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The art of the wild

Bear Creek painter focuses his talents on wildlife, particularly ducks, despite being colorblind.

Bear Creek Township artist Brian Blight has been painting wildlife art for 15 years.

Don Carey photo/The Times Leader

Bear Creek Township artist Brian Blight creates his wildlife paintings from a studio inside his home.

Although Brian Blight paints images of a variety of wildlife, he prefers ducks because of the variety of color.

Brian Blight’s paintings have won numerous awards on the state and national levels.

Don Carey photos/The Times Leader

Using Masonite panels and acrylic paints, Brian Blight creates scenes so realistic that it’s hard to tell if the image was produced by the stroke of a brush or the click of a camera.

Blight masterfully blends colors from his palette to replicate the vibrant green on a wood duck’s head or the piercing red eye of a canvas back in a way that a photograph cannot match.

Sure, Blight’s talent is amazing, but it’s even more astounding considering the Bear Creek Township artist is colorblind.

Blight can’t distinguish different hues of red, green and blue. But he doesn’t let it hinder his passion for painting.

“I went to a good art school and I learned how to break down color,” said the 1996 Columbus College of Art and Design graduate.

When one of Blight’s subjects has red, green or blue, he isolates a small section of the subject, blocks out the other colors, matches the color on his palette and applies it to the surface.

The technique works, as evidenced by his 10 paintings that were selected by various states for commemorative stamps.

Blight’s talent first surfaced 15 years ago, when he dabbled with airbrushing while in high school. After graduating from art school in 1996, he realized that painting wildlife, particularly ducks, was his forte.

“I like ducks because there’s a lot of variety,” Blight said. “They give you a lot to explore with the colors, shapes and habitats.”

Blight does use photographs – many of which he takes himself – for reference, but he won’t paint something unless he sees the subject in its environment. For Blight, work on a painting begins not in the studio, but in a duck blind on a pond.

Being in the field allows Blight to form a mental image of how the animal acts and moves and how light reflects off its body. Animals in a zoo won’t suffice, he said, because they have become too lethargic living in captivity and don’t develop the muscle tone of their wild counterparts.

Blight goes to great lengths to observe his subjects, whether it means spending hours in a duck blind or traveling across the globe as he did in 2004 when he ventured to Africa.

That trip took Blight’s work in a new direction and allowed him to paint a startlingly realistic image of a pair of lions.

“The lion painting is one that came out of actually being there,” he said. “We watched a pride of lions for four and a half hours as they stalked wildebeest and zebra. The entire time I watched how they moved and acted.”

Sometimes his days in the field yield new ideas for paintings that were unexpected. His painting of a green heron perched intently on a limb was the result of a trip to Delaware to sketch otters.

“While I was out there, a green heron flew by me very low. It was neat to see and I watched it for quite some time,” Blight said. “What was really cool about it were all the linear shapes and the colors that could be accentuated.”

After the time is spent in the field, another 100 hours are spent sketching and designing the painting. When the final brush stroke has been applied, Blight will sometimes have as much as 300 hours into his work.

But when Blight enters his studio at his Bear Creek home, it feels like anything but work. In fact, Blight described the time spent working on a painting as a vacation.

The pressures of everyday life vanish as Blight loses himself in a palette of colors. His position as art director for King’s College makes his passion even more enjoyable because he doesn’t need to rely on it for an income.

“I paint full time with my heart, and I’m blessed to have the time to do it and have people love my work,” Blight said.

Blight’s honors

Bear Creek Township resident Brian Blight has created numerous paintings over the past 15 years, many of which have won awards on the state and national levels. Blight is a member of The Wilds, Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and Pheasants Forever, and he has donated his work to generate funds for wildlife conservation.

“That’s a great thing about this because I can take my art and use it to generate money for wildlife and habitat protection,” he said.

Blight’s work has been selected for the following wildlife stamps:

2003-2004 Ohio Duck Stamp

2002 Ducks Unlimited Pennsylvania Sponsor Print

2002 Oklahoma duck stamp

2002 Indiana Duck Stamp

2001 Delaware Duck Stamp

2001-2002 Ohio Duck Stamp

1999 Massachusetts Archery Stamp

1999 Massachusetts Primitive Firearms Stamp

1998 Florida Duck Stamp

1997-1998 Nevada State Duck Stamp Competition.

To see Brian Blight’s work, visit www.brianblight.com.

“I like ducks because there’s a lot of variety. They give you a lot to explore with the colors, shapes and habitats.”

Brian Blight
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