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.
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.
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 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).
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.
- 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.
- 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
- John HartmanPenetanguishene, Ontario. Vivid, large-scale landscapes "straddle the line between abstraction and representation" -Studio 21
- Gregory HardySaskatoon, Saskatchewan. Landscapes abstracted. Strong colour, bold, painterly. One of Canada's top landscape artists.
- Rebecca LastRice Lake, Ontario. Of interest, Rebacca paints the same view of Rice Lake exploring its "turbulent chaotic swings of nature".
- 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.
- Georgina HuntCrescent Beach, B.C. Canadian wilderness, particularly the Rockies
- Gerald SquiresSt. John's,Newfoundland. A member of the Order of Canada for his contribution to the Arts
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Inerkartok is just one of the paintings in my series A Celebration of Polar Bears.
More more polar bear info -
...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.
As fascinating as it would be to actually have a polar bear in my artist studio to paint "live" from, I realize the "live" part probably wouldn't apply to one of us for long.
So to simulate this experience I brought up one of my photos of the wonderful Inukshuk (the adult male bear at the Toronto Zoo) on my laptop. I positioned my laptop at a distance and height a human model would sit in front of the easel. Imagining the model before me was 3D, I blocked in the shapes, values and colours I observed on the blank canvas. There was nothing drawn up before hand.
In this style of painting, the background is more than a backdrop of colour to hide the white canvas. The paint helps carve out and define the outer edge of the head, helping it to stand out from the canvas. Only at the end of the portrait painting are the fine details, and pure blacks and whites added.
Of course, for me, whether the portrait subject is human or otherwise, the big reward is always when I get to finish the eyes. Thanks to the magic of oils, the polar bear eyes in these portrait paintings, as well as in my imagination, are very much alive.
Polar Bear Paintings Aurora & Borealis
Here are two more polar bear oil paintings in the Celebration of Polar Bear Series -.Aurora and Borealis. They are named, or course, for the aurora borealis, the northern lights that dance so brilliantly in the arctic sky. The size, beauty, and intelligence of the polar bear, makes this bear as magically magnetic as the northern lights.
Polar Bear Painting Aurora
Polar Bear Painting Borealis
Borealis is a latin word that originates from the Greek personification of the north wind boreas.
Canada's arctic is home to over 60% of the world's polar bears but they also live in the arctic areas of Alaska (U.S.A.), Greenland, Norway and Russia (that's it, folks).
The word Boreas reminded me of Boris. They are not pronounced the same , but close enough, and so I often think of this painting as Boris, a popular Russian name that is fun to say, and is a nod to all the Russian polar bears, too.
A group of polar bears is known as a celebration of polar bears. That is exactly what my polar bear portraits oil paintings are, happy, heartfelt celebratory tributes to these magnificent arctic animals.
Please visit Christine Montague Portrait Oil Paintings & Polar Bear Art for more information about these and other paintings.
Meet a Polar Bear Named Silatuyok
Silatuyok is the Inuit word for cute and intelligent, and so the perfect name for the lovely polar bear in the oil painting below. But as adorable as the big guy in this polar bear painting may seem, I have given a nod to his real nature - an intelligent, playful, but deadly predator - by making sure his giant nonretractable claws are clear. I actually love painting those big paws with the claws almost as much as those thickly insulated ears, and coal-black nose.
Silatuyok is just one of the recently created paintings available in my new A Celebration of Polar Bears Series.
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.
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
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?!
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
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.
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.