Santa Barbara, California
Emil Morhardt is an artist based in Santa Barbara who expresses his passion for birds through his portfolio of lifelike acrylic paintings. He works from his at-home studio, which is on a high ridge with an unobstructed north-facing view of the mountains behind Santa Barbara. While he paints, foxes, bobcats, and roadrunners occasionally walk up to the glass doors and peer in, and deer and coyote run by. Emil learned to paint from his father when he was growing up in the high desert of California. His father—also named Emil Morhardt—was one of the early California watercolorists. He taught Emil painting technique and instilled him with an appreciation of opaque media. In 1980, Emil began his art career by painting landscapes of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Eastern Sierra. Today, he focuses his attention on painting bird portraits reminiscent of those by artist John James Audubon. He bases his paintings off hundreds of photographs he takes of birds in the wild and at wildlife recovery centers. A single painting often uses information from several photos to get the features, behavior, and background. Every painting represents hours and sometimes days of photographing birds in the field. Through his work, Emil hopes to capture the freedom and inquisitiveness that birds show in the natural world. Emil earned a BA in Zoology from Pomona College and a PhD in Environmental Physiology and Ecology from Rice University. In 2011, he moved to Santa Barbara, where he was a Professor of Environmental Biology at Claremont McKenna, Scripps, and Pitzer Colleges.