Evolution of my art. . . from 2002 to 2007
                                                                                           by Linda Jo Hunter

When I went to Alaska to work with Mike at Redoubt Bay Lodge I knew I would be spending many hours watching bears and I couldn't afford a good camera.  I was determined to teach myself to draw.  The first season in Alaska I would carry a very small sketch pad with me and whenever my guests were busy taking photographs and didn't need my help I would covertly take out my pad and try to draw bears.  My first efforts were primitive, but when I look back on those first drawings I can see how inspired I was by watching bears, real live bears that aren't romantically posed or majestically placed on some mountain . .      this drawing (done that first season) shows that I was starting to see  the bear's character.

In 2003 I practiced making quick sketch's of bears as they moved around the cove and did their daily routines of fishing, resting and reacting with each other. This is an example of the gesture sketch:

Then, I started to learn how to paint.  Because I was camping all summer, I started with watercolor pencils. My first efforts were very primitive indeed  . . it wasn't long before someone talked me into using watercolor paints instead. I didn't have time to take a class but thought I could figure it out for myself. . all the other artists are probably laughing here . . and I found out that making something look 3D in paint is not that easy, but whenever I just stuck closely to my inspiration I did OK. The following is an early watercolor of Baylee, asleep next to the cove.

      Baylee is a mother bear who is one of the main characters in the drama that surrounded the bears in the four seasons I worked at Redoubt Bay. She is the main character in "Growing Up Grizzly" by Amy Shapira and Douglas H. Chadwick, a true childrens story book illustrated with photographs taken by Amy as the story unfolded in the wild.  

The next one is a watercolor done at Redoubt Bay in our small cabin between the last plane for the day and dinner . . I used only sepia and cobalt blue to catch the mood. This was done in 2004.

As you can see, I am starting to realize that watercolor is also about the paint and the paper . . I especially like the portions of this that were done with wet paper and paint.

By 2005 I was starting to use the unpredictable nature of watercolor to acheive what I wanted. This next watercolor is of Mona, and her character does come out.

Mona looked at me with this expression and I snapped a photo. I also drew it on the spot and later put it together in the studio back in Stevenson, Washington. Mona is the old mother bear who in my book "Lonesome for Bears" forgets she has cubs sometimes. . and other stories.  Unfortunately she hasn't been spotted yet this 2007 season.  

By the end of the 2005 season I was starting to get frustrated as with watercolor as a medium for expressing what I have to say about bears. . I literally went back to the drawing board and produced this sketch:

This is done from one of Amy's photographs. Almost anyone would recognize Baylee from this one.  Shirlena, one of our guides saw some of my watercolors and sketches in Bahma's, a coffee shop in my town, and exclaimed "those are my bears" . . then she asked if they were my art.  I came in the coffee shop shortly after and the girls who work there told me all about it. But doing charcoal and pencil made me realize I needed another painting medium for a while. . not that I will ever give up watercolors. Mike gave me a class in Acrylics for a birthday present last fall with David N. Kitler, a Canadian wildlife artist and I painted the following:

This bear, one of Mona's daughters was named after Amy Shapira by the guides at the lodge. Unfortunately she was shot in Wolverine Cove by hunters in the fall of 2006, just before I took my class in acrylics.  Amy Shapira sent me a photograph of her and I painted this from it in class. There wasn't anything else I could do with this painting but send it to Amy.

        After this painting, I have been having a very good time making the memories of the bears I knew come to life in more detail in acrylic paint.

                                                                         I welcome your comments, just email me at 4linda@gorge.net

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