If you’re a budding artist and love nature, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources is accepting original paintings for its 2022 wildlife calendar. The submission deadline is Feb. 19. To learn more about submitting art, download our entry rules and application below. You can also contact us or call Jessica Swecker at 304-637-0245.

Capturing wildlife on canvas

Misty Murray Walkup is a realist who is passionate about bringing animals to life in her paintings. At her home studio on a mountaintop in rural Greenbrier County, inspiration practically claws at her backdoor. Game cameras record regular visits from black bears, deer, raccoons and other critters that inspire her creativity and serve as reference for her paintings.

“The more realistic I can make an animal look, the better,” she said. “Wildlife is my true passion and I love making animals come alive on the canvas. I paint many different subjects, but painting animals is what makes me happiest.”

Murray Walkup painted the bobcat on the 2021 West Virginia Wildlife Calendar cover and featured on the September page. She also painted the scene of turkeys flocking in a snow-covered field under a vivid sky on the March page.

Titled “On High Alert,” the bobcat is a 16×20 oil painting. The turkeys in “A Sunrise Rafter” were painted with acrylic.

When starting a new painting, Murray Walkup may pour over her extensive library of reference photos for inspiration. When she can visualize what she wants, she starts with an underpainting, which is a base for layers of paint to follow.

“If I use oils, I build up thin layers. Thousands upon thousands of individual hairs are painted on,” she said. “I try to spare no detail.”

Murray Walkup loves painting leopards, tigers and big cats. Her painting of a white tiger, titled “The Wild,” appeared in her exhibit at the Greenbrier Artists show in Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg.

“The bobcat was painted because I was in the mood to paint one,” she said. “But once I finished it, I knew I wanted to enter it” for the competitive DNR wildlife calendar selection.

Murray Walkup painted the turkeys with the DNR calendar in mind.

“I thought of what I would like to see on a calendar to brighten up my wall in the cold late winter or early spring when the world still lacks color and warmth,” she said. “The fiery sunrise came to mind. Then I needed an animal. With spring gobbler season, the turkeys just made perfect sense. It is one of my favorites.”

Murray Walkup’s work has appeared in previous DNR calendars:

  • 2019, October, black bear
  • 2020, January, coyote
  • 2020, October, red tail hawk

Life lessons in art

“I have always been interested in art, from the time I could wrap my little fingers around a crayon,” Murray Walkup said. “I am a completely self-taught artist. I married very young and started a family. So, I learned through trial and error over the years.”

While her art studio is being finished, the family dining room temporarily serves as her workshop.

“My current space is cluttered with about 20 projects in various stages,” she said. “I have always been a little scattered. Hopefully, once my studio is finished, it will be a little more organized, but I’m sure it’s always gonna have a certain level of chaos.”

Murray Walkup has had other artist role models to whom she looks up and encouragement from others in the creative arena.

“An awful lot of people had faith in me when I had none,” she said. “If you are passionate about painting, or just want to get better, my advice to you is to paint. You can read, study or watch instructions, but for that to help, you have to practice what you have learned and paint – a lot.”

To see more of Misty Murray Walkup’s creations, visit her Laurel Creek Mountain Art on Facebook or mistymurraywalkup.com.

Get your 2021 West Virginia Wildlife Calendar

It’s not too late to purchase a 2021 West Virginia Wildlife Calendar. Order your copy while supplies last.