White Ibis (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

23.75 x 21 in | 60.3 x 53.3 cm

By the end of the day, we had taken so many pictures of white ibises that I had to laugh at how digital cameras have freed us from needing to conserve film. The wonderful thing about having “too many” pictures, is that somewhere in the bunch there might just be one that makes a good composition with very few changes needed. This Ibis composition was almost one photograph, but I still ended up using a second in order to get the true range of colour for the eye and bill.

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Click for detail.

I had fun with the juxtaposition of textures in this painting. The background and the body of the bird are very smooth, while the shells that the bird stands on are rough and thickly layered. I almost couldn’t believe how much white paint went into making that pile of shells. Now that it’s dry, the foreground is quite sharp to the touch.

For me, this composition seems to express some of the peacefulness that I always find when visiting the islands of Sanibel and Captiva. Almost the whole painting is made up of soft colours. The few points of intense colour are the eye, the beak, and the small pieces of seaweed in the foreground, which add refreshing contrast.

Purple Columbine (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

18 x 15 in / 45.7 x 38.1 cm

One of my favourite things to do when I’m hiking, or in a garden, is to sit close enough to a flower so that the features of the flower become a landscape of colour and texture—a magical world unto itself. In this painting, I invite the viewer to see the purple columbine in such a way. I chose to use an unusually small panel to encourage intimacy between viewer and flower.

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Click for detail

The purple columbine (Aquilegia coerulea) is a hardy little flower, despite its delicate appearance. It can live through cold temperatures, at high altitudes, and even wedged in the cracks of very rocky terrain as it is here. There are so are many species of columbine that it sometimes becomes difficult to determine the name of one particular plant. This flower gives itself away by its deep violet, almost indigo and white petals.

When my grandmother first saw this painting she told me a story about the columbine in her garden. The columbine is a perennial, so they should return every spring. But the little sprouts that popped up in the spring looked a lot like weeds to my grandfather, who pulled them out. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that my grandmother was especially excited about this painting. The painting now hangs in her bedroom, where she can see it every morning as she awakens, all through the year.

Pika on Lichen-covered Rocks (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

28 x 24 in | 71.1 x 61 cm

When I was a kid, I was familiar with the usual animals like cows and ducklings from my children’s books but I had never heard of a pika. It wasn’t until I grew up and went hiking in the mountains that I met one. I saw the pika in this painting while hiking in the mountains of Yellowstone National Park.

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Click for detail

Pikas are not rodents like mice or hamsters. They are related to the rabbit, which is not actually a rodent. The pika is an elusive little mammal that lives in the spaces formed between the rocks of boulder piles (called talus fields), which collect at the base of mountain cliffs. It’s about 15-23 cm long (5.9-9.1 in) without the tail because it doesn’t have a tail. It eats all kinds of leafy plants during the summer. But in winter, because it doesn’t hibernate when these plants are not available, it eats dried plants that it has collected all summer in little haystacks and dried in the sun. Once dry, they are dragged into the burrow for the winter.

In North America you will hear two different pronunciations for the word “pika”, pai-ka and pee-ka. Only in the UK is it pronounced consistently as pai-ka, as you will hear if you watch David Attenborough’s delightful video. Personally, I like pee-ka because it sounds like the adorable squeak that the pika makes as a warning cry. The name pika may bring to mind the animated character called Pikachu. The most common explanation of the character’s name is that it is comprised of two sounds that are onomatopoeic representations in Japanese of crackling electricity (pika) and mouse sounds (chu.) But it is possible that the character was originally based on a pika not a mouse, despite being labeled as a mouse-type pokemon. The marketing folks might have labeled it as a mouse to be more recognizable while at the same time being aware of its double meaning—crackling electricty in Japanese and the little mammal in English.

I was very excited to use the knife technique to create three-dimensional fur. Little cuts in the paint make the hairs stand out when light hits the surface of the painting, which creates a soft furry look. In additional to looking three-dimensional, the whiskers had to be perfectly curved and very fine. I came up with a strategy that worked quite well. Using the edge of the knife I painted a thin line of pale grey over my drawing, and then closed in on that line from either side with the darker color of the background. By squeezing the pale grey paint thinner and thinner, I was able to maintain the curve while achieving a much thinner line than any I could create with the edge of the knife.

Lichen is not a plant. Rather, it is an organism made up of algae or cyanobacteria (sometimes both) living in symbiosis within a fungus. Together, these components allow for amazing variations in shape and colour. There are branch-like forms, leaf-like flat forms and, perhaps my favourite, a flakey form that looks like someone splashed paint on the rocks. The colours of the lichen colonies can be quite vivid. Among the large range of pastel colours were brilliant yellow and orange patches. I chose to paint an area of the rocks that had mostly smaller patches of these colours because I thought that viewers might have a difficult time believing large areas of such vivid colours were natural. The lichen was fun to paint. I made the various forms using heavily textured clumps of paint, which create a very rough and realistic feel to the rocks.

Autumn Colour (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

36 x 24 in | 76.2 x 61 cm

In the north, where I grew up, the coming of autumn brings with it a feast for the senses. On this particular day we were hiking in Hamilton, Ontario, in Canada. I can still feel the crunch of dry leaves underfoot as we walked along the forest floor. The leaves of the maples and dogwood above me were ablaze with colour. The brisk fall wind rustled through the leaves overhead as if to say, “winter is coming!” Soon, all of these magnificently outfitted trees would be bare, waiting for the coming of spring.

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Click for detail

The sugar maples (Acer saccharum) had turned glorious shades of gold and yellow. The red maples (Acer rubrum) were decked out in scarlet, vermillion, orange, and even peachy pink. The tree on the left of the painting, the dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), had deepened to a collection of purple-red, pink, and violet. What a treat for an oil painter! With each painting, as I relive the experience of being there, I feel a profound sense of gratitude for the wild beauty of nature.

Red Mangroves, Ten Cormorants and a Pelican (sold) | Kiry Tiberius & Richard Tiberius

24 x 30 in | 61 x 76.2 cm – oil on panel, painted with knives

My daughter, Kiry Tiberius, has been painting all her life but not with painting knives. In the last ten years she has become increasingly interested in using painting knives and wanted me to teach her the techniques. I was, of course, delighted, especially since I had more time after retiring from the university.

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Click for detail.

The thought had occurred to us that it would be great fun to collaborate on a painting. An occasion arose when a couple, who had bought a painting of a Great Blue Heron from me a few years before, requested a painting of a pelican as a companion piece.

Kiry offered to paint the pelican if I would do the trees. She loves painting birds. So do I but trees are my favorite subject. I left a space for the bird. The space looked weird, like a ghost of the bird, until Kiry painted in the pelican. The result looked seamless. She even captured the reflections of the water under the wing and the slight violet tint to the upper side. –Richard


Sitting in a kayak, looking at faraway cormorants through binoculars, the waves quietly lapped at our sides, and the soft rustling of the red mangrove leaves whispered around us. In this peaceful moment, we didn’t expect to be startled by the majestic grandeur of a brown pelican. These unexpected glimpses of wild beauty swell the heart with joy. The sense of awe is overpowering.

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Click for detail.

This painting my father and I created together captures the experience we shared. The open edges of the composition give the viewer a sense of the endless expanse of the water and bright sky. The mangroves in the distance seemed to be organically connected to the silhouettes of those cormorants we were watching. The powerful bird dominates the view, an inescapable focus point. The broad wings are lifted in flight, a fitting symbol of our soaring spirits on that beautiful day. — Kiry

 

Thirty-four Geese in Cord Grass (sold) | Kiry Tiberius & Richard Tiberius

40 x 24 in | 101.6 x 61 cm – oil on panel, painted with knives

My daughter Kiry and I painted this scene together. It was fun painting with my daughter and discussing the composition. I’m guessing that the grass is Prairie Cord Grass (Spartina pectinata) because this species is so common throughout the Great Lakes and Midwestern States, where we found this marshland, but it may be different species of Spartina.

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Click for detail

The geese no doubt had a different perspective on the grasses. For them the wetland grasses were either a cafeteria or refueling station half way through their migration. They frequently winter in Canada and migrate to the US South for the summer, but in the mid States, just south of the Great Lakes, where this scene is located, they can stay all year. So these might be permanent residents rather than refueling migrants. Whatever their status, they were all over the place. In this one bank we counted more than 50. Thirty-four made it into the final composition. I have read that geese eat the leaves as well as the underground stems (rhizomes) of cord grasses in winter although I can’t imagine how they get at the underground stems.

There are two kinds of geese in this scene—Canada geese (Branta Canadensis) and Cackling geese (Branta hutchinsii). The Cackling geese are about half the size of the Canada geese but otherwise are very similar in color and markings. This posed a problem of perspective for us. If viewers assume that they are all Canada geese, they might conclude that we goofed on the perspective, painting some of the geese in front smaller than those more distant. We didn’t. The smaller Cackling geese just happen to be in the front and we painted them as we saw them.

In painting both the grasses and the geese we used the edge and tip of our knives. In contrast we used the broad flat part of our knives for the water and sky.

The icy look of the water was a perfect complement to the warm colors of the grasses. For the water we used a combination of Blues, Cobalt Stannate and Phthalocyanine Blue, which gave the water the icy look that we saw on this clear fall day.

Live Oak Grove (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

30 x 24 in  |  76.2 x 61 cm

This painting marks a turning point in my life. I was just coming out of a difficult period of doubt and personal struggle, and it was largely the creation of this painting that brought me to a point of clarity. Whatever else I might do with my life, painting was clearly the most natural path for me. The thrill of seeing fresh and vibrant oil paint coming out of the tube, the feel of the palette knife in my hand, seeing a composition take shape—it is hard to explain the visceral feeling I had, and still have, as anything other than it simply felt right.

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The composition of this particular painting just happens to be symbolic of the sense of relief and joyful clarity I felt at knowing what I really wanted to do most. The relative darkness under the boughs of the live oak trees opens up into the bright sunlight of the clearing beyond. My mother suggested that this painting could be called, “Out of the darkness, and into the light.”

Instead, I have chosen to name this piece after the majestic trees that form such graceful shapes, the live oaks (Quercus agrifolia.) It is true that for many people part of the story of the work is the journey of the artist. For me, the focus of this painting—what originally drew me to the subject—is the almost magical feeling that the live oaks evoke as we pass under the shade of their spreading limbs. The little beams of sunlight that filter through, here and there, dance around as if to suggest that this might be where the fairies live.

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

18 inches (45.7 cm.) wide by 14 inches (35.6 cm.) high

When walking through the woods, if you happen to look up and see a bird, like this one, pausing for a moment on a nearby branch, the experience can really take your breath away. It might be the rich colours like the cherry-hued chest of this rose-breasted grosbeak, or the visibly soft texture of the bird’s feathers, that can rivet one’s feet to the spot. Or, perhaps it is the ephemeral quality of the bird’s presence. The thrill that many bird enthusiasts seek cannot be found viewing a bird in a zoo or a cage. It is the untamed freedom of a wild animal that captures the heart. Every moment becomes precious when our lives are touched by these fleeting glimpses of natural beauty.

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In this painting, I chose to magnify the bird to larger than life-size proportions, and placed him in a very spare composition, in order to capture the startling effect produced by the sudden appearance of one these birds. Everything else disappears for a moment, and all that is left is this glorious, winged creature, and an overpowering sense of childlike wonder at the beauty of the natural world.

Gallinules (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

Gallinules | oil on panel | 30×20

The common gallinule, formerly known as the common moorhen, could be seen as less attractive than the brightly coloured purple gallinule. In this painting, I invite the viewer to take a closer look. The subtle shifts in this gallinule’s feathers of grey to black to brown give the body a softness that isn’t as apparent in the purple gallinule. Against this softness, the shocking orange-red and yellow in their beaks and feet are very dramatic. These small points of bright colour draw the eye, without overpowering the understated beauty of their surroundings.

 

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Reflections at the edge of a body of water are very familiar to most of us. Sometimes, though, if the wind blows or a bird moves the reeds, the ripples that form bend the light in truly unexpected ways. In this composition, the addition of tiny circles within the greater swirl of colour—formed as the gallinules dipped their beaks into the water to eat—makes the resulting image dizzying to behold. This painting is not for the faint of heart; it challenges the viewer to ponder the extraordinary chaos to be found in nature, and to find the beauty within the maze.

 

 

 

Crabapple Blossoms (sold) | Kiry Tiberius

Crabapple Blossoms  |  oil on panel  |  30×24

In real life, a crabapple blossom would fit in the palm of your hand. I chose to magnify the flowers in order to recreate the intensity of being close to the tree in bloom. The blooming crabapple is an unforgettable experience. The flowers are so densely packed in exploding clusters, with the leaves barely keeping up with their exuberance. “Spring is here!” they seem to say.

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The complexity of form and colour that springtime brings to the crabapple is a delightful challenge to the oil painter. Bright sunlight creates shadows, reflections, and shifts in visible hue that can be almost overwhelming. Painting these little, five-petaled flowers much larger than life size gave me the opportunity to emphasize the intricate patterns that might go unnoticed if the viewer were farther from the tree. Even the slight, pink reflection from the flowers that shifts toward purple in hue when seen in the shadow on a leaf can be seen when we take our time, soaking in the beauty this tree has to offer.