Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Inspired by serendipity!

"Three Princes (African Elephant)"

Oil on 1/2" prepared maple
36 x 48

The painting, “Three Princes (African Elephant),” is the first painting that I actually searched for in the field. The idea and inspiration for this piece came from what I believed at the time to be the loss of the opportunity to travel to Tanzania, Africa, for the first time in 2012 -- a loss that was soon corrected by what I perceived as serendipity.

In order to get to Tanzania, I was attempting to presell paintings and/or drawings to my collectors, which when you think about it, you are asking someone to purchase something sight unseen. The deadline was fast approaching for me to put down the deposit for my trip and I hadn’t received any bites on my advance purchase promotions. I had come to the decision in my head that my trip would not happen. At the time that I was making this choice and getting ready to end the promotion, I was working on a drawing of an African elephant from references that my friend and amazing sculptor Paul Rhymer had supplied me with in order to start stirring my enthusiasm for my upcoming adventure.

Nearly finished with the drawing and starting to put my thoughts toward what I would title it, I went out for my weekly check of my post office box. In among the standard junk mail was a simple #10 envelope with a return address that I recognized, a collector who had added several pieces of mine in their collection in the past. In that short moment of tearing the envelope open, unfolding the letter and seeing one of my advance purchase agreements filled out, everything changed. In one simple letter from one collector my dream of going to Africa was a reality! I perceived this as serendipity and I so named the drawing that I was finishing up that afternoon.

As is a habit of mine, I researched the word “serendipity” and learned of its origin and the story of “The Three Princes of Serendip.” Apparently, the word serendipity was coined by Horace Walpole (1717-97) in a letter to Horace Mann acknowledging the safe arrival of a portrait of Bianca Cappello, a 16th-century beauty and Duchess of Tuscany. In this letter, Walpole uses the word serendipity for the first time and tells Mann how he came about creating it.

“This discovery indeed is almost of that kind which I call serendipity, a very expressive word, which as I have nothing better to tell you, I shall endeavour to explain to you: you will understand it better by the derivation than by the definition. I once read a silly fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip: as their highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of: for instance, one of them discovered that a mule blind of the right eye had travelled the same road lately, because the grass was eaten only on the left side, where it was worse than on the right – now do you understand serendipity?”
                                    ~The Three Princes of Serendip, by Richard Boyle

From this brief introduction to the tale of “The Three Princes,” I soon found myself reading the tale in its entirety and started to illustrate the story in my mind’s eye. Apparently, the mule in the story is actually a camel that has gone missing. When the camel driver questions the three princes about the missing camel, they describe attributes of the missing camel -- the camel was lame, blind in one eye and was missing a tooth -- without ever seeing it. I envisioned them putting their heads together and conversing, looking at the clues and discussing the evidence of the missing camel. It was at this moment that I thought of three elephants coming together, with their heads in conference.

I went to Tanzania in November 2012 on a mission to find the needed reference for the painting that I had seen in my head, which was inspired by researching a word, a word that I believe stepped in and made my trip to Africa happen. I was in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, Africa, for eight days constantly searching for the vision that I had seen when reading “The Three Princes.” On day eight, overwhelmed by all that I had seen but feeling disappointed by not seeing what I was looking for, we made our way to the park entrance where I was to be picked up and taken back to Arusha for departure to the U.S. About 500 yards from the gate, serendipity once again stepped in! A small herd of bachelor elephants were grazing on the limbs of some Acacia trees and they were grouped in a manner that their heads were together as if they were in a great discussion. That was it -- there was my painting!

Back in the studio, I took the 50-plus images that I had captured from that encounter and found the needed references and worked on my composition. The painting, “Three Princes (African Elephant),” was the first piece I composed when I returned to the U.S. and is the largest painting I have created to date.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Looking for a hippo...

Fresh off of the easel, not even dry yet...

"Black and Green (Black-crowned Night Heron, juvenile)"
Oil on 1/2" prepared maple
12 x 24

Available exclusively through Lovetts Gallery in Tulsa, Oklahoma -

I started this painting awhile back and it simply went off and on the easel over several months because of other commitments but last week I was able to finish it up. The reference for this piece came from a visit to the National Zoo in Washington DC where I was looking for my friend and fellow artist Paul Rhymer's Hippo sculpture that was installed at the zoo. While looking for his work I stumbled on to an exhibit that a bunch of Black-crowned Night Heron's apparently live at - no they are not zoo animals but birds that have chosen to live there. I was very taken with all of the green reeds and the herons that were creeping through them.

I hope you enjoy the painting!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Two Years in the making!

Draw Realistic Animals
wildlife, pets & more
Instructional Book by Robert Louis Caldwell
Forward by Terry Miller
Published by North Light Books
Released June 2014

Pre-order your autographed copy of
Draw Realistic Animals
wildlife, pets & more 

10% off all Advance autographed copies until April 1, 2014

$25.00 plus shipping
(Sales tax will applied to all Virginia, USA residents)

Shipping outside of the United States please email us at for
shipping estimates.

(Click here to go to webpage for ordering the book)

Pre-release orders are being taken now, the book is scheduled to be released late June 2014. Your copy will be autographed by Robert and made out to the person(s) whose name(s) you insert into the box above. All orders will ship in early July 2014.

If you are ordering multiple copies made out to different individuals simply click on the "Continue Shopping" button on the cart page which will bring you back to this page so that you may order another copy inscribed to a different recipient.

In the instructional book “Draw Realistic Animals: Wildlife, Pets & More,” Robert takes you step-by-step through 12 drawings. He works through a variety of animal textures, including the fur of a colobus monkey, the distinctive markings of a vulture and the complex arrangement of scales adorning the Red-headed Agama. He also demonstrates how to draw animals in different habitats, from a dog curled up on the sofa, to a chickadee perched on a branch decked out with holiday lights to elephants in the African bush.
Robert’s work is meticulously drawn, and they are planned out well in advance of the first pencil touching paper. In his book, he imparts the all-important fundamentals of drawing, including drawing materials, reference materials, transferring your sketch and the most important part of art, composition.

Robert’s method of drawing is known as “continuous tone,” which he accomplishes by layering his graphite, starting from the lightest pencil and working his way up to the darker pencils. This layering technique establishes rich, solid tonal masses creating a great contrast and depth in his work that makes his drawings come to life.

As you read through this book, you will come to learn how important patience and your internal voice are (as well as a continued sharp pencil) to creating highly detailed drawings of animals.
The foreword in Robert’s book is written by Terry Miller, a highly acclaimed graphite artist, a master in pictorial composition and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s 2013 Birds in Art Master Artist. Terry has been friend and a mentor of Robert’s since they first met at the 2007 Birds in Art Exhibition, and Robert was very honored that Terry agreed to write the foreword to his book.
“Much to my personal liking, as it is the method with which I have developed my approach to graphite drawing over the years, Robert details the technique of layering to build up darks and develop dimension and depth in a drawing and, closing out the first part of the book, he touches upon what I feel is of most importance in structuring a fine drawing — the well-established principles of compositional design. Including ideas such as contrast, movement and rhythm, he discusses those principles along with the others noted in the text, applying them to initial studies and sketches and, moving them into more finalized contour drawings, he shows how to prepare to start work on a finished drawing.”~Terry Miller

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Have patience...

WIP - "Three Princes" Oil Painting, 24 x 36

Painting notes:

I happily started back to work on my painting of the three bull elephants today! This painting has been composed and on the panel for several months now, mocking me from the corner of my studio - not anymore! This was actually the first piece that I composed when I got back from my Tanzania 2012 adventure and it was inspired by several events that lead up to my securing that adventure. So when I went to Tanzania I had this painting in mind and was extremely pleased to have captured the needed reference for this painting on the very last  day as I literally was driving out of the Tarangire gate.

Currently the painting is in the under drawing stage, this is where I completely draw in the composition establishing all of my values of the finished piece, I will cover this with color. I find myself looking for a quicker way to get this stage done especially since it is a large piece but I just keep reminding myself to have patience.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The spell nature casts...

“Call of the Wild”

Southwest Art Magazine

February 2014 Issue 
Written by Norman Kolpas

Robert and his work have been featured in the February 2014 issue of Southwest Art Magazine which should be making it's way to your local newsstand now. The article covers the road that brought Robert through his adolescent years, through college and to his current position as "a rising star among wildlife artists." We cordially invite you to pick up a copy of the February issue of Southwest Art or by clicking on the link below to read the PDF of the article.

"How fortunate that the spell nature casts upon Caldwell harmonizes perfectly with his other calling: art. Over the past decade, his love of the outdoors and his talent with graphite pencils and oil paints have combined to make the selfdesribed "traditional realist," now 41, a rising star among wildlife artists."


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Holiday Drawing

Seasons Greetings!

"Classy Snow Lady (Mourning Dove)"
Graphite Drawing, 5 x 8

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,
and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

~Norman Vincent Peale

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Stay in the park big guy…PLEASE!

Adventure in Tanzania, Africa 2013

Part 2
Encounter with a very large Bull Elephant
Field sketch from Tarangire NP, Tanzania 2013
Halloween 2013 and I am out in the bush on a game drive, the west side of Silale Swamp in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. About mid morning we had made our way over to the area by Kuro Air strip, a small airport for what I call “puddle jumpers” to land at. Just as we were coming around a bend in the road that actually intersects with the road to the airstrip I saw the largest bull elephant I have seen to date and with what I considered to be huge tusks. Just a grand elephant!
We of course stopped and got into position to watch and photograph this gentle giant. I guess when you are that large and older you earn the right to move slower, to go at your own pace, slowly pulling Acacia leaves off the tree that you are under and watching us with one eye as he goes about his business. He eventually walked out from under the tree and into the sunlight over to the next grouping of trees. Camera shutters are going off in a rapid fire capturing every step, every movement as he simply walked from one tree to the next. He was the star and we were the paparazzi. We all looked at each other silently acknowledging that we all thought we had just gotten the perfect shot and that we had the makings for a grand painting, drawing or photograph. Satisfied we moved on.
On our way back up towards the swamp we saw him again, this time he was standing in the middle of the road that we had to go down. After about 15 minutes of patiently waiting he moved to the side of the road but just barely. We were in a great need to get back to the ranger station because our park pass was getting ready to run out so we had no choice but to get by the giant and quickly. Our guide through the land cruiser into gear and quickly got up to second gear and we raced by him… I have never in my life seen something so large move so fast! This enormous animal turned around so quickly and was facing right at us as we came parallel with him. If he had made the choice I sincerely believe that he could have with just a slight nudge turned the Land Cruiser over and kick us around just because we are silly little humans. Let me also mention that just before we made our way past him that he took a tree probably 10 inches in diameter between his trunk and tusk and simply pushed it over with what looked like no effort at all.
Even with my fellow artist that was originally on the left side of the vehicle and between me and the elephant ending up basically in my lap I pretty much got a good sequence of photos from the encounter. The elephants face is all over the picture frame because I was just pointing the camera in the general direction of the big guy, hanging on to the truck with the other hand and just basically staring at him in amazement as he turned to meet us.

Sequence of photos as we rushed by the giant!

Even though my encounter with this giant bull elephant was indeed exhilarating and I will forever remember him, it is not because of this event that I will be thinking of him but because of his safety. As we drove off I can remember saying, “Stay in the park big guy… please stay in the park!” He is a prime target for a poacher and I hope he can move that fast when he really needs to.
This sketch is how he looked after we had just passed him, alert, head up, tusks out and on guard.

Art to save Elephants

Thursday December 12, 2013, 9am CST - Sunday December 15, 2013 12pm CST

This sketch is currently available in the Artist Ambassadors Against Poaching “Art to save Elephants” silent auction that is being held of the AAAP FaceBook page. The silent auction runs from Thursday December 12, 2013, 9am CST – Sunday December 15, 2013, 12pm CST. Please click here to visit the page and place a bid, ALL proceeds from this auction go to African Wildlife Trust and their efforts to help save the African Elephants just like the one that i drew in this sketch. Bid often and bid high!