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.
Nichole LeClair Terrill