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Beverly Abbott – My Travels West – part 1

Blackwater Falls State Park, Davis, West Virginia was out first stop on our journey to Denver, Colorado and the Society of Animal Artists Annual Show in August 2014.  That evening my husband and I took photographs of small falls near the old stately lodge where we were staying.  I was framing my photographs with the idea of where I could place an animal as well as showing the tumbling water.  Moving water adds so much action and liveliness to a painting.  Plus, it is challenging and fun to paint.  It rained all night Tuesday and most of Wednesday.  Late morning we walked down to the main falls and took a number of photographs before the rain began again.  I painted another layer on a miniature of a Black-necked Swan Family to pass the time.  I had a number of miniatures I had begun with me just in case of inclement weather while traveling.  Late afternoon the sun peeked out and we returned to the falls for more photography.  At one of the scenic areas we came across a doe ambling along as she fed.  Took some cute photographs of her as she watch me watching her.  The first stop was restful, productive and the food at the lodge was excellent.   I recommend this state park as a destination vacation spot.

trailtotheskylinearchOur second stop on the way to Denver was to the Cincinnati Zoo, Ohio.  The motel we booked into was inconvenient with no restaurants nearby and the road in front of the motel was torn up and a great deal of reconstruction was being completed.  We stayed only the one night.  We arrived at the zoo very early and I am so glad we did.  It was still a bit cool and the two Polar Bears were in a playful mood.  I have never seen Polar Bears so active.  I took several hundred photographs of them under water and above the water line, pouncing on each other and biting at each other.  I will have a great deal of fun painting them and reliving my time in their presence.  The Cincinnati Zoo is one of the few zoos around the country that runs their Cheetahs around a track, following a lure of a piece of fuzzy material, to give them exercise.  These cats are friendly and the trainers pet them and walk them around for the visitors to photograph.  Ira got the best photographs this time with his fast 400mm lens.  The new exhibit at the zoo is the Painted Dogs of Africa.  The exhibit area is well done and there was one male up and active.  The dogs are interesting to look at with their three color spotted coats and big ears.  The gorilla exhibit was also excellent.  There was a new born baby as well as an older active baby.  Ira was able to photograph the baby better with his 400mm lens.  This is another animal I enjoy painting.  The new born is also a female and the keeper said they were looking forward to seeing the babies playing together as they grow up.  After leaving the zoo, we headed into Kentucky to leave the city traffic behind us.  Ira fell at the zoo and injured his right knee.  It plagued him the rest of our trip slowly getting worse.

Our next stop on the way to Denver was at the St. Louis Zoo. ¬†It had rained most of the day traveling through Kentucky but let up just as we approached St. Louis, so I was able to revisit the zoo. ¬†There were two pair of Hippo play fighting and having a grand old time. ¬†While the children were crowding the windows, I did get wonderful underwater views to paint. ¬†I love painting the wrinkled leathery skin of Hippos and at the St. Louis Zoo there are the same fish in the tank with the Hippos that would be found in the wild. ¬†They are stripped yellow and black and add another element of interest in a painting. ¬†They serve as nature’s recyclers for the Hippos and help keep the water cleaner. ¬†There was also a very young baby Asian Elephant. ¬†I was able to photograph some tender moments between mother and calf as well as the two youngsters playing together.

Our next stop on the way to Denver was unexpected as I did not know of a zoo in Kansas City until we were in the area. ¬†It is an older zoo and many of the exhibits have not been updated to modern standards as yet so were not camera friendly. ¬†The Penguin House was excellent with three different kinds of penguins. ¬†They are like living bullets underwater and it is fun to watch them and very difficult to get a good photograph of them since they are so fast. ¬†We took the sky tram to the Africa area. ¬†While the lions were sleeping the pair of Hippos cooperated by being active. ¬†The Chimpanzee environment was large and the troop stayed hidden in the trees except for one male that came down to the windows to interact with the children. ¬†Three zoos in three days just about wrecked my feet and did not help Ira’s knee.

We had a full day of just driving to reach out next destination which was Denver (at last). ¬†At the Denver Zoo Ira rents a scooter which is a great help. ¬†It was at the cat house that we became separated. ¬†He stayed outside on the scooter and I went through the house and came out on the other side. ¬†I walked back toward the beginning but didn’t see him (he had pulled up close to the door). ¬†I photographed the two tigers walking around their environment and then the Polar Bear, all the while looking around for Ira. ¬†I later learned he was looking for me and we just kept missing each other. ¬†I kept slowly ambling along figuring we would catch up eventually. ¬†I did stop and ask a couple of zoo personal if they had seen a man on a scooter. ¬†When I got around to the Asian area a zoo attendant approached me and asked if I were looking for my husband, then a Security Officer showed up on a bicycle. ¬†We had a nice little visit while another Security Officer escorted Ira down from the entrance of the zoo to make sure we connected. ¬†Now we were united, we had a bite of lunch, then it was time to watch the training session of the three year old male Asian Elephant. ¬†He was being rewarded for his correct behavior with orange segments. ¬†Eventually he entered his pool and played in the water, spouting water up out of his trunk and making big splashes as he rolled around in the water. ¬†After that it was time for the baby Clouded Leopards to come to play. ¬†The two five month old males were born in Denver but the four month old female came from the Smithsonian so she could be reared with others of her kind. ¬†Clouded Leopards will not breed in captivity if they are not reared with siblings. ¬†The three were adorable playing together and their coats are so beautiful. ¬†The lion exhibit was well done. ¬†The old male (14 years) was in full coat and since his brother had recently died, a lung female was paired with him. ¬†This kept both of the big cats active and moving around their environment.

Our next stop on our trip to Denver was the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, CO, Thank goodness the zoo provided a cart to ride for $2 a day to selected stops. ¬†It is a top rated zoo and beautiful but it is on a mountain and difficult to walk with Ira’s knee and my arthritis. ¬†We arrived early and the young three year old male Amur Tiger “From” was very active. ¬†He drank from his pool and went for a swim. ¬†Needless to say I took many photographs of him. ¬†I love to paint tigers and he was a grand specimen. ¬†The next great exhibit was the Lowland Gorillas. ¬†There was one big silver backed male who finally became active when the zoo keeper threw fresh food into the area. ¬†One female had a tiny baby who stayed close to mom. The little stream in the environment added to the interest of the compositions. ¬†While the Grizzly and world areas were well constructed, the animals were sleeping so I was unable to get good resource material in those areas. ¬†Two of their four African Elephants were out to be viewed. ¬†The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has the largest herd of Giraffes in the nation but Ira’s knee was paining him so we had to leave before I got to their area.

We returned to Denver and the next day visited the Denver Aquarium. ¬†I took photographs of exotic fish including a pair or mermaids swimming among the fish in the large tank. ¬†As it didn’t take long going through the aquarium we went back to the hotel for Ira to rest while I painted on a miniature of a pair of tiger cubs playing. ¬†The next day began the weekend activities for the Society of Animal Artists and was overawed by the quality of the work exhibited.

Click Beverly Abbott to read more about her and to see her art.