Bonnie Marris has taken an unusual path into art; she
developed her talent by portraying animals from the inside
out. While she was a student at Michigan State University,
Bonnie illustrated several major books. One volume she worked
on was a leading experts mammalogy text that contained
several hundred drawings and detail studies. This massive project
attracted the attention of noted zoologist George Schaller,
who invited Bonnie to prepare the art for posters that would
support his worldwide rare animal relief programs.
Beyond academic training and emotional involvement, art requires
another element for which there is no substitute: experience.
Each year, Bonnie makes two major trips, and countless smaller
ones, to observe and learn about the wildlife she loves.
In 1980, one such voyage took her to Alaska, where she lived
in the wilderness for six months. She recounts, To get
into a natural environment and see the animals on their own
terms is as important as knowing the animals themselves. For
instance, gray wolves on the tundrathe vast, vast tundra
with the wind and other forces of nature at their most extremethats
what makes them what they are. To stand not far from a grizzly
that is so overpowering, so beautiful and so large . . . to
watch it pull up a small tree with a swipe of its paw and
just a few minutes later see it delicately picking blueberries
with its black lips. . . Alaska changed me; it gave me the
biggest incentive to paint and increased my interest in the
predators: the cats, bears, coyotes, wolves and foxes. They
exist on so many levels. Their moods show in their eyes and
we can learn so much from them.