412: Edward J. Bierly, Lithograph, "Winter Woods",
deer in the snow, #335 of 600, pencil signed, image area 20" x 28"....Edward J. Bierly was born in Buffalo New York in 1920. He spent most of his childhood exploring the creeks and woods of the nearby countryside. His intense interest in nature, and natural ability to draw have shaped his life and his ambition to be a wildlife artist. From an early age he knew he wanted to be an artist. He spent all his available time drawing and painting. After high school, he saved up enough money to enter Pratt Institute in New York. World War II interrupted his plans, and he was drafted into the army. Even while in Europe he associated with other artists who had been drafted. "We ran little sketching classes and things like that, trying to capture the picturesque landscape and architecture of Europe." After serving four years in WW II and earning a Fine Arts degree from the University of Buffalo in 1949, and marrying his wife, Edie, Ed’s professional career began in the commercial art world as an illustrator. As an exhibits designer for the National Park Service in Washington D.C., he spent 14 years visiting wilderness parks, always adding to his knowledge of wildlife and its settings. This experience helped him to win the Federal Migratory Hunting Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) design competition three times: 1956-57 American Mergansers; 1963-64 Brant; 1970-71 Ross' Geese. Some of Ed’s most memorable experiences came during tours in Africa for UNESCO, where he designed museum exhibits in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Again, his interest in the wild influenced his own art. "When I got to Africa and saw the wildlife for the first time, I knew what I really wanted to do! I wanted to paint these magnificent animals just as I had seen them in their wild habitat. So, when I got back I started to paint." "I joined the Society of Animal Artists and had an unusual experience in one of its early shows at Abercrombie & Fitch in New York. I sent in a painting, but when it came time for the show, it couldn't be found. So I took another one to New York with me, and that one was hung in the show. When Edie and I returned home, we found a check from Abercrombie & Fitch. Someone there had sold the first painting out of the storeroom before the show had been hung! When the show was over, I went to pick up the second painting and it, too, had been sold." This incident started the whole thing for Ed Bierly. The thought occurred to him that perhaps now he could paint what he wanted to paint - not what someone ordered. In 1970 he retired early leaving the National Park Service to devote full time to painting. He maintains a studio in northern Virginia on 25 acres of woods. As Ed says about his love for painting and wildlife, “I have a strong sympathetic relationship with my animals and I try to feel what they feel, to become in my own mind a resting lion or an alert impala. To paint a deer in a snowy woods you must recall the cold stillness, and feel it again...If you do it right your viewers will feel it too.” At the top of his list of favorite subjects are the big cats. "Cats have such expressive bodies! They just slide from one attractive posture into another with never a hint of awkwardness. They give the artist the richest opportunity to portray how the subject feels - whether it's alert, curious, trying to intimidate with a miniumum of effort, or just plain bored. When the viewer can sense the animal's mood, the painter has reached one of his most important goals.""I paint mostly in my studio. I do go to the zoo and sketch there, and I sketched a lot while I was in Africa (and I have been back there on many other occasions). I take hundreds of photos for reference. Naturally, I would prefer to have the living animal to observe and work from; but when you can't, you study all the reference material you can." "I do almost all my paintings in oil, on linen canvas or on gessoed untempered particle board panels. I find acrylics useful for quick studies, or where the short drying time is convenient...."Among contemporary artists, Ed has always been impressed with the work of Bob Kuhn. "I really like his technique and style," Ed explains, "even though it's different than mine, I have always thought he was a very fine artist." Ed Bierly's paintings have been exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum, The Smithsonian, The National Audubon Society, The New York Natural History Museum, and the National Wildlife Federation in Washington, D.C. He has illustrated several books, including a field guide to the Mammals of Rhodesia, Zambia and Malawi, and his art appears in Dr. Berhard Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, the largest and most authoritative compendium of animal science ever published. His paintings have been reproduced in such magazines as National Wildlife, International Wildlife, Reader’s Digest and Virginia Wildlife and Bassmaster Magazine.