One of our favorite things about introducing a new Taste of the Wild recipe, whether it’s a new entry into the original lineup or a whole new line like Taste of the Wild PREY® or our brand new Taste of the Wild® with Ancient Grains recipes, is that we get to see new packaging.
Offering your pets healthy new recipes that they’ll enjoy will always get our tails a-wagging. But there’s something special about strolling into the pet food aisles to see new Taste of the Wild bags. We’re obviously biased, but we feel like we have some of the most beautiful bags on the market. With the recent launch of Taste of the Wild with Ancient Grains, we have four new bags on the shelves. And while we’re proud of what’s in those bags, we’re also pretty proud of what’s on them!
We have Kansas City artist Kevin Ritchie to thank for our pride. It’s his brush that generates those bison, trout and bighorn sheep scenes that make Taste of the Wild bags worth framing (and we do frame them). Working in oils on 36” by 24” canvas, Kevin draws from a number of expected and unexpected inspirations.
“It might shock you to discover that I don’t do a lot of wildlife painting,” Kevin tells us. “I loved Audubon Society books as a kid, though, and it’s obviously stuck with me.” While Kevin might not exclusively paint grand landscapes featuring gray wolves on the hunt, he has painted a number of scenes for the fine art world that examine the theme of man vs. nature.
“I’m always interested in the idea that man will try to change nature to fit his whims instead of changing their whims to fit into nature,” he says. “So a lot of my work shows the juxtaposition between people and animals. Not necessarily in conflict, though. Sometimes it’s soft and lovely.”
Outside the animal kingdom, Kevin is inspired by abstract expressionism and postmodern realism; the influence of artists like Lucien Freud, Caravaggio, Velazquez and Delacroix might not be noticeable in every single piece, but they are an important part of his style and philosophy as an artist.
Kevin didn’t discover his love of painting until he enrolled into Southwest Missouri State University in the early 1990s. “I’ve been drawing since I was a baby,” he remembers. “My mother took college courses when I was young, and I’d sit in the back of her classrooms with a sketchpad.” He’d planned to turn that love of drawing into a career, but college had other plans. “It turns out, they force you to take classes outside of your interests,” he jokes. “And that’s how I discovered watercolors and then oil painting.”
He never left his love of illustration behind, and that love and talent plays a vital part of the process when creating art for Taste of the Wild. “They come to me with a loose idea of what they want for the piece, including specific animals, and that idea is usually accompanied by a sort of mood board,” he says. “The look and feel gets me going, and I take the idea and provide my own inspirational material that will inform the piece. Then I’ll start doing sketches in pen and ink. After a few rounds of notes, some revisions and maybe a meeting or two, I start painting. And there’s no notes during painting!”
It can take weeks for a painting to evolve from those loose ideas to a finished piece. “The challenge with oils is that there are so many hours in a day, and you need drying time,” Kevin says. “Deadlines are a new and novel thing for me, because I can only paint so fast. All I can do is put more hours in. Painting in this style, it’s hard to be a perfectionist; by its nature it’s not perfect. But I do want a perfect composition, so I put in the work.”
With four new pieces of honest-to-golly art making your local pet store’s food aisle look like they’re smack-dab in the middle of an ancient prairie, stream, mountain or wetland, we’re confident in saying that the work pays off.
Now we have to come up with some new recipes so we can see some new Kevin Ritchie compositions. Any suggestions?
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.