Polar Bear Art
In this new series of polar bear portrait oil paintings on canvas, a beautiful polar bear is portrayed against the setting sun, and the arctic sea.
It is spring. The polar bear’s solitary journey in search of seals, a mate, and shelter on the sea ice is coming to an end for another year.
The darkness of the arctic winter day vanishes along with the sea ice. Sunshine returns and so do the glorious big sky sunsets.
As the day draws to an end, the sun’s glory is reflected off the open water, the remaining ice, and the polar bear's translucent fur - sea, ice and polar bear connected by its light, colour and warmth.
We can reflect, too. What will we lose under the threat of climate change? A setting sun offers hope with a new day ahead, but "into the sunset" can also signify the end.
This is the first polar bear painting in the new series . Let me know what you think.
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!
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)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
2nd Annual TWAC (Toronto West Artist Collective) Members Show
Please note: Extended until July 25th, 2017
345 Evans Ave., Toronto (Etobicoke), Ontario, Canada
Contact Artworld Fine Art Gallery for more information.
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.
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 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?
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
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
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
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.
New Polar Bear Cub Painting Series
The polar bear cub painting below comments on sea ice loss and its effect on polar bears.
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 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 landscapes, commissioned portraiture, giant cat paintings, canoes, 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.
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)
Myart blog? I hope you will visit www.christinemontague.com/blog
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One thing is certain, in my part of the realm...Here there be polar bears. I hope that here there be you, too.