Mike BondEver since I was a child, I wanted to be an artist.  Growing up in Iowa I was always doing something artistic – drawing, especially drawing horses which I still love to do, carving images of horses in soap, and other childhood art projects.  I took art classes all through my school years.  My love and appreciation of the beauty of nature was fostered by my father who was an avid outdoors man. 

My original goal was to be a portrait artist which is still of interest to me.  However. the bulk of my work in the last few years has been landscapes, mostly desert, some western scenes as well as the Lake Tahoe and Sierra area. 

My interest in the desert landscape began over twenty years ago when I discovered a very special place, the Saline Valley, which has since become part of Death Valley National Park.  The combination of the geology, the never-ending changes of color, and the light and shadow effects of the area was overpowering.  The earth bares its soul in the desert.   The vast spaces with the constantly changing colors and light are inspirational and challenging to represent in a completed composition.

My original landscape technique was to do drawings in the field.  In my studio I would then create a painting from the drawing.   Now I take photographs in the field and use them as guides for my completed painting.  Although acrylics remain my primary choice of media, I have enjoyed experimenting with plein air pastel drawing. 

For me to paint any subject matter it must be of personal interest, and it must be challenging.  I like the concept of doing something I have never attempted; using the knowledge I have acquired through study, observation and practice while combining the basic elements of color, texture, form, light and shadow, to produce a final composition.

Although I have taken some beginning art classes and read art books, I feel that I am mostly self-taught.  There is no end to the learning process.  

About the Paintings:

The painting of the Posse and Desperadoes was inspired by a true event in history.  In 1871 there was a prison break at the state prison in Carson City.   Twenty-nine prisoners escaped and six of the escapees ended up in an area south of Mammoth, CA, near a mountain which at that time was called Mt. Diablo.   There was a gun battle and one of the posse was killed, a man named Robert Morrison, for whom the mountain is now named.   My painting is a fantasy of what it might have looked like with the posse chasing the desperadoes with Mt. Morrison in the background. The two paintings, Convict Lake I and Convict Lake II are of a nearby lake named after the event.

The paintings of the poker players, the gunfighters and the temperance ladies were all the result of an annual party in Darwin, CA, an old mining town dating back to the 1860s.  The party theme that year was western.  The paintings entitled “Old Truck in Darwin” and “Party Girls” were also from Darwin, from another year. “Statue in Darwin” depicts a piece by one of the local artists still working in this tiny, semi-ghost town.

The western theme painting “Stage Coach leaving Benton” was inspired by the old building in the painting which still stands and my fantasy of what it might have looked like in the 1800s.  The building was operated as a stage stop for a while by Robert Morrison, the same man (I believe) who was murdered by the prison escapees from Carson City. 

The painting of the Sweetwater cattle and cowboy were the result of a camping trip into a remote area of the Sweetwater mountains.  While I was camping there, the cowboy drove the cattle by our campsite several times.  I took some pictures and the paintings were made.

The desert paintings are the result of many camping trips into the remote Saline Valley and I trust there will be many more to come (both camping trips and paintings).