The Challenge – Bull Moose
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1989, 48” x 72”, oil
A moose is an intimidating animal. A big bull is huge - weighing up to half a ton and standing up to seven-and-a-half feet tall at the shoulder - but is amazingly swift and graceful when moving through thick forest and underbrush.

Very often I have seen moose well immersed in a lily-clad lake. The water lily root is one of the moose's favourite foods. The big head reaches down, totally submerges, fills up its semi-prehensile mouth with roots from the bottom of the muck and brings them up for chewing. A typical sight is the dripping emergence of a head with antlers festooned with lilies and other aquatic vegetation. I have been in moose country very often and usually see their tracks and other signs. I assume that they see or hear me first and keep their distance.

One should always treat moose with respect. Most moose that I have seen have been from a safe distance. I've only had one encounter with a moose, and that was with a cow and her calf. The cow didn't want me in the neighbourhood and came straight toward me. This was somewhat disconcerting since I am usually trying to get close to animals -- not the reverse. I was well aware that the moose's method of attack is to rear up and dash up with a large, cloven hoof. Luckily I backed off, trying to keep trees between the two of us. The cow was satisfied and returned to her calf.

In this painting I tried to give the feeling of a powerful bull which is too close for comfort. I left the scene deliberately ambiguous as to whether this is a charge or a bluff or simply the thrashing of antlers to get rid of some bothersome twigs. There has recently been a light snowfall. Some of the bits of snow are being scattered. I intentionally kept my technique of painting open and somewhat loose, partly because this style actually increases the sense of movement and dynamism in the painting and partly because I was simply having fun with the strokes of paint and liked them that way.