Portrait Paintings

A Sweetheart of a Polar Bear

The sweetness of babies is universal. Whether human, or animal, it seems we are all struck by the cuteness of the young. If you have been fortunate, you will have seen a polar bear cub. They are so cute, playful and funny, it almost hurts! So why, you wonder, does this portrait of a dear little polar bear cub have a baby's breath (gypsophila) flower crown on its head?

Well, the flower crown is a symbol of nature, tribute and celebration. It reminds us that our lives - nature and humanity, are as intwined as the flowers in the crown. ( For another flower crown painting visit here)

The white gypsophila represents the innocence of the young bear, and well, that its English name is “Baby’s Breath” is symbolic in itself. Not only do we want that little bear to keep breathing for many year’s to come, but also it’s a reminder, we all share the airspace here. We are connected, that what is important for the polar bear’s survival is also important to our quality of life, too.

Do you know, that my realistic polar bear paintings are all inspired by the photographs I have personally taken of polar bears? This cub is Juno who was born at The Toronto Zoo. I think she is now at the beautiful Assiniboine Zoo, Winnipeg, Manitoba. I have not exaggerated the fur - it quite naturally formed the shape of a heart!

Sweetheart Bear  . 12” x 12” x 1.5” original oil painting on wood panel. © Christine Montague For more information, please  contact me.

Sweetheart Bear. 12” x 12” x 1.5” original oil painting on wood panel. © Christine Montague For more information, please contact me.

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 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.

 

Big Bear Walking

Polar Bear Big

The polar bear is the world's largest carnivore whose place is at the top of the arctic food chain. Adult males can weigh up to 1200 pounds, and the largest polar bear on record was an amazing 2,209 pounds (1001.986 kg).

His brain is big, too. The polar bear is a smart animal, considered as intelligent as an ape.

And he knows how to play. (how smart is that?!) Research scientist, Alison Ames has seen them stack heaps of plastic pipes, then knock them down in elaborate games.

...And then there are those amazing big paws! They act as snowshoes on the ice, and paddles and rudders in the water.

He's big on beauty, too. A distinctive silhouette, thick white fur, small fur-lined ears, dark brown eyes and black nose. 

They have big, serious streetcred here on earth, with an origin that dates back to 4.5 million years ago.

If you would like to know more about this remarkable bear that, by the way, is the only bear that is a marine mammal, please visit Polar Bears International .  PBI is the world's leading polar bear conservation group.

polar bear painting by Christine Montague
polar bear painting by Christine Montague

If you need more convincing how wonderful these bears are, watch these videos on the baby polar bear saved by the Toronto Zoo. Warning: prepare to seriously bond.  http://www.torontozoo.com/polarbearcub/?pg=Video

 

 

 

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

Who's For Dinner... or is That Tea?

There are both advantages and disadvantages to being a self representing fine artist. A definite perk is that I get to meet, at least online, the people who will own my work.  Just as the client enjoys the story behind the painting, I like to learn why the painting touches the heart of the collector. Who's For Dinner?, a 48" x 48" black, white and silver oil stick and oil painting cat portrait of a silver Main Coon cat was purchased by a collector in Great Britain. The gracious owner sent me the photo above to show the painting in situ.

Some people buy their art totally from their heart and worry about where it will go later. The painting evokes a memory, or emotion or visceral reaction to the colour and/or texture.  They will find a spot for it somehow. They will switch around the room or the art in their home to suit the art work.  To them, that is part of the excitement and discovery of purchasing new art they are passionate about.

Who's for Dinner. Large scale Main Coon cat oil and oil stick painting by Christine Montague in situ at new home.
Who's for Dinner. Large scale Main Coon cat oil and oil stick painting by Christine Montague in situ at new home.

However,  it is equally valid to buy art with the intention it blends in with a particular room's decor. The paintings size, colour and texture, will add to setting's ambience. The painting will complete the room, not competes with it.

On the other hand, one may purchase a painting to be the focal point of a room. The art work's  size, subject (or lack of it), colour, and texture will dramatically call attention to it. The rest of the decor, like moons to a planet, will rotate around it. The decor will compliment it.

As I self representing artist I am fortunate in that I  get to hear the positive reaction to my art in person. There are many advantages to having gallery representation, but as a gallery artist, one often never knows who has purchased the one's paintings,  or where they go. But to be honest, although I get to meet the collector, and I always wish that the client has a lifetime of enjoyment from my art, in the past I never gave much thought where the client displays the art in their home.

Last year, I delivered a large Lake Dreams Series painting to a client's home where it got the approval of the decorator. The clients loved the painting's subject and mood, which they saw at the Arts on the Credit art fair, but they were specifically searching for an art work that would go with their newly decorated room. In particular, the painting needed to go with a pair of beautiful taupe chairs.  Fortunately for me, the painting really did look spectacular in the room, which was a calm and freshly designed setting. And  I was surprised how my painting of a dock and sky reflecting in the dark lake water, became a more formal art work in this environment. With hindsight,  I realize I should have asked permission photograph the painting in place.

So imagine my delight, when recently, and unbidden, the lovely photo above arrived in my mailbox.  In this case, I know the collector bought a painting he was passionate about.  He discovered it online and loved the portrait and scale of the Main Coon cat painting. But doesn't this photo also show he created a dramatic, yet fun,  focal point for the room, as well as an attractive decor choice? Don't you love the giant Main Coon cat sitting above those lovely gold chairs and black lamp? I am glad "Who's for Dinner?" made it safely from Toronto Area to Great Britain, and if  "Who's for Tea?" is a preferred title, I wouldn't mind at all.

Doors Open to Amazing Art, Architecture, and Vision

Spoiler alert! Don't look at the interior photographs of the Small Arms Inspection Building below, if you want to be surprised completely at  2013 Doors Open Mississauga art show and WWII related demos Saturday, September 28, 10 am - 4 pm.  small-arms-turquoise-door-window-8433 small-arms-tree-broken-window8452 small-arms-wood-ceiling-8468 small-arms-skylight-IMG_8477 small-arms-garage-door8492 small-arms-cupboard8518 small-arms-man-at-door-8532 small-arms-windows-welding-IMG_8733 small-arms-water-tower-8594 save-as-small-arms--main-room-8651 small-arms-metalIMG_8667 small-arms-dance-studio8552This remarkable 144,000 sq. ft. architecture has a rich history involving the war effort (where the Lee-Enfield Rifle was manufactured) , women's independence, and the revitalization of Lakeview, Mississauga (then Longbranch). It sits empty now, but  is it any wonder that the space, high ceilings, huge windows and skylights,have inspired plans to renovate it as a world-class  arts centre of working artist studios, performance space, art galleries, a museum and coffee shop?

To give you a hint of just how dynamic this centre will be, 30 artists (including myself)  will show and sell their art. My portraits of people and polar bears will be at the end of the hall on the first floor.

Also in the works! Heather Brissenden will sing hits from the Blitz, the Lorne Scots (this was once their home, too) machine gun teams will compete, The Honorary Colonel Gerald Haddon will speak about J.A.D. McCurdy, the Canadian aviation pioneer  and much, much more (really!).

There is plenty of free parking. Just find your way to Lakeshore Rd., and Dixie Rd, Mississauga, ON.  For more info on what's on, how to get there, and about the Small Arms itself, please go to www.smallarms.ca

 

New Portraits: Twice as Nice

Portrait oil painting of baby twin brothers. 6" high by 12" wide. www.littleportraitpaintings.com Copyright Christine Montague As you may know, LittlePortraitPaintings.com is my portrait business where I offer 6" x 6" portrait oil paintings (from a photograph) for a set price. It is a way for clients to buy original art, a one of a kind oil painting created personally  for them, at a good value.

I paint these smaller portraits with the same care and attention to spirit and detail I give to the larger , more traditional portraits I paint.

Interestingly, almost all these portraits are ordered as a surprise gift. When the client wants two portraits done on the same canvas, the solution is simple -  I paint on a 6" x 12" canvas.

Above is a 6" high by 12" wide portrait oil painting of  baby twin brothers, commissioned by a proud great grandparent. A loving first birthday present that these handsome little boys can treasure forever.

Below, is a 12" high by 6" wide portrait of a newly married couple, the happy young bride looking with adoration at her equally happy groom. This portrait was commissioned by the husband as a surprise (and romantic, don't you think?) 25th anniversary present for his wife.  Read more about this portrait  http://littleportraitpaintings.com/2013/09/06/painting-with-love/

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weddin portrait oil painting copyright Christine Montague

Wedding portrait oil painting of newly married couple. Commissioned to mark the 25th wedding anniversary of the bride and groom. 12" high x 6" wide.  Copyright 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!

 

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

More Little Portrait Paintings

For those of you who don't know I am gradually filling one of my studio walls with my 100 Little Portrait Project a series of 6" x 6" portrait oil paintings on canvas portraits. Here are a few of the portraits commissioned before Christmas.  I work from photos e-mailed to me, or from photos I take, if the subject comes to my studio on my "open to the public" days.

But so far, to my surprise,  almost every painting commissioned  is as a surprise gift for a loved one. Do you know that goes for my large portraits, too? They are almost always a gift!

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 

Now what? No. 9 of 100 Little Portraits Project

Just finished this new 6" x 6" portrait oil painting on canvas of a teen, "What Now." (said as a statement not a question) just long ago today for me to snap an iPhone photo of it and post it! Here it is http://wp.me/s1rNWY-68

Just a friendly note, the  link above simply takes you to my other Wordpress art blog 100 Little Portraits Project http://100littleportraits.wordpress.com

 

The 24th: Art & Legacy.

In a short while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will pay a visit to The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial "The Response" in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The Great War is a part of our shared history and with many of us still connected to a family history of relatives who fought, this striking memorial is a testament to all we have here in Canada now. When I painted this work of my son climbing on this striking memorial as a surprise gift for  his 18th birthday, little did I realize at the same time he had enlisted as a reservist. There are 23 larger than life figures on this dramatic statue and he is the 24th. His freedom symbolizes what these young soldiers fought and sacrificed for. The grandfather of a visitor to my Williams mill studio had been one of the models for this work. I wish I  had thought to ask her more questions, like his name, so it too, could live on.

Little portrait painting #6

Sold.  Above is portrait #6 completed March 18th, 2011.  Started number #7 today. Only ninety-three and a half 6" x 6" portraits to go for my "100 Little Portraits" project.

100 Little Portrait Paintings Begins

Baby Portrait Painting Copyright Christine Montague 2011 Last fall, I created a 6" x 6" cold wax portrait oil painting in an inspiring cold wax workshop with Janice Mason Steeves. The little monochromatic portrait received a lot of attention in class, on my blog and in the studio. At Christmas I was commissioned to paint a 6" x 6"  Siamese cat portrait oil painting. Not only did I enjoy creating this little portrait, it was surprising what a little treasure a portrait this size is. So for the sheer joy of it I decided I will paint 100 6" x 6" portraits over the next few months. I have other painting commitments so I won't be following the theme other artists have followed, for e.g. 100 portraits in 100 days, but I hope you'll keep checking back to see what's new. Better yet, subscribe to my blog and those portraits will arrive in your mailbox!

Meanwhile, I have other exciting news. My concept for the Salmon Run Project was accepted. This show opens June 9th, Art Gallery of Mississauga.  As soon as I pick up my "salmon" I'll start posting on that art project, too. Stay tuna! lol