Nothing escaped young Carrie Wild’s pencil.
Her sketchbook overflowed with drawings of horses and wildlife on her family’s Michigan farm. She challenged herself to correctly draw every muscle, body conformation, and facial expression of even the songbirds at the window bird feeder. Her first art award: winning her 8-year-old age division of the statewide 4-H art contest with a pastel drawing of an Arabian horse.
As Wild developed her personal artistic style, she found herself bored with realistic portrayals of animals. At the same time, her college training in graphic design fostered her fascination with color and modern art.
“I began to use bold colors and modern designs to share the feelings I experience when interacting with wildlife,” Wild says. “The vibrancy, depth, and ability to layer acrylic paint allowed me to capture my experiences.”
Using her design sensibilities, she plans her composition and the sizes and positions of animals, defining them with a base charcoal sketch. Then she lets the brushstrokes, texture, and color happen. “The painting creates itself,” she says. “It’s exhilarating when it all comes together.”
In 2010, Wild visited Jackson, Wyoming, to study and experience the wildlife of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. She never really left. “I tried to leave,” she admits with a shrug, “but found myself back in Jackson permanently within two months. Jackson Hole stole my heart.”
Most mornings — sunshine, rain, or snow — find her out exploring canyon, lake, or meadow to photograph wildlife for future reference. She is continually amazed by the drama of light and wildlife that she sees. Back in her studio — she prefers to paint there rather than en plein-air, because acrylics quickly dry in the Wyoming breeze — those hours spent photographing in the field help her capture an animal’s wild essence and define their body conformation on canvas.
“Recently I spent some time out in a meadow with a herd of bull moose,” Wild says. “I watched them spar and fight, and stand proud and tall in front of the [Teton] Mountains. I’ve been thinking about that experience a lot, and that expansiveness will figure in my upcoming art.”
When she does go to the canvas with that idea, she likely won’t render it exactly as the photograph captured it. She’ll imbue the painting with saturated colors as impassioned as her love of wildlife. And she’ll create details that suit her. “One of the cool things about art,” Wild says, “is the ability to manipulate your experience and the animal. Animals don’t really cooperate: They might have their tongues sticking out or ears in a weird direction. I use my photography as a reminder of the experience, but I manipulate the animal, its position, and the scene composition into what I want it to be.”
While she’s working, she just might be interrupted by the real thing in her own yard. “I’ll be painting and a moose or deer will walk up to the window to stare at me,” Wild says with pleasure.
Her heartfelt hope is that her work will inspire people to love wildlife and wild places. “We need to strengthen support for conservation,” Wild says emphatically. “I believe the best way to do that is to nurture each individual’s passion for wilderness and nature.”
From the July 2018 issue. Carrie Wild is represented by Gallery Wild in Jackson Hole, Wyoming; A. Banks Gallery in Bozeman, Montana; Desert Mountain Fine Art in Scottsdale, Arizona; and Dick Idol Signature Gallery in Whitefish, Montana. Photography: (Top to bottom) Roam Forever and Wind Spirits courtesy Carrie Wild.