A Big Cat Fascination...and Art :)

Young future King
I have a fascination with big cats. It all started with watching a television program called , Mutual of Omahas Wild Kingdom. An amazing television show that I blame for starting my passion for wildlife. But the big cats of the world have stuck out, everyone that knows me knows my passion for raptors or birds of prey. Folks sometimes confuse them thinking I'm talking about dinosaurs, like the time I went to an emergency room and told them I was grabbed by a raptor and the talons went thru my hand literally. The looks I got were priceless. Along with the mentions of Jurassic Park out in the hallways by nurses as they peeked in my room, that's another story.
Big cats also have an amazing presence. Their way of life. The amazing regal beauty and design. And that one thing that strikes a deep chord of art and passion. I have never worked with big cats but have several good friends that do and I'm very fortunate. I have two animals that rule my drawing domain. My favorite being the horse and a close second, big cats.  
Brothers in the world make a great team.
I went to Africa recently and worked with an amazing wildlife team doing rhino conservation. But while I was there I saw them. Lions. A very dear friend runs a lion park and is an amazing wildlife wrangler. He toured us in his SUV thru his place and saw the pride. He also has a pair of white lions that are separated from the pride. The wildlife there was just absolutely inspiring. The rock formations. The amazing prehistoric bush art just blew my mind. Apparently the wildlife there has been inspiring artist thru history. That actually made me tear up a bit.

I remember one of the times we were done working on a rhino we were gathering vet equipment and tools when I looked in the distance and saw a big gathering of vultures. I stopped and took in the moment. I've seen this countless times on documentaries but never in person. Not in Africa.  As I sat there a ranger walk by me and says, "it's the lions." He smiles and walks away. "The lions?"
Ball point tiger sketch. Video here
I grew up in West Texas and my family has a ranch in the Big Bend area where we have cowboyed going back to my great great grandfather. The area is home to one of my favorite big cats. The mountain lion. I have only seen one in my life there. When I was a very young boy of about 8 I was with my father in the mountains deer hunting when we came upon a cave in some rocks. Lion tracks everywhere and a deer foreleg still warm but with no meat left. My dad held me close to him and said, "lets get out of here and let me know if you see the cougar immediately." I was scared and excited at the same time! I remember wanting to take that bone with me because a mountain lion was chewing on it. What a great souvenir. I was already passionate about big cats. 

I remember how excited I was when I found out how to record national geographic or pbs documentaries. Now I could slow things down or maybe even pause the picture to draw from! It wasn't the greatest image to draw from but I learned. A lot. I never realized how big of an impact the film team of Dereck and Beverly Joubert would be in my life.  Joining the ranks of Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler. Thanks to their films, photographs and their Big Cat Initiative they continue to feed this crazy fascination of all big cats.  If you haven't seen their National Geographic work I recommend them highly. Eternal Enemies, Relentless Enemies and The Last Lions to name a few.

Butch. Video Here
As far as wildlife art went one man caught my attention early on. Bob Kuhn. This was all thanks to a magazine called Boys Life that I got as part of being a Cub Scout. He made my imagination go absolutely nuts. His paintings captured such life and adventure. An animal story in one painting. When I finally saw his sketches I was floored. I couldn't get enough of his artwork and I had a heck of a time finding it as a kid. His inspiration still lives with me to this day. I spoke to him once and hoped to meet him at a gallery show in Arizona but he passed away. I did finally see his work recently at his latest traveling exhibit. Every time I'm out flying my hawk in the woods I see what I call a Bob Kuhn moment. And it makes me smile. His love for animals and art shows thru his work.  Now with the internet we can all find our favorite artists and even possibly contact them. 
Tiger Drawing Video Here
Big cats have helped shape me into loving to draw and paint. Traveling whether to another country or just visiting a zoo or sanctuary is a must. Life is an amazing teacher. With lessons that are both amazing and sometimes hard but it's our passion that keeps us going thru "difficult terrains." Our journeys also lead to new people and amazing friends. Fellow Art Explorer, Terryl Whitlatch and I spend countless hours discussing talons, horse hoof anatomy, sighthounds, camels you name it and we have discussed it. We even have a project we are playing with dealing the animal world.
Cheetah Doodle with Neocolors
We live in a society where we don't get outside enough. I think it's keen for people to step outside. It feeds the human spirit. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or not. Life is better outside. Feed your passion, enjoy nature and the beauty it has to offer your soul.



  1. Great article, Manny! And I was a total Wild Kindgom geek when I was a kid. And I know exactly what you mean about those 'Bob Kuhn' moments!

  2. Sooo not easy to draw cats and yes we don't go in the boondocks enough! great drawings Manny.