From time to time most artists, including me, do “easy pieces”. I coined the phrase from an early Jack Nicholson film “Five Easy Pieces”. The young man, played by Nicholson, was the spoiled son of a wealthy family, raised in a cultured atmosphere but rebelling against it.

During his youth he took piano lessons. He was very gifted having potential for a concert career if he worked hard, but, true to form, he was also lazy. He said, “All I ever did was five easy pieces.” Even though he did them beautifully, they were merely easy to do.

In the field of wildlife art, the easiest of pieces is a head and shoulders of a mammal or bird with little or no background. Almost as easy is the whole creature with no special composition or background. This involves no concept or unique idea or sense of time and place, and presents almost no challenge to the artist or viewer. It is not a bad thing, but it is not very good either. It is just OK.

Winter Sunset - Moose.
Front and Centre - Moose
(donated to National Museum of Wildlife Art fundraiser)
I do easy pieces from time to time, especially for small fund raisers for conservation causes where the potential buyers need a much lower price point. If I look back on the body of a previous year’s work and see many easy pieces, I feel that I have let myself down. But as I said, a few are all right depending on the circumstances.

In looking at the work of young wildlife artists I often see a preponderance of easy pieces. They have bitten off very little and have chewed it quite well (sometimes not so well) but it is still a career of disappointingly little bits. It will almost certainly guarantee that the artist will not go very far or be known beyond an immediate circle of friends and family.