Nothing seems to show the connectedness of an animal to its habitat more than when it is not immediately obvious that there is a living creature within view. In nature, black bears typically stand out like a beacon of light because the metallic-like sheen to their coat is so different than most black objects in their environment. In dark habitats or at dusk, however, the black bear is part of its surroundings.
Alder shrubs, the most abundant woody vegetation shown in this painting, are one of the most common “pioneer” shrubs that establish in the mountains after a disturbance such as a wildfire, timber harvest or a landslide. Alder has the unique ability to capture nitrogen gas from the atmosphere and inject it into the soil in the form that other plants need - nature’s way of restoring damaged soil. In the avalanche chutes located along the steepest of mountain slopes, alder forms long-term dominant plant communities because it is specially adapted to these harsh environments. Alder has ability to press flat under thousands of tons of snow and spring to life after snowmelt.
Alder thickets are ecologically productive and provide forage, hiding cover and sources of spring water for many mountain animals. Here the black bear is scouring the alder thicket soon after snowmelt for new succulent plant growth or maybe an animal claimed by a winter avalanche. I wanted to create the sense of an “I’m here – now I’m gone” feel to this painting because it is so characteristic of wildlife to vanish instantly. The bear’s path is actually an old log which was hurled down the mountain by a massive snow slide decades ago. Using the moss that now covers the log and his soft padded feet to his advantage, the bear’s transition into the dark background will be a silent one. The colour of pure black animals, like pure white ones, are not often what they appear to be. Here this “black” bear is not actually black but rather a dark blue-green. The dark nature of this painting and unobvious “subject” challenges a viewer’s senses – which is what nature does.