintings in the polar bear  Sink/Swim Series, we are at that tipping point of loosing much that is wonderful in this world. We need all the blessings we can get, and we should not only count them, but protect and nurture them, too.

I'm very blessed I can take the risk to follow my polar bear muse and look forward to where this polar bear art will take me.  Are you enjoying these polar bear paintings?  Let me know as I enjoy and appreciate your comments!

"Benediction" has a new home, but if you would like to have a polar bear in your home or office, or lucky you, polar bear lodge,  please check out what's available at  ChristineMontague.com 

Benediction  Polar bear painting SOLD  ©Christine Montague www.ChristineMontague.com

Benediction Polar bear painting SOLD  ©Christine Montague www.ChristineMontague.com

New Polar Bear Cub Painting Study 4

Sink/ Swim 3, A Polar Bear Cub Painting

Polar Bear Cub 3, a 6" x 12" oil painting study on canvas, depicts a polar bear cub mid-swim, beneath the water's surface.

The Sink/Swim Series

Sink/Swim3. Polar bear cub painting © Christine Montague www.ChristineMontague.com

Sink/Swim3. Polar bear cub painting © Christine Montague www.ChristineMontague.com

My polar bear Sink/Swim series of oil paintings offers commentry on the effect vanishing polar ice has on the survival of the polar bears. The delay in the formation of the sea ice, leaves the baby polar bear more vulnerable to attack by hungry male polar bears. The increased open water means the distance a mother polar bear must travel, polar bear cub(s) on back, before ice is found to rest on or hunt seal from,  increases the odds the polar bear bear cub(s), and even the mother, will make it safely ice top.

The sink or swim aspect can apply to the bigger picture of our planet as well. The decrease in the polar bear population is but one of the many consequences of increased global warming, and the resulting polar and glacial ice loss. Less ice means more dark water.

When polar caps melt, sea water rises. As a good part of the earth's population lives near the water's edge, well, we could all be swimming for it, couldn't we.

Anecdotal stories state that human babies will sometimes play as they drown, not realizing they are in danger.  With this chilling fact in mind, I wondered if polar bear cubs are aware they are in danger as they drown. I hope not.

Some may think of these polar bear cub paintings as "cute", not exactly a word a fine artist loves to hear. But, the fact is, it is difficult to paint escape the cute factor of a polar bear cub. I hope that the affection, admiration and concern I feel for these wonderful bears is evident, and that they evoke similar emotions in you, too. The thought that in the next 50 years then number of these magnificent polar bears may decline dramatically, is the furthest from polar bear cute I can imagine.

To sign up for my blog & newsletter, or for more info on my polar bear paintings or to buy a painting, please visit Christine Montague Polar Bear Art.

Soft Snow Polar Bear

New Polar Bear Painting

Mauja I sa 6" x 12" portrait of a polar bear taking it easy ion some soft snow.  Mauja is Inuktitut for soft snow. Inuktitut is the language of the Inuit from Nunavut, an arctic territory in Canada.

The painting above is just one the polar bear oil paintings available in my series A Celebration of Polar Bears, my way of creatively celebrating a celebration  of bears (what a group of bears is known as).

Mauja . 6" x 12" polar bear oil painting on canvas ©Christine Montague. Canada.

Mauja. 6" x 12" polar bear oil painting on canvas ©Christine Montague. Canada.

For more polar bear paintings please visit here.

To contact me about my art contact Christine Montague

10 Canadian Landscape Artists

I was a guest artist for a beginner's class where the students were learning landscape painting in acrylics and water-soluble oils.  I thought they would enjoy a quick look at some of our present day Canadian landscape painters and at the variety of landscape painting available.  I thought you might enjoy these artists and their work, too. Do you have a landscape artist you love? Let me know and I will create a new list withe the results.

Centre of Attention. Scottsdale Farm, Halton Hill, Ontario, Canada. Private collection. Oil painting copyright Christine Montague

Centre of Attention. Scottsdale Farm, Halton Hill, Ontario, Canada. Private collection. Oil painting copyright Christine Montague

  1. KIm Dorland Toronto, Ontario. Canadian Art writes "Synonymous in Canada with the idea of “extreme painting,” Kim Dorland rose to the forefront of the contemporary painting scene with his sculptural approach to impasto painting and his art is very much in demand.
  2. David LidbetterOttawa, Ontario.  "Contemporary feeling Group of Seven scenes pared down to their essentials. [Where] mood seems more important than the actual details of forests, rivers and skies." - Algonquin Art Centre
  3. John HartmanPenetanguishene, Ontario. Vivid, large-scale landscapes "straddle the line between abstraction and representation" -Studio 21
  4. Gregory HardySaskatoonSaskatchewan. Landscapes abstracted. Strong colour, bold, painterly. One of Canada's top landscape artists.
  5. Rebecca LastRice Lake, Ontario.  Of interest, Rebacca paints the same view of Rice Lake exploring its "turbulent chaotic swings of nature".
  6. Cesan d'Ornellas LevineRichmond Hill, Ontario. Cesan is an abstract expressionist painter who uses brilliant colour and thick impasto of acrylic gels, mediums, pastes etc. for her trees and topography on panel. Landscape painting is not Cesan's only subject matter.
  7. Georgina HuntCrescent Beach, B.C. Canadian wilderness, particularly the Rockies
  8. Gerald SquiresSt. John's,Newfoundland. A member of the Order of Canada for his contribution to the Arts
  9. Doug PurdonToronto, Ontario.Proficient in watercolour, acrylic and oil painting, and a Winsor & Newton rep for many years, this artist is a fountain of information.
  10. Robert GennVancouver, B.C. A prolific and popular painter who travelled the world painting en plein air (as well as the studio) and writing about the experience for Painters Keys. Painters Keys is a website Robert created to offer information, inspiration, advice, friendship and connectivity for artists worldwide. Robert Genn passed away in May 2014. His art and free Painters Key Newletter continues to managed by his daughter, Sara Genn.

Polar Bear Sitting Pretty

A Celebration of Polar Bears Painting

Inerkartok, is a 6" x 12" portrait oil painting on canvas of a polar bear sitting in the snow.  "Inerkartok" means pretty in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit in Nunavut, an arctic territory in Canada.  The polar bear in this oil painting is a pretty one, and I would like to believe she is sitting pretty, too.  Sitting pretty is an old idiom that means in a good place or a in a good situation. However, this recent Polar Bears International video on the retreating sea ice and the 40% decline in the polar bear population is far from pretty.

Canadian visual artist Christine Montague portraits and polar bears in oil on canvas
Canadian visual artist Christine Montague portraits and polar bears in oil on canvas

Inerkartok is just one of the paintings in my series A Celebration of Polar Bears.

More more polar bear info -

A Beautiful Bear...

...But Aren't They All?

Anana isa 6" x 12" portrait oil painting on canvas of a beautiful polar bear.  And that is what "Anana" means, beautiful in Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit in Nunavut, Canada's arctic. This painting is another of the polar bear oil paintings available in my series A Celebration of Polar Bears.  This painting is not framed, but the painting carries around the edges and is ready for hanging.

Christine Montague polar bear oil paintings, Ontario, Canada. Contact me at   Christine Montague

Christine Montague polar bear oil paintings, Ontario, Canada. Contact me at Christine Montague

Meet Polar Bear Painting Ursa

Here is another polar bear portrait oil painting from my A Celebration of Bears Series. I have named the little bear in this painting Ursa, for the northern sky constellation Ursa Minor or Little Bear. Please feel free to contact me or comment about any of these little bear artworks.

Ursa . (private collection) ©Christine Montague. Celebration of Polar Bears Series. 

Ursa. (private collection) ©Christine Montague. Celebration of Polar Bears Series. 

Celebrating Grace

Grace Joins the Celebration of Polar Bears Series

Here is my polar bear portrait oil painting "Saimarnerk" (the Inuit word for grace.) The largest predator in the Canadian north, this big bear moves with grace and ease across the frozen sea. A group of polar bears is known as a celebration. Saimarnek, or Grace was the first painting in my "A Celebration of Polar Bears" series of 6" x 12" oil paintings depiciting these magnificent arctic animals. Inspired by my recent journey to Cape Dorset, a remote Arctic community, most of these bears will have Inuit names. To see more polar bear paintings visit ChristineMontague.com

Saimarnek.    ©Christine Montague. For information on my art, please   contact me

Saimarnek.  ©Christine Montague. For information on my art, please contact me

A Celebration of Polar Bears

Although polar bears are solitary animals, when there is a group of them, it is known as a celebration of polar bears. Can you think of a better word to describe a gathering of these magnificent arctic animals?!

Polar bear oil paintings by Christine Montague, Ontario, Canada
Polar bear oil paintings by Christine Montague, Ontario, Canada

Each painting is a tribute to these intelligent, mighty arctic mammals. These portraits give a nod to their beauty, fuzziness, playfulness (goofy even?), but one should never forget their awesome teeth and powerful claws are ever present. Can you see their distinct personalities, too? 

Please feel free to contact me through Guestbook atwww.christinemontague.com or visit there for more polar bear art.

To learn more about polar bears, please visit Polar Bears International

 

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.

 

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

New Face of Portraiture: Mostly Online Except for the Painting

Baby boy portrait oil painting by Christine Montague. 6" x 6" on canvas. Here is my latest little 6" x 6" portrait oil painting on canvas. Commissioned by this dear little guy's mom, it was a joy to paint this bright little baby boy face.

This is an example of one of the wonders the internet holds for the artist and for the art collector. I  have never met this mom or  baby. In fact, they live hundreds of miles away.

The mom stumbled upon my web site while surfing online late one night (all new moms can relate to this). She took a photo of her baby in his stroller with her cell phone and emailed it to me. We discussed the commission process by email, including that I leave out details of the stroller straps, etc.

I received payment for the commission via snail mail, but, there are many payment alternatives available to buying online.  I  used Canada Express Post to deliver the carefully packaged portrait. This insured service supplied a tracking number that I shared via email with the client.  By the time I got home from the post office , only a short distance away, the online tracking info informed me the parcel was in the system, about to be on its way, and posted the estimated date and time of arrival.

Pretty amazing, I think.

If you would enjoy seeing more of my little 6" x 6" portraits please visit www.littleportraitpaintings.com

For larger oil paintings, please visit www.christinemontague.com

New Portrait: Baby Firsts

Christine Montague Portrait of a One Year Old Baby Girl This 6" x 6" portrait oil painting was commissioned to celebrate this pretty little baby girl's first birthday. I love creating these 6" x 6" portraits, more of which can be seen at my website www.littleportraitpaintings.com Every portrait teaches me something! A first for me? Why baby's first teeth!

 

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!