When 16-year-old Florissant artist, Cody Oldham, paints mountain lions, he doesn’t need to rely on a photograph for up close and personal details. He has live “models” right in his backyard.
“My dad has operated a private, licensed rehabilitation center for mountain lions for more than 20 years,” Cody said, “so I get to see them every day.”
The lions came from out of state. All came to them with health issues or physical problems. They are nursed back to health at Catamount Creek Ranch and spend the rest of their lives with the Oldham family.
“They can’t be released because they aren’t capable of living back in the wild,” Cody said.
Living in rural Colorado, there are chores to do on the ranch before Cody can get to his studio and start painting. Among those chores is preparing food for the big cats and feeding them, which he doesn’t really consider a chore because they are such beautiful animals.
The cats eat a special diet of raw food from a local market that includes ground bones and organ meat. Supplements are added to ensure the cats get a complete nutritious meal.
Cody studies the mountain lions as they go about their day in their enclosures. He draws a lot of his inspiration for painting wildlife from these cats. Being able to get close to them gives him the ability to study how they move, their musculature, their fur and their eyes. Getting the eyes right in a wildlife portrait gives it an important element of realism.
Each cat is unique. The females can be range from 90 to 120 pounds and the males between 140 and 170 pounds. One third of the length of their body is their tail which is quite powerful and allows them to maintain their balance while running and chasing.
Like people, each cat has its own personality. Some are feisty while some are more mellow. Some are more used to people while others never seem to like their presence. At the ranch, Cody and his father work to ensure that each cat’s needs are respected so that they can live better lives.