Last year, we didn’t have a white Christmas. Instead, we had
a white New Years. So, early that morning, having gone to bed well before midnight, off we went to explore our new home blanketed
in snow. It was clear, cold, and very quiet. The smart folks were still at home
snuggled up to a cup of coffee. The world was ours and it was beautiful: snow
banners billowing off the La Plata peaks, showers of sparkle coming off the
trees, and an intense blue sky emerging as the storm blew out.
We felt the joy of a hopeful year ahead of us— filled with
anticipation of change and good things to come—our unfolding move, finding our
place in a new town, perhaps starting to build a home in the spring. We had no hint
of the challenges we would face in the coming year.
Come this December, it snowed and snowed, giving us the white
Christmas we all hoped for. I watched the snow and worked on this
painting—thinking about how we would say a resounding farewell to the trials of
2015 and pin our hearts to a new year with fresh hopes and dreams.
I returned riverside to capture the Red Cliffs in the
lowering sun. In my last painting session there, the afternoon light and
shadows caught my eye and I made a mental note to return to the same spot. I
was eager to put paint to canvas when I arrived.
Though the river at my back flowed effortlessly, things
weren’t moving as well with the painting. I struggled with the angle I’d
chosen, fighting to find the right shapes and values. The afternoon grew
surprisingly hot and I could genuinely use the excuse “the sun was in my eyes”,
because as I struggled with light, shadows, and glare—on and off the canvas—the
sun marched over my left shoulder and into my eyes.
Finally, I moved into the
shade, next to the river where I got a clear look at the mess I’d made and began
pondering my next step. Something wasn’t quite right. Later, when I showed the painting
to Clint, he pointed out the resemblance of the rock folds to a female body
part. Since then, that’s all I see when I look at it. Consequently, the painting has been relegated to
the “do-over” pile.
I was nearly out of day as I daydreamed to the gurgle of the
river and gathered up my brushes. I looked out over the river, struck by the foliage
along the far shore glowing gold, orange, and lemon yellow in the last light of
the sun. The brilliant reflections in the water flamed against the encroaching mossy-black
shadows of the coming evening.
I knew I didn’t have
much time—I grabbed another canvas, quickly squirted out a few more colors onto
my palette, and got to work. I painted until the sun dipped behind the ridge. The
vivid colors gave way to soft edges and muted tones as the sky cooled to
I had to get out and paint—a strong urge I could not ignore.
I loaded the car up with everything. Usually I gather up just my watercolors,
but this time I thought I’d try painting with acrylics. That meant more stuff,
but for where I was going, it would be manageable. I’d seen a spot along the
Animas River that looked promising and the river had been begging me to paint
The Animas is special. It holds a singular place in the
hearts of the people who live here and I’ll bet many who visit the region take
the river home in their dreams. I know I did before we moved here. I thought
this tie to the river was just my own kooky nature nutty-ness. Soon, I realized
it wasn’t just me.
Its full name, River of Lost Souls, might hold a clue. Are
we drawn to it because, we ourselves are lost souls? Or, perhaps because we are
found again—here along the Animas? Maybe the river is a thread to the lost
souls in each of our lives. Somehow, I know that whoever named it must have felt
this connection too.
It was a bright, clear, cool autumn morning that we all live
for. The river sparkled in the sun. I found the perfect place to camp out where
the morning light tickled my artistic soul. About 5 hours later, I left with
The rain often comes in the late afternoon and early
evening. Most astounding, is when the rain marches towards us from the west, with a
glimpse of what lies behind the coming shower—a band of sunset—gold, coral,
and pink gleaming below the cloud layer. Above, is a different sky of
water-laden billows framed by swaths of purple and deep blue where the light of
the setting sun has been sealed away.
This piece is painted from memory on a salvaged cabinet door.
I’m so glad I still have a few left. I love painting on this surface. I’ve been
cruising alleys in town—ever on the watch for castaways to add to my “canvas”
I’m not sure if I decided on this title because I’ve been
obsessed with skies, or if it’s because there is no “ground” painted into this
I started this painting back in spring. I was here alone,
while Clint was somewhere between Colorado and California, hauling a trailer jammed
to the gills with stuff that, someday, we’ll wonder why we moved.
It was a day where spring teases you: warm with a hint of
what’s to come. However, once the sun waned, the lingering winter returned, and
I ended the painting session wearing a sweatshirt.
The poor painting languished for months, sitting in the
living room reproachfully reminding me that it wasn’t quite done. After a
while, I added ground. I hated it. The tulips lost their light, dancy feeling,
so I painted it out and left them floating, haloed in a haze of purple against
a pale sky.
Luckily, acrylic paint allows you to cover over bad
decisions (and regretfully, sometimes good ones).
By the time I was ready to finish this painting, we were
well into summer; sweltering, the cool spring a distant memory.
We hadn’t been camping in I-don’t-know-how-long—more than a
year (the horror!). We planned to meet up with our dearest hiking and camping
compadres near Flagstaff and camp near Sunset Crater. We were beyond excited.
The first day a few of us hiked up out of Lockett Meadow towards
Inner Basin. It was steamy, but beautiful climbing the trail through the dense
aspens. One of our younger hikers, 8-year-old Joe, said, “This place is like a
dream.” It was.
The next day, we went from wandering Wapatki in the intense
heat to shivering around the picnic table that evening as it poured down rain. In
classic monsoonal fashion, the storm gathered itself for an afternoon show,
starting with cracks of lightning and rolls of thunder that rattled your bones.
A few close strikes had us involuntarily erupting in shrieks and squeals—quickly
covered by nervous laughs. We huddled under a tarp for a cozy dinner—enjoying
the adventure. Eventually it stopped raining and we lit a fire that somehow
steamed into life. The stars were lovely, but after several hours of cold and
wet, warm sleeping bags called our names. After we’d snuggled in and called out
“Goodnight John-Boy” tent to tent, it started to rain again, a soft patter off
and on through the night.
In the morning, we found blue skies and I seized the
opportunity to paint this meadow, glowing green from recent rains, framed by the
San Francisco Peaks still shrouded in clouds. Later, once again the clouds thickened
and gave us a bit of rain. But by the time the dinner dishes were done, the
skies had cleared, giving us plenty of time to sit around the campfire laughing
together as we had so many times before.
Come morning, we packed up to go our separate ways: our
friends heading to the west, while we turned to the east. It was so hard to say