Adam Smith has a spectacular view of the Bridger Mountains from his studio in Bozeman, Montana, but to get some of his newest paintings he had to leave the studio and venture out into nature. That’s the way it should be for a wildlife artist, he says.
“Being out there in it and around it, nature has a way of really inspiring you,” Smith says, adding that fellow wildlife artists are always pushing each other to find great viewing spots, where the animals tend to congregate and wildlife artists tend to lurk about silently. “My dad [painter Daniel Smith] was just up there a week ago and Kyle Sims was up there recently, too. Just recently the three of us were up in Banff National Park in Canada. We all ended up shooting similar scenes, but each of our interpretations was so unique that we produced entirely different work. Us wildlife guys like to stick together because we’re all buddies and it creates a community where we can help each other out, and yet we each paint in our own unique ways.”
It was up in the Bridger Mountains where Smith was inspired to paint Onset of Winter, featuring three mountain goats, their fluffy white coats contrasting with the white snow with bluish shadows in the foreground and the white clouds against a blue sky in the far background—white on white on white. “This scene came from near Sacagawea Peak in the Bridger Mountains. I try to get up there every fall, particularly in mid October right as the snow hits,” Smith says. “On that particular day there were three of them hanging around. It’s a popular hiking area so they’re used to a human presence on the mountain so it makes it easier for a photographers and artists. That was one of the best visits I’ve had up there. Sometimes you go up and come back with nothing. With their coats, though, there are so many subtle nuances, especially when you’re painting white against white. One thing I love is to get warms and cools to go up against each other when you’re painting white like that. They’re challenging animals, polar bears as well, because their coats have these subtle value changes within them. This one was pieced together from several different photographs and I was just dying to paint it.”
Onset of Winter will be one of seven new works Smith will be showing at Natural Selection, a new wildlife exhibition of Smith’s work opening September 10 at Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Other works include On Target, showing a lynx padding through a thick blanket of fresh snow; The Overseer, which shows a cougar on the hunt from atop a large cluster of rocks covered partially with snow; and The Rut, an up-close view of a bison.
Smith adds that wildlife art is a timeless genre because animals are an endearing subject. “People just love animals. They are so drawn to them, and a lot of times they usually have had a similar experience to the painting. It draws them in even further,” Smith says. “If it’s a mountain goat or a grizzly, maybe they saw one in Glacier National Park. It just takes them right back. Just look at how crazy people are with their domestic pets, well it carries right over to the wild world as well. Wildlife art will never die. It’s an important part of conservation and people will forever be fascinated with it.”
The Overseer, acrylic, 30 x 22”
Onset of Winter, acrylic, 28 x 40”
On Target, acrylic, 16 x 24”
The Rut, acrylic, 15 x 16”