If you're hiking in Yellowstone, you shouldn't approach certain animals, especially Buffalo. But sometimes, they put themselves right in your way and you stumble upon them suddenly. This is what happened to me last October while hiking in the backcountry. My two friends and I had to go off trail to avoid this bull. Behind him were numerous others in his herd and he seemed to be standing watch. It was obvious that we weren't going to use that section of trail so we quietly scrambled up a nearby hill to avoid being gored or trampled.
I took the photo above about 30ft away and was pretty nervous as we crept by. We had one more similar meeting with a Buffalo on a later hike. It's surprisingly easy to miss something so big as you crest a hill, but it happens and reminds you that you can't let your guard down that far from civilization. Luckily we didn't have any bear encounters during our time in Yellowstone, though there was no shortage of bear tracks and scat. Healthy reminders.
A few days ago, I decided to work from this photo and experiment with some recently acquired oil paint. Traditional oil paint takes several days to dry, unless you add dryers and mediums to it. I purchased Gamblin's trial set of their Fast-Matte colors because I wanted the working qualities and open time of oil without the days of waiting. The difference with this paint is that it's composed of both oil and alkyd resin, which explains the quick dry times. The Paint also dries to a matte finish, so it must be coated with gloss varnish if you want saturated looking colors.
I was very pleased with how this painting turned out in terms of working qualities of the materials and the formal elements of the painting. My first paint layers were dry and ready to be worked on top of after one day. By day three I was finished with this picture and able to varnish on day 4. This pace was very satisfying and I can see that this paint is going to open some creative doors for me. My next project will be a larger version of this same composition. The larger scale will create a very different experience of the Buffalo, and further enrich my appreciation for this creature.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.