Into the fray
Edward Aldrich’s wildlife paintings do more than simply transfer photo to canvas. While superbly photorealistic, his animals are also deeply expressive, their personalities permeating the two-dimensional space and connecting with viewers on a human level. The artist travels to various locations to observe the wildlife he paints, sometimes going into the wild and sometimes to captive environments like sanctuaries, taking reference photos and often getting what some might feel is too close for comfort to the animals themselves.
Oddly enough, he explains, it’s actually in these captive environments that he’s able to dive more deeply into the personalities of the animals and form a connection with them. “It’s such a miraculous thing, and I want to try to imbue the paintings with that emotion,” he says. This is a cornerstone of his artwork.
When working on a piece, he finds himself focusing intently on the textures of the fur or the glassiness in a beast’s eyes. “I look for how I can more accurately depict these wonderful nuances in the face and the body…the more accurate I am in depicting my feeling of the animals, hopefully that expression will come through.”
Mountain Trails Gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, hosts an exhibition for the wildlife artist this June showcasing a new body of work. This series of paintings, in particular, evokes a sense of intensity, and in some cases, danger. Aldrich frequently works with predators, looking to capture a moment of heightened emotion. “I choose the images that show that intensity in the animals,” he says. It’s about making a connection with the viewer. “I think that’s what people relate to...seeing their power and magnificence. So I try to bring that to the forefront.”
The Colorado-based artist says he’s been reflecting recently on the four elements he strives to capture in his work: personality, texture, color and mood. When asked how he achieves a certain mood in his work, he explains, “To me, it’s the overall feel of a piece. So if you’ve got a foggy setting in your painting, there’s a certain mood to that. Unrivaled—that’s what I call a mood piece. The bison is front and center and it’s
obviously about that animal...and it’s not just any animal, it’s an amazing, old craggy looking bison.” He continues, “It’s kind of a misty almost dusty background that goes off into darkness. If it were a sunny day with mountains in the background, it’d be a completely different piece. I wanted this to have a different mood than just a bright sunny day.” Instead, the piece creates a feeling of mystique.
In Falling Snow, a black wolf is set against an ominous, foggy snow scene. “It had a little eeriness to it. It definitely had power,” he says of the photo that inspired the piece. Aldrich was able to venture into a pen with a group of wolves at a wolf sanctuary and work with them for a while to prepare. Although the weather was clear that day, he decided to depict the predator standing in snow to create a more subdued, mysterious tone. “I wanted to capture that wolf essence, and that falling snow brought a little something to it that gave it some energy and made it interesting,” he says.
An artist reception for Aldrich’s upcoming show will be held on Thursday, June 20 from 5 to 8 p.m. “It’s just a joy,” he says. “There’s no other way to describe it. It’s something I hope I don’t take for granted in the number of experiences I’ve had with these animals, and I don’t think I will.”
Falling Snow, oil, 38 x 38”
Thunder, oil, 24 x 36"
Unrivaled, oil, 46 x 60”
Wildlife artist Edward Aldrich painting in plein air.