Arts and Entertainment

Whidbey Island artist creates poster for tulip fest

Bart Rulon is the Greenbank artist who created this year
Bart Rulon is the Greenbank artist who created this year's Skagit Valley Tulip Festival poster.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Bart Rulon

A carpet of far-reaching bright red, pink and purple tulip rows run under a setting sun toward a lavender horizon. Overhead, a covey of swans cut crosswise toward home.

These are some of the images in Whidbey Island artist Bart Rulon’s poster designed for this year’s Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Rulon was chosen more than a year ago to paint the 2010 poster through the festival association’s jury process. Islanders can meet Rulon at a poster-signing event from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, March 28 at Whidbey Coffee’s Lighthouse Café in Freeland.

Having maintained a busy career as a wildlife artist and photographer since 1991, Rulon travels all over the world to research wildlife subjects for his paintings, including trips to South America, India, Africa and Alaska. He likes to experience animals firsthand — whether it means riding an elephant to see tigers in India, kayaking with orcas in the San Juan Islands or tracking animals on safari in Africa.

He does the same thing while at home, too.

He’s been hanging around the tulip fields for the past few years taking more than 600 photos in order to find the perfect scene to paint.

“I knew from the very beginning that I would include snow geese or swans in my composition, because both species are found in the Skagit Valley during the springtime,” Rulon said.

The birds inspired his idea for the poster. In fact, when he saw the birds, it made him want to do the poster even more.

“I had not seen many posters with the birds in there, and I wanted to do it before somebody else had the idea.”

Whidbey Islanders know the Greenbank artist best for his bird paintings and photography, so it makes sense that he included tundra swans in his composition for the poster design.

“On many of my research trips I would photograph the tulips, geese and swans on the same day. In fact, I spotted the birds flying over one of the tulip fields I was photographing, and that was enough to cement the idea for me.”

Also included in the poster is a barn, a bit of prairie land and Mount Erie looming in the background.

Rulon said he spends a fair amount of his time looking for good backgrounds.

“The background is often what inspires me to do the painting. And the lighting.

I always have composition on my mind. I try to get a variety of both closeups and the big picture for both photos and paintings,” Rulon said.

“I found this scene with the barn in a Washington Bulb Company field bordering the road last year, but I used a little artistic license to take out some trees in order to show Mount Erie in the background,” he said.

The design is culled from a series of photos depicting the barn, the fields, the sunset, the swans and the mountain. Rulon uses Photoshop to create thumbnail composites of the various photos and then chooses the best one.

Once he had narrowed his ideas to one composition, it took him about two months of work to finish the painting process. The swans were critical and added on the last three days of work.

“The birds really brought the scene to life,” he said.

At the signing on Sunday, he will offer the 18-by-24-inch signed poster for $25.99. He is also selling a special edition of the poster on which he paints a small original acrylic painting of a tulip or swan on the bottom margin. Those posters cost $75.

Other merchandise available with the design include smaller posters, coffee mugs, magnets and cards.

See other work by Rulon, or order a poster online, click here.

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