Many of Valerie Rogers’s paintings seem to follow an arc: Rogers experiences a memorable moment in nature, she sketches or photographs the animal on the spot or later in a similar situation, and then she paints it. Although she sometimes wishes she had her camera with her when an otter has a meal or the cougar looks at her inquisitively, Rogers accepts the natural progression. “I actually like to have the experience first, to have the intensity of it, and then take the photographs,” she says. “When I get the opportunity to see something on a hike, I am entirely thrilled. I’m not a hunter; I’m more of a care-for kind of person. I let them go on with life. My paintings are not high action creations. They usually reflect the quieter moments–those moments when you get the insight into a wild animal’s natural life without interruption. When you can see into what they’re doing normally–that’s the cool thing.”
Rogers grew up along the West Coast of the United States and moved to British Columbia when she was a teenager. She says “recreation has always been outside.” An avid hiker, Rogers has encountered all manner of flora and fauna on her outings. Once she has had an experience in nature that thrills her, she seeks out the wildlife again with her camera, trying to get a shot reminiscent of that moment. “The location isn’t such a problem because I can simply revisit the location for photos,” she says. “And my studio is always filled with rocks and chunks of trees from locations. In fact, I have a big stump in the corner that made its way into a lot of my paintings. It’s five feet high. It is my signature stump–I had to stop painting it because people were noticing it in too many paintings.”
The Canadian artist will try to encounter the creature again in the wild, but occasionally she resorts to game reserves. “The quest of my life may be to get a picture of a fisher in the wild, because they are so fast. They move so quickly. If I were to rely on the photos I’ve taken of cougars in the wild, I would have to do a painting of a hind end and a tail.” The elusive quality of many animals means there are several paintings that “got away.”
“There are a bunch of paintings that have not come together yet,” Rogers says. “This past winter I went down into Mexico and swam with the whale sharks, yet I am not ready to paint that experience. It could be that I just want to go back and swim with the whale sharks … that is definitely true, but honestly I don’t think I have enough information to go ahead and paint it.”
Rogers works in acrylic and shoots photographs with a Canon DSLR, the Rebel XTI model, with a long lens “big enough to zoom in but not so big that I have to tripod it.” The artist opts for watercolor for certain subjects and for plein air work. She says she also likes working with graphite pencil or painting monochromatically because of its “elegant” look, adding, “Graphite or a grisaille seem to boil things down to their essence. It’s like a value study and it gets rid of some things that may distract you. It is the substance rather than the frosting.” Rogers’s graphite and acrylic painting of a great horned owl that lives down the street from her is a prime example of this effective subset of her work. “I think it gives a stronger feeling, making this owl more intimidating,” she says.
She is not overly focused on predators. Among her subjects are cougars, bears and owls, but they do not necessarily stand out for her. “I totally love rabbits,” says Rogers. “I paint a lot of rabbits, deer, turtles, and squirrels. I’m fond of vegetarians rather than predators, being a vegetarian myself. They have that real peaceful feeling when you see them.
“I think of myself as a naturalist with an interest in all the creatures in nature,” Rogers concludes. Ω