Wild Job: Nature Artist Mark Raithel

By | June 1, 2012
From Xplor: June/July 2012

Nature artist Mark Raithel takes pictures with his brain and turns them into eye-popping art.

Q: How do you make your paintings look so great?

A: Before I draw a fox, I study how its bones and muscles fit together, the shape of its nose, how it walks, the color of its eyes. All those details help form a 3-D image in my brain.

Q: Why don’t you just look at a photo?

A: Once the fox is in my head, I can draw it from any viewpoint—even one not shown in a photo. I can sit across from you and draw the fox upside down on my side so it’s right side up on yours.

Q: How much research do you do?

A: Research takes twice as long as painting. I spend hours outside, reading books and searching the Internet. Sometimes people leave dead animals on my desk.

Q: Yuck! What’s that all about?

A: Folks know I occasionally use real animals for models, so when they find a dead one they save it for me.

Q: And you appreciate these, uh, gifts?

A: Absolutely. To be a good wildlife artist, I have to nail the details. A song sparrow better have the same number of tail feathers in my painting as it does in real life.

Q: What’s the hardest thing to paint?

A: I’ve been making art since I was 6, so nothing’s too tough. Painting every scale on a snake gets pretty boring, though.

Q: It sounds as if you have the world’s best job. Anything you don’t like?

A: Cleaning up after a project—and painting snakes.

And More...

This Issue's Staff

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White
Kipp Woods