(1955 - )
(excerpt from ‘A Moment in Time’)
Glued to a small television screen, as close as my parents would allow without risking blindness, I was completely transfixed by the images brought into my home courtesy of Mutual of Omaha, narrated by zoologist Marlin Perkins. It was then, at approximately the age of seven, that wildlife and Animal art captured my attention, and I began to collect a library of mental images that I would compile for a lifetime. I spent many hours in the school library, searching for books, short stories, and magazines that might feature nonfiction or fictional tales of wildlife adventure from around the world.
My interests in archeology, history, science, and geography always seemed to intersect with my interest in animals. The rich descriptions in the stories that fed my adventurous imagination inspired me to produce my own scenes. Dinosaurs and their biological connection to modern creatures, Aesop’s Fables, Uncle Remus, and Bible stories such as the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, and Daniel in the Lion’s Den, all fascinated and stimulated my creativity. When the writers gave the animals human characteristics, that added to my enjoyment. This point of view also intrigued me and caused me to never view an animal as lacking intelligence. When I saw the artwork that at times accompanied these stories, I was frequently disappointed in the artist’s renditions of the creatures, and that inspired me to produce my own.
In the late 1960s, my family purchased a set of World Book encyclopedias. The concentration of information in these books opened my world and fed my desire to draw and paint animals. The reproductions of photographs, etchings, paintings, and written descriptions of facts were a virtual gold mine for my insatiable quest for knowledge. I took my time reading and copying the reference materials that I found in the volumes of these useful resources. This early experience taught me the value of doing in depth research.
My parents were originally subsistence farmers who moved to the city when they were in their early twenties. I arrived in the family birth order as number five of six children. One of the major joys in life for me as a child was the long car trips to visit grandparents and other extended family members on their small independent farms in the Tennessee countryside. I would spend the day in the barns, corrals, coops, and fields, observing and studying and chasing the farm animals to my satisfaction. Once I had returned home to my pencils and paper, I would draw these animals from memory. Another joy was being old enough to go to the Memphis Zoological Gardens. There I discovered that those exotic animals that I had only seen in books or on television were in actuality alive and breathing. I remember being particularly intrigued by the wild cats. I am still fascinated with their regal and elegant bearing. It was always a disappointment to me when I had to end these expeditions of discovery.
Another huge source of inspiration and information was television. My favorites included not only Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, but also Tarzan movies, The American Sportsman with Kurt Goudy, Disney nature movies, Lassie, and Sea Hunt. Any movie, documentary, commercial, or sitcom that included an animal in motion had my full attention. I would closely study their motions and log them into memory so that later, inspired by my observations, I could pick up pencil, paint brush, or clay and record my own interpretations of the animals.
At twelve years old I decided to become a wildlife artist. My older brother gave me a book as a Christmas gift that honed my focus and convinced me that I had to be analytical and observe animals from the inside out to make my depictions even more accurate. This book was titled “Animal Drawing”, by Charles R. Knight. This publication remains in my library today. My drawings became increasingly sophisticated as my knowledge of animal anatomy became more acute.
I received a BFA degree from the Memphis Academy of Arts in Memphis, Tennessee. It is now known as the Memphis College of Art. I was very fortunate to have college professors who recognized my intense interest and my natural ability to draw and paint in a very distinctive and individual style. These professors encouraged me to follow my natural path. Life Drawing was easy for me because I have been observing details of the human figure from the time I was born. I usually filled many more sketch books and completed my drawing assignments in half the time as expected. My Life Drawing professor gave a class assignment to go next door to the Memphis Zoological Gardens to draw. I came back to the class with studies of zoo creatures filling an entire sketchbook. He directed me to go to the school library to compare my sketches to the drawings from the European masters. He pointed out that I was defining and documenting details that reflected a keen sense of observation and hand/eye coordination that he found extremely valuable. My depiction of the animal’s proportions, play of light and shadow, line quality, unique point of view, and draftsmanship were worthy of his focus and direction. After discussing with him my interest in depicting wildlife, he encouraged me to go to the zoo on any occasion during his class to draw and paint the animals at the zoo at will. Therefore, I spent three years of study at the Memphis Zoological Gardens sharpening my skills by depicting some of the world’s more exotic animals.
While studying at the Memphis Zoological Gardens, and during subsequent tours of numerous zoos across the country, I noticed the absence of spirit in many of the animals being held behind bars or within the restraining enclosures. This was troubling to me because similar creatures in the documentary nature shows on television seemed so full of exuberant, majestic spirit. Although lacking the lively animation of those animals seen in the wild, there seemed to be individual personality and a quiet intelligence in the eyes of these confined animals. Seeing that “look” in their eyes has been a constant observation of mine whenever I see animals in captivity. These experiences have solidified my goal to bring a visceral humanity to all of the portraits of wildlife I create. My preference is to see animals in their natural environments, living full, unencumbered lives.
This period of awakening put me on the path of discovery. Being born into a working class family did not afford me many opportunities to go to museums, art galleries, and art exhibitions. As a young adult I began going to art museums and recognized the images that I had seen over the years in text books and in printed materials. I went to public libraries to track down these artists by name. I found out through my curiosity and research that they were real people similar to myself. Illustrators, painters, and sculptors fascinated me the most, especially the 19th century French Animaliers, other European animal artist, and the American 20th century illustrators.
Those masters of their own time who have inspired me and taught me a high standard of excellence in their own genres include Charles R. Knight, N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Antoine-Louis Barye, Carl Rungius, Arthur Wardle, Edwin Landseer, George Stubbs, Lucy Kemp-Welch, Wilhelm Kuhnert, Rosa Bonheur, Paul Brown and many contemporary wildlife artists. The artists who paint realistically always capture my attention, with their seamless ability to imply and define movement, anatomy, and drama. I am always thrilled to see any artist produce an image of nature’s majestic creatures in an awe-inspiring way. I also aspire to create artwork that will be admired and equally inspirational to future artists and those individuals who appreciate our world’s wildlife.
I approach capturing a moment in time by revealing a rarely highlighted detail, an incident, or fact as big as a dramatic scene or as subtle as a relaxed blink. I encourage the viewer to engage and be curious to learn more. My bold and distinctive style of painting reflects my acute observations and knowledge of my subjects, thereby displaying an intimate and emotional portrait along with an adeptness at visual storytelling.
In my career as an illustrator, I was successful in depicting many creatures, whether real or imagined, for the advertising campaigns of numerous corporate clients. The majestic and powerful images of the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales were my favorites to depict for billboards and promotional print materials. Disney, Pepsi, Outdoor Life magazine, Field & Stream magazine, Kelly-Springfield Tires, Coca-Cola,The Brookfield Zoo, Universal Studios, Bank of America, The Field Museum, MGM Grand Hotel, Caesar’s Palace, The National Park Service, Brunswick, Santa Anita Race Track, Levi-Strauss, Seagrams, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, and Lucas Films were among the clients who sought out my unique ability to produce realistic art of both imaginative and actual creatures.
The intelligence and uniqueness of each animal’s individual character and personality often provide glimpses into that of human nature or character. Painting wildlife in a realistic, stylized manner allows me to define the beauty that I see in their movements, be they subtle or overt. I choose to highlight the variety of color I see in the fur and textures of the surfaces that envelop their being. I find it necessary to preserve and to respect all creatures that inhabit our planet, because I believe that we are more connected than most humans acknowledge. I represent the beauty and majesty of the animal world in a dynamic form to help influence the preservation of our planet’s varied species. In this publication I have chosen artwork that is indicative of my life’s passion for the world’s wildlife, to share with you my vision of “A Moment in Time.”
Ezra’s artwork has been on exhibition at the following: the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (1985); the Texas Rangers Historical Museum in Austin, Texas (in their permanent collection); the Canton Museum of Art in Canton, Ohio (1987); the Bruce Watkins Center in Kansas City, Missouri (1999); a One-Man-Show at the Art Institute of Southern California in Laguna Beach, California (1997); and The Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville, Georgia (2008 – 2009). In 2007, Ezra’s work was voted Best of Show in the Greenwich Workshop Small Works Annual Miniature Art Exhibition in Seymour, Connecticut. He was awarded Best Acrylic Painting in the 2010 – 2011 “Western Spirit” art exhibition at the Old West Museum in Cheyenne Wyoming. Two of his original works were purchased by the Booth Western Art Museum in 2009 to hang in their permanent collection. His original art is also included in many private international and Fortune 500 corporate collections.