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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The importance of landscape

Some people never leave you.  I think of Bob Clem more often than I can say.  But the times I think of him most are when I see birds (especially raptors) in large, open landscapes.

It's hard not to like all of Bob's paintings, but some of my favorites are the scenes where the landscapes dominate and you have to look around for the bird at first.  You know the bird is going to be there, but it's small, perhaps sitting on a dune ridge, or perched on a tree limb somewhere in the distance.  

I like these paintings because they emphasize not only the attractiveness of the landscape itself, but the importance of the entire habitat to the bird.  And how well matched the bird is to landscape.

Tonight I watched a Peregrine Falcon hunting in the dim evening light.  From the cliffs of Bodega Head, the falcon looked very small against the enormity of the open ocean.  Yet it was incredibly fast and powerful as it flew low over the water.  Peregrine Falcons will use landscape features, e.g., cliffs, dunes, and even waves, to conceal their approach until they're close to potential prey.  This falcon seemed interested in birds sitting on the water.

I can't help thinking that Bob would have liked this view. 

P.S.  If you're not familiar with Bob Clem's work, you might be able to see some examples of his paintings online.  His earlier paintings can be found in The Shorebirds of North America.  And if you ever find yourself in Chatham, Massachusetts, consider yourself lucky and stop by The Atwood House Museum to see some of Bob's paintings in person!

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