“I saw my first black squirrel in Stanley Park in Vancouver several years ago and was immediately determined to paint one. As much as I love exotic animals, I am even more drawn to animals we know well- and in fact take for granted- that I can present in a new and interesting way. As such, an unusually colored version of the ever-so-common squirrel seemed practically to be begging for me to explore it in an artwork. Melanism in squirrels is actually not uncommon and occurs in both Eastern Grey Squirrels and Fox Squirrels; apparently there is evidence to suggest that the phenomenon was more common prior to widespread deforestation throughout the North American Continent, when a darker colored squirrel blended more effectively into dense old growth forest. It still occurs today, but is most notable in isolated communities where the melanistic genes more obviously and frequently express themselves. In the case of Stanley Park, the black Eastern Grey Squirrels are not even native, and the entire population is rumored to have originated from breeding pairs given as a gift from the Mayor of New York in 1909, which were then released in the park. Unfortunately, the species is an invasive one, and they compete quite ruthlessly with the two native squirrel species for food and habitat.
Ecology aside, they are a fascinating animal, and on the couple brief occasions I saw them, I was beyond intrigued. Unfortunately, I failed miserably at taking any useable photos, so the reference for this painting was very generously taken by my partner on my behalf when he was on a business trip to Vancouver several years after my first sighting. In “The Standout” I was most interested in exploring color and texture. I never use black pigments in my work for precisely the reason this subject illustrates. Though he appears “black” there are an abundance of violet, brown, and shockingly blue undertones and sheens on his splendid coat. This is not me being fanciful, but rather a reflection of the beauty and intricacy of nature that has always inspired me to paint.”
-Andrew Denman, 2016