Reference Photos

Painting of the Spirit Bear

Reference photos are incredible resources. Photographers look at the world through entirely individual lenses, no pun intended. One photographer I love is Don McVee. I don’t know much about Don. He was born about the same time I was. He likes photography, travel, and kayaking, not necessarily in that order. He served 38 years in the Canadian Army and enjoyed the last 20 years without anyone telling him how to do so. Born in England, Don operates an Olympus EM 1 II (x2) camera with incredible soul.

Spirit Bear

The first time I saw Don’s photograph of the Spirit bear, I was overwhelmed with what he had captured and knew I had to paint that bear. Paintings, even artists who paint photo-realistically, make no pretense that paintings are photographs. When I paint, I strive to capture light, emotion, movement, and color. It’s how I tell my story. Photographers may do the same, but our mediums are worlds apart.

‘Spirit Bear,’ the painting, is based on a reference photo by Don McVee and used with his permission. Spirit Bear or, more properly, the Kermode bear, is a rare subspecies of the American black bear found in the temperate rain forest North of Seattle in British Columbia, Canada. Most Kermode bears are black, but there are between 100 and 500 fully white individuals. They are not albinos.

Please visit Don McVee’s album on Flickr. In the future, watch for other paintings based on his wonderful work. The Osprey is a great example. I have tried to photograph this magnificent bird many times. No joy. Don’s photos of Ospreys make my heart sing..