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Wildlife portrait with a lifetime love of nature

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Wildlife portrait with a lifetime love of nature. Jan Martin McGuire grew up in Colorado, climbing tree canopies and catching reptiles. Today, those early experiences inform his artistic passions and his naturalistic painting. The artist, naturalist, and conservationist expertly channel her painting and world travel experience into art and wildlife conservation efforts. Her parents weren’t lovers of the outdoors or artists, but they gave McGuire the freedom to be who he was. And in those youth divisions in the foothills of the Rockies.

McGuire’s art and natural history business was fueled by a retired zoology professor who lived down the road. This neighbor’s home was an open realistic story library filled with eggs, nests, bones, and books. The discoveries he made there broadened his knowledge of him beyond his initial Golden Field Guides. However, the change came when McGuire’s father’s company moved him to Oklahoma.


In Oklahoma, the McGuire family bought a horse and started showing horses. At the same time, McGuire’s art has become even more animal-centric. Guire read with a skilled art instructor who helped her expand and add contemporary influence to high school. McGuire later attended the University of Tulsa to be close to his horses. The focus of the university curriculum was modern abstract. McGuire credits the University for teaching him contemporary art, but he focused on animal painting and natural history.

Three years after starting his program, McGuire realized he didn’t need a college degree to make a living creating and selling works of art. He retired, started his own fine arts business, and made ends meet by running a barn in Tulsa. After marrying her first partner, she left an hour northward to Tulsa and worked full-time on animal art.

Coming to acrylics

Her work at the time included prints, landscape drawings, and pen and ink creations. She’d set up booths at trade shows but realized she didn’t want to devote her career to what was becoming a pet portrait business. Working with the Polaroids his clients wear and not spending time with the animals he was drawing made him realize he wanted to paint. He began experimenting with means of returning to painting, including some he had used earlier in college.

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McGuire often shifts gears when he’s working and needs a vehicle that can keep up. Watercolor was not an option because it usually ended in disaster; the oil was off the table due to the smell and slow drying time. Ella McGuire wanted to sit down and create a painting in no time, and she soon realized that the acrylic was perfect. She had found the ideal way to fit her style.

Influence of famous artist

Wildlife portrait

After realizing how well acrylic paint suited her style and subject, she discovered Robert Bateman’s work. When it comes to wildlife drawing, Bateman is one of the best. Initially, a complex artist, Bateman began painting themes unknown in the wildlife art world – killer whales, tigers, and wildebeest-eating vultures – after studying the work of Andrew Wyatt. The world of sports art has changed forever. This change in wildlife art occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The print market was booming, and Bateman’s popularity was skyrocketing. McGuire first saw her work in a journal that had issued a short article for the newspapers, White Footed Mouse in Wintergreen.

After seeing that studies of Bateman sold out fast and that even on the small market, a print could cost $ 800, McGuire chose to start with a novel that Bateman had written. She then started signing up for Bateman’s seminars, so many that he called her favorite stalker. She took her teachings seriously and began to hone her vision of wildlife painting. Today, McGuire’s work is alongside Bateman in art museums, and she calls him to mentor and friend. Bateman called it his best success story.

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Find inspiration abroad

Bateman isn’t the only inspiration behind McGuire’s work. He attributes his numerous trips abroad as powerful influences on his art. He has traveled throughout North and South America, but Africa, home to abundant wildlife, has more intensely informed his work. McGuire traveled to Africa 18 times, visiting five different countries. His passion for painting indigenous themes of Africa is a trait he shares with Bateman, who often features tunes from the continent. McGuire tells us that Bateman says the difference in his African fauna paintings is that McGuire’s work represents more drama.

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From Masonite to canvas

The pictorial surface chosen by McGuire was Masonite, which allowed him to render feathers and furs realistically. However, he found that buyers often wanted to roll up the original paintings for transport. McGuire researched and discovered a pre-chalk watercolor canvas that he tested by trying all his techniques.

He liked what he saw, including the edges of the canvas. One criticism of his previous work on Masonite was that the edges were too hard. She found it seemingly impossible to create a hard border on the canvas and was ready to make the change.

McGuire’s painting process

McGuire stretches his canvas and tones it with burnt sienna when painting wildlife, using a 3-inch Purdy house brush. The texture of the canvas lets some of the base paint show through, giving your paintings a distinctive sheen. She is an expert in capturing rear and side lighting.

Starting from the background of the painting and moving towards the foreground, McGuire paints in multiple layers. Your goal is to create the illusion of detail without too many brush strokes. He rarely uses anything smaller than around n. 6 for very short hair on an animal’s face or small feathers around a bird’s eyes. To create the organic textures found in nature, you will use unconventional tools such as cellophane, foam sponges, sea sponges – all that help you get the look you want.

McGuire dances the brush lightly and casually, barely skimming the surface to capture the essence of herbs, weeds, or shrubs. When you paint the grass, he uses a thin brush to detail the individual leaves in the foreground in the painting. Note: If you stand in a meadow and look at your feet, you can see the individual blades of grass, but when you look into the distance, you cannot see every edge. It is a mistake for artists to try to detail them all.

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Capturing fur and feathers

McGuire says that painting everything in the same detail is “painting from the brain instead of the eyes. Guide students to use the photos and paint the pieces they see, not the picture in their minds. I often tell students that they have painted brainwork or brain rocks. That’s what happens when our brain tells us what something looks like and we paint it that way. It ends up looking cooked and unrealistic.

To realistically represent fur and feathers, the key is to see how they grow, positioned in similar footprints for mammals and birds. I build the fur and feathers in layers. I’m careful to work light on dark or vice versa to outline the fur and feathers, but don’t paint every piece of fur or every feather. If there are details on the face, the rest of the body can convey the illusion of detail.

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