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New Ipswich

Artwork headed to Alaska

Commissioned work presents challenge

  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

    Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.

    (Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
  • Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich stands by a six and a half by five foot painting of a Grizzly he painted on commission for a customer in Alaska.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

It’s not unusual for illustrator and painter Shannon Stirnweis, 82, of New Ipswich to get a commission asking for a painting of a specific animal. His paintings have appeared as covers on Field and Stream and other outdoor magazines. So when a woman named Pat Peterson came across his website and called him up to commission a painting of a grizzly bear, it shouldn’t have been a problem for Stirnweis.

But there were two problems. The first is that Peterson lives in Alaska. Normally, shipping a painting isn’t a problem. It’s only when the requested size of the painting — 61∕2 feet wide by 5 feet tall are taken into account that things get a little complicated.

Stirnweis put the massive painting on canvas, so it could be rolled and shipped, but said that building the frame and hauling supports for it up two flights of stairs to his home studio was a challenge for a man of his age.

“It shouldn’t have been a major event, but just bringing the materials up to the studio was almost as big a problem as the art,” he said with a laugh. And painting on that scale just isn’t so simple, he said.

He then collected references for the Yukon area — the smallest and most western portion of Canada’s territories, which abuts Alaska — for the background , trying to make it as authentic as possible. Peterson, who lives far north in Alaska and is surrounded by Yukon territory, wanted the surroundings in the painting to reflect the scenery she sees outside her window every day. Stirnweis even went so far as to change the color scheme of the flowers at the bear’s feet, after learning that there are no red flowers in the Yukon.

And now, finally, the painting is finished and ready to ship. And while Stirnweis said the painting has consumed a significant amount of his time and energy over the past weeks, it won’t be hard to let it go. In fact, he said, it’ll be a relief to move it out of his studio and send it off to its final home. The painting dominates the majority of the space available in the little loft that Stirnweis paints in.

“It’ll be good to get my studio back,” he said.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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