Once, I borrowed bones from someone I knew, whose husband was a polar bear biologist. I was living in the Arctic at the time. We met at her house for tea, as I was considering buying her piano. Spotting them, I asked if I could borrow the bones, as I wanted to paint them.
She said to me, “What colour would you paint them?” I laughed and said I wouldn’t be painting the actual bones. I wanted to use them as a reference. So she thought that was fine then.
They came home with me to live in my studio for a while. There was a polar bear skull and a muskox skull. And a couple of other things, I don’t recall what they were now. I did end up buying her piano too.
Here are some of the resulting drawings following my tea visit with a friend. I did these studies years ago showing line, form, shadow, light and sometimes colour. Mostly pen & ink, with a watercolour wash, a polar bear skull, muskox, and I can’t remember what else.
Georgia O’Keefe worked with the primary forms of nature, focusing on shape and colour, and painted bones. That’s where I got the idea to use the skulls as subjects. An admirer of hers ever since my early painting days, I even went to Ghost Ranch, where she lived and painted. I also painted frequently here, though much later. Here I am en plein air in the desert.
All of this started during one cold winter in Yellowknife, when I stumbled upon the book, “Portrait of an Artist“. It was her biography, and I read it with great enthusiasm. I was transfixed with her, even though, as yet, I had not seen her artwork.
Since this was before the home computer, I did a lot of digging to find her work, and since have collected several of her books and books about her. That led me to my first of many trips to New Mexico. This was eventually thanks to an ad in the back of American Artist magazine. The Southwest is definitely my spiritual home.