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Black Bear Portrait by Andrew Denman <Back to Thumbnails "Looking Up III"
40 x30"
Mixed Media (Oil over Acrylic) on Cradled Board
Black Bear


This is my first painting of a bear, which for someone who has been painting wildlife (and almost exclusively wildlife) for over twenty years is saying something. Bears are a popular subject, especially in the western wildlife art markets, but my relationship with them has always been complicated. When I first began traveling to places like Wyoming and Colorado, I was constantly frustrated by near misses at seeing a bear in the wild. I would frequently arrive a moment too late to the crowd of roadside cars in Yellowstone, only to be informed that everyone else had had a close encounter with a bear and that I had just missed it. Attempts to see bears in captivity were interesting, but I left with reams of photo reference of what looked essentially like shapeless black blobs, hardly inspired to translate the experience into art.

Finally in 2018, during a visit to Colorado with friend and fellow artist Lyn St. Clair, I had my wild bear encounter. Seeing a black bear with cubs in the wild engendered a new respect for these animals, and the idea for a painting began to take shape. That idea crystalized while watching the black bear that resides at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in my new home of Tucson, AZ. Some avian activity overhead caused the bear to look up pensively into the sky, a gesture that echoed the pose I used in �Looking Up,� a portrait of a cougar I painted several years before, and �Looking Up II,� featuring a bobcat in the same format. All of these pieces share the same general compositional format: the subject looking up from darkness into an indeterminate light source, with a lot of negative space. These simple and modern compositions suggest the uncertain future of all wild things and wild places, but also a sense of hopefulness for a future of understanding and coexistence between man and beast.

In this particular piece, I was fascinated by the blue and violet sheen of the bear�s fur contrasting the golden hued highlights. Though significantly muted, yellow and violet is certainly the basis of the color composition. The contrast between dark and mysterious violet and warm, enlightened yellow, lends the painting a contemplative atmosphere.

Welcome to the online home for artwork by Andrew Denman, a California �based, internationally recognized, award-winning contemporary wildlife artist. Denman primarily paints wildlife and animal subjects in a unique, hallmark style combining hyper-realism with stylization and abstraction. His dynamic and original acrylic paintings can be found in museum collections on two continents and in numerous private collections in the USA and abroad. His clear voice, unique vision, and commitment to constant artistic experimentation have positioned him on the forefront of an artistic vanguard of the best contemporary wildlife and animal painters working today.
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