72 x 60 in | oil finger painting on canvas
In the hour of the setting sun, a coyote leaps across a wall of thorn-covered succulents. Joshua trees and dusty sage grasses encircle the action. In the background, distant buttes are curtained in a hot haze. We can’t see it, but the coyote’s eyes are locked on a large jackrabbit she's spotted just outside of the frame. Her bushy tail is streaked with different colors as layers of fur intersperse with the sun's golden glow. Much like the coyote, the succulents seem to be covered in downy hairs highlighted by the special radiance.
This was an unusual palette for me—there’s hardly any blue. Most of my paintings are dominated by blue, but I didn’t want to cool this one down. Whenever I glance at it, the honey-colored silhouettes make the room warm up just a little bit.
About halfway through this painting, I was struck by how the succulents resembled sea anemones, how urchin-like the prickly pears and cacti were. As I stepped away from the scene, I could imagine so clearly how the landscape had once been an ocean floor. I briefly felt the underwater desert. Through that lens, the hunting pose of the coyote makes it appear that she is floating, possibly floating supernaturally through the desert’s memory of being an ocean.
Coyotes are my number one favorite animal because when I was growing up, in Maple Valley, WA they were the rarest and most special wildlife to see. Quite tragically, we lost a few animals to —dogs, cats, rabbits— to coyotes, but my parents always made it clear it was our fault for letting our pets stray, not the coyotes’. I was taught that coyotes were incredibly important because they were so good at adapting, hunting, and living a wild life despite horrendous human encroachment. They are my power animal to this day.
I was inspired to paint this during my last trip out to New Mexico. I was property hunting—and I saw a coyote! She stared at me, froze, then turned around and leapt five feet in the air over some tall grasses and was gone. It felt like that moment lasted much longer than it really did…it happened so quickly, but it was incredibly special. I felt like a mystery had been revealed to me just by making eye contact with such a wild non-human.