When It’s Okay For An Artist to Bring the Drama

Bringing drama into a wildlife painting is an attempt to help the viewer emotionally connect with the piece…

On the Art of Wildlife Painting by Dustin Van Wechel

Wildlife painting - Dustin Van Wechel, “The Search Continues," oil, 36 x 40 in.
Dustin Van Wechel, “The Search Continues,” oil, 36 x 40 in.

“The Search Continues” was inspired by a trip I took to Yellowstone National Park during the winter of 2021.

As a wildlife painter, I believe there’s no greater necessity than getting out to observe, sketch, and photograph my subjects first-hand. Doing so always results in inspiration for new paintings — ideas I might not have thought of without experiencing the environment and observing the animals in the field.

In this case, I photographed these bighorn sheep rams enjoying their day while I froze in -25 degree weather that didn’t seem to phase them in any way.

realist wildlife painting - Dustin Van Wechel, “The Catbird Seat," oil, 35 x 40 in.
Dustin Van Wechel, “The Catbird Seat,” oil, 35 x 40 in.

Bringing drama into a painting — especially in wildlife painting — is an attempt to help the viewer emotionally connect with the piece.

There are a seemingly limitless number of ways in which this can be achieved, but in the case of my work, I find creating a strong sense of light, movement, and including strong environmental elements are often helpful in painting a successful wildlife work.

In creating “The Catbird Seat,” I wanted to bring more to the image than just that of a simple cougar portrait. I wanted to tell a subtle story of the animal and its environment.

There’s a mystique to mountain lions brought by their shy nature and I hoped to give the viewer a window into the animal’s story they could feel a part of.

contemporary realism - Dustin Van Wechel, “Vagabonds," oil, 24 x 30 in.
Dustin Van Wechel, “Vagabonds,” oil, 24 x 30 in.

In 2021 I visited Denali National Park in Alaska during the height of fall color. I’d never experienced anything like it.

It’s difficult to put into words just how vibrant and intense the color can be across the tundra. After seeing it I knew I had to share that profound visual expereince on canvas.

This painting is all about textures, color, and light. I painted it with a heavy impasto in an attempt to create a dimensional surface quality that would help reinforce the textures and play of light I was looking to represent on canvas.

Connect with Dustin Van Wechel: dustinvanwechel.com

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