John Whytock

Wapiti Wolf Pack, April 2020
Oil on Belgian Linen
40 x 30 x 0.50 in
Even though my life as an artist is a fairly solitary one, the lock-down has affected me. For the past months, I’ve feared for my country, friends, family, beloved wife and myself. Like the rest of the world, that fear has motivated us to stay inside for many weeks, venturing out only a couple times to get necessities. I was in the process of painting "Wapiti Wolf Pack" when the COVID-19 threat descended. The hours I spent painting allowed me to reflect on the content of the work. Yellowstone National Park is less crowded in winter so the domain of the wolves is wider, and they are able to roam more of its expanse. My friend, Chris, is a guide working in the park. He spotted the pack near Old Faithful and took some wonderful photos. With his permission, I used those photos as the reference from which I created the painting. There is a human presence at the geyser all year long, so the wolves tend to steer clear. It was a pleasure to imagine how the pack might have appeared before the crowds. I envied the wolves' tight little community and their former freedom to go wherever they pleased. It made the loneliness and my feelings of confinement more acute. There’s also something about winter and the silence of a snowdrift that added to my sense of isolation. But this painting will always hold a special place in my heart. I will always remember my desire to experience the sensations the wolves were feeling: the cold air in my face, the freedom to run through the snow, the closeness and familiarity of my tribe and the unique experience of a life without borders, boundaries and face masks.