“How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it is certain that they do understand. Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another soul.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett
I paint portraits. As in painting a human being, painting an animal brings the same challenges and joy to me. The more closely I look at animals, watch them, study them and photograph them I realize that they portray many of the same characteristics that we humans do – and usually with much more compassion for others.
For the past few years I have been building a body of work of animal portraits. Whenever I am in a new area I seek out their local zoo or, in the case of Raleigh, NC, where I have family, a research center. There is much objection out there to zoos and while I fully understand the zoo naysayers’ views, I also know that many of these animals were born in captivity and most likely would not survive in the wild. Some zoo habitats are better than others, and seem more humane while others do make me cringe. There have been instances when I can see sadness, frustration in the animal’s eyes but at times, and more often than not, I do see curiosity, intelligence and contentment. My goal is to portray the emotions I see and to represent the majesty of the animal as best as I can.
To date I have visited zoos in Portland, OR, Denver, CO, Rochester, NY, New York City and Asheboro, NC. My latest adventure was to the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC. The Duke Lemur Center does non-invasive research with their population of several hundred lemurs of different breeds. Most of us are most familiar with ring-tailed lemurs but there are other breeds. Their goal is to learn ways to keep lemurs from becoming extinct as they are well on their way to doing so. I urge you to check out the Duke Lemur Center and see for yourself the good that they do. http://lemur.duke.edu
While visiting the center back in June I was able to take their “walking with the lemurs” tour and it was fascinating. Here we were out amongst the lemurs and I was able to get some amazing photographs for future reference for paintings. I would highly recommend this tour if you ever get the chance. It is worth every penny!
I hope you will stop by our studio at the Hungerford, 1115 E. Main St., Rochester, NY, any First Friday (5-9 p.m.) or Second Saturday (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) to see what animal I am painting. I would love to talk to you about them. Commissions welcomed!
There is always something to see and talk about with one of us, The Main Street Artists. We all love to share what we are doing. If you want to stop by during the week call 585-233-5645 first to make sure I am there and I would be happy to show you around our two studio spaces.
– Suzi Zefting-Kuhn
Prints are available of most originals.