Mundelein artist Michelle McCune captures wildlife’s essence
"Mbogo," by Michelle McCune, shows the buffalo she saw in Lake Nakuru, Kenya.
Mundelein Fine Arts Festival
at Kracklauer Park, 100 N. Seymour Ave., Mundelein
10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 8 and 9
(847) 970-9235, www.mundeleinartsfestival.com
Michelle McCune releases a wild energy when she paints animals she has observed while traveling to their natural habitats.
The Mundelein oil painter joins 50 artists selling and displaying their paintings, photographs, and sculptures Saturday and Sunday at the Mundelein Art Fair.
Only two years old, the fair is known for its intimate, friendly atmosphere. Organizer Christa Lawrence, who also designed the fair’s logo, is McCune’s sister.
A veterinarian in Grayslake for 16 years, McCune always had a strong
connection with animals. Eleven years ago, the artist began taking painting classes at the Main Street Art Center in Lake Zurich. It was
a natural progression to paint the creatures she loved.
Using vibrant colors, McCune attacks the canvas with ferocity. “I jump
all around when I am painting,” McCune said. “It’s how my mind works.
If I stay in one spot too long, I start messing with it too much. It’s a little bit of process and a little bit of ADD.”
During four trips to Africa and a vacation in Costa Rica, near the rain forests, McCune encountered many of the animals she has painted.
She works from memory and photographs.
“By painting these animals, I get to relive the experience of connecting with the animal,” McCune said. “Seeing animals in the wild is so much different than seeing animals in the zoo. The animals haven’t been changed by people. They are who they are. They are how they have evolved.”
She has painted cheetahs, lions, tigers, birds, elephants, foxes, and many other exotic creatures. In all of her paintings, the animals have striking expressions. She often captures the creatures in very natural
“I try to capture the essence of the individual animal,” McCune said. “Each animal has a unique personality. I try to capture what it is to
be free, in the wild – the expressions in their eyes, the details of their anatomy. I have a muscle memory of every animal.”
After a Kenya safari, McCune felt inspired to paint the massive face of a buffalo she observed close-up. “Sometimes, it’s a matter of cropping the photograph and finding the drama in the subject,” McCune revealed. “I love the expression in the buffalo’s face. He was intense.”
During a trip to Costa Rica, McCune walked up a hill from her hotel and had the pleasure of watching a sloth climb a vine. This experience inspired her to paint the creature. “It was fascinating to me because
you don’t usually see sloths moving around too much,” McCune said. “Sloths intrigue me because they have an almost Mona Lisa smile. I thought, this is a real cool composition.”
Her paintings of tigers and lions reflect the power and majesty of these graceful creatures. “They’re just some of the most beautiful animals you would ever see,” McCune said. “They just make a statement everywhere they go. They have catitude.”
McCune has a passion to tell the stories of wildlife through her paintings. She even donates a portion of her proceeds to help preserve animals and their vanishing habitats around the world.
“My life has been dedicated to animals,” she said. “A lot of people have emotional attachments to animals. They give us so much. As an artist, I strive to use my paintings to connect the viewer with the animal and share a precious moment in time. It’s all about emotional connections.”~