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These are two ink and gouache sketches of the SAME bison. I stood on different sides of his enclosure to work on them. Bison are so wonderfully hairy and massive. A pencil sketch, or detailed pen sketch, would have captured that better. I love the way their coats are often in a ragged and sloughing off condition.

It was another cold day, but it bothered neither the bison nor me. The sun was bright enough, and the wind calm enough, that the water in my Niji waterbrush stayed fluid. Protected by his massive coat the bison enjoyed the sun and didn't budge. People forget that while it can get cold in Minnesota, we have the most gorgeous clear blue skies and bright sunlight!

Hunted nearly to extinction by the U.S. Army (in an effort to destroy the Native American food supply and culture), only 541 bison remained in 1891. Bison were saved from extinction by a breeding program at the New York Zoo. Imagine what it must have been like to stand on a hill in South Dakota and see, spread before you, hills and valleys filled with a moving mass of bison.

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Illustration © 2003 Roz Stendahl; All Rights Reserved