To paint the perfect picture you really need to know what you're painting, according to artist Timothy Mayhew.
"What I've found is mostly the animals are still in this frozen deer-in-the-headlights pose and until you sit down and they relax with you, you don't start to see all the interesting behavior that they do when they're just by themselves" Mayhew told Newsline 9.
But just getting to that point takes time. The New Mexico-based artist studied the rare Trumpeter Swan in Yellowstone National Park for over a year before unveiling his most recent painting of a swan family.
That picture is now on display at the Woodson Art Museum's Birds in Art exhibit, 700 North 12th St., Wausau.
Mayhew relies on first-hand experience for his artistic inspiration. While in Yellowstone, he began mimicking the swan calls and after becoming a regular visitor Mayhew says he became a trusted part of their environment.
"It got to be where they'd be talking to each other and pretty soon I'd chime in and they'd turn and look at me like saying ‘what?" he said.
Mayhew recalls a particular event when the swans suddenly began making unusual noises and acting aggressively towards him. Unsure at what provoked the actions, Mayhew turned to find a coyote behind him.
"If anything they were protecting me" he said smiling standing in front of the picture on display.
Arlene Rheinish of Southern California had a similar encounter with the avian subject that became the focus of her latest painting.
The artist has a large depiction of a Snowy Egret eyeing a crab amidst a shallow bay of water.
"I was in an inflatable boat and this bird literally walked right across us and in front of us and in front of my dog who just stood there paralyzed and it was a great opportunity to really see the bird, examine the bird, and want to portray it as such" she said.
Rheinish had considered different ways to paint the unique looking bird, but found inspiration when a few unusual guests stopped by.
"It wasn't until a dinner with my husband that we saw a couple of crabs running around and that was what inspired me."
According to Rheinish the crabs are a perfect addition and just what the painting needed. Their combination with a hungry Snowy Egret in shallow water gives the picture a circular flowing pattern, making it more appealing to the viewer.
The Birds in Art exhibit is open through Nov. 13.