Saturday, January 5, 2019

Missionary Ridge

Missionary Ridge
17” X 9”
Acrylic on a reclaimed cabinet door

There’s two feet of snow on the ground and more on the way (yay), but I was lost in this memory of our summer monsoon season as I painted this piece. 

We packed up a lunch and our fishing gear and headed out to explore Missionary Ridge, north of Durango. We were heading out to Henderson Lake, to try our luck fishing. It was another sweltering day, but as the road climbed, the air cooled, and we rolled down the windows and let it wash over us in joy.

It was early in the monsoon season, and we’d yet to get a decent rain, so as we watched the clouds billowing and building to the north (right where we were going!), we cheered them on, hoping for a downpour.

Clumped patches of wildflowers in brilliant pinks and purples spattered the grassy hills. Dense stands of deep green spruce alternated with swaths of tree skeletons left behind by the catastrophic fire that swept the ridge in 2002, burning more than 70,000 acres.

By the time we reached the lake, thunder rumbled steadily. The sky to the west was purple with swollen, angry clouds. “Come on, rain!” we said, breaking out our chairs and lunch in defiance. There’s no better way to guarantee rain than showing the weather gods you aren’t taking shelter when they growl at you.

The lake was serene and fringed with lush emerald vegetation, a happy sight, and much needed reprieve from the dry, pale tufts of last year’s grass and parched trees we had at home, just a few miles away. It had been a dry winter and our spring grasses barely made a showing before the heat came on hard and without mercy. 

Despite our taunts, the rain stayed to the west. We tossed a few lines into the mirror of a lake, but the fish took no interest in our offerings. We dawdled for a while longer and enjoyed watching the late afternoon light on the land as the clouds moved on, gifting us with a few spatters as we traveled back down the hill towards home.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Into the Weminuche

Into the Weminuche
20” X 16”
Acrylic on Canvas

It was the perfect afternoon—after a perfect anniversary weekend exploring Gunnison, Tin Cup, and Lake City, we were taking the backway into Creede. Miles from anywhere, we saw a sign for an overlook and decided that’s where we would stop for lunch. 

And what a view it was, looking into the Weminuche Wilderness. The light frosting of snow on the distant peaks contrasted with the autumn gold grasses in the valley below; the deep blue of the sky reflected in the water, a mosaic of ice patches the weakening November sun couldn’t melt during the ever-shortening days.

We bundled up and broke out the backpack stove to make tea and instant soup, grateful for the sun’s warmth.

This is one of those paintings that seemed to take forever…started long ago and set aside several times as I turned my attention to other paintings and other projects.

In early November, I had my first studio show here in Durango after a looooong hiatus. It’s amazing how much time it takes to prepare when you haven’t had a show for a while. Clint installed lights, while I framed and cleaned (paintings and house). 

Just one part of the house where paintings were hung. I had 42 framed pieces on display.

While in the process of inspecting and cleaning paintings as we hung them, I discovered pieces I had not signed, or varnished, or had horrible globs I had to fix. There were older less-favored paintings taken out of frames to make homes for new pieces. Whew—it was a lot of work!
 When “show day” came, we were ready and it was a great day. Plenty of people showed up (you always worry, you know) and they ate and drank, looked at art, and I even sold a few. Not bad for the first show in a new town where I had to build a mailing list from scratch. 

I could barely wait to get back to painting…and forced myself to finish “Into the Weminuche” before I allowed myself to start a new painting (well on the way to being finished, by the way).

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Plein Air Twofer

Morning Aspens
5” X 7”

A couple of times a year I get to go camping for my job with Great Old Broads for Wilderness. Yep, it’s pretty darn cool and we (the staff) all agree, these trips are always magical and it’s a treat to get out from behind a computer. 

It’s hard work, because we’re managing 60 or so participants for these events (we call them Broadwalks)— but it is also great fun and I’ve gotten to meet some wonderful people and see amazing landscapes.

I teach watercolor classes at these events and I really enjoy these sessions. I start out with a little discussion about color and planning the painting, and then do a demonstration before everyone digs in to their own paintings. If I can convince them, the students share their work with the group when we all gather for dinner and the evening program. After four painting sessions this last trip, I had a couple of demo pieces that had the potential to become finished paintings—and here they are!

For this adventure, we went to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area near Ketchum, Idaho to learn about the Endangered Species Act and some of the creatures whose survival is threatened. We camped in the beautiful Silver Creek Meadow—a broad expanse bordered by a breathtaking, rocky ridge. At the edges of the meadow, the aspens glowed in a symphony of greens in the morning sun.

Meadow Sentinel
5” X 7”

This is the other painting I completed that was started in one of the watercolor class demonstrations. This is but one tiny section of a ridgeline that ran as far as we could see from left to right. Its color and texture changed throughout the day as the sun and clouds moved across the sky. It was one of the loveliest locations I’ve experienced so far on one of our events. However, now that I think of it, I say that about nearly everywhere we go.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

11 ½” X 18”
Acrylic on a reclaimed cabinet door

This weekend I was determined to make art. And, as bad luck would have it (good luck for me), Clint had a doosey of a cold, so I retreated to the studio for some much needed art time.

Two weeks ago, we celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary. We packed up the car and headed over Molas pass and east to Gunnison, Colorado. We had a grand old time hanging out together and exploring new places. I loved the high plains sea of sagebrush surrounding Gunnison, charmingly placed on a plateau under a big bowl of a sky. We saw canyons with wild, icy creeks and the snow-topped Sawatch Mountains. We crossed the Continental Divide in yet another place and stopped for a roadside lunch where we gazed into the beautiful Weminuche Wilderness. I came back inspired and with plenty of photos to work from. 

Our first stop was the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It’s one of those places like Canyon de Chelly, where you’re traveling through a pleasant, but unassuming landscape and all of a sudden—bam—you come upon this holy-cow canyon (in this case carved by the impressive Gunnison River). The view into this deep maw of a canyon is knee buckling. There were places where I wouldn’t even lean on the overlook's railing—yet at the same time, I longed to have wings so I could soar out over it.

This painting was an obsession. I’d drawn out the basic shapes last weekend and laid in a few washes of color after spending the afternoon wrestling with my Cascade Creek painting. I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Yesterday I grabbed my morning tea and went straight to it, painting most of the day, bringing the piece nearly to a finish. I got lost in color, finally setting my brush down late in the afternoon.

Cascade Creek

Cascade Creek
13 ½” X 23”
Acrylic on a reclaimed cabinet door

One of our favorite hikes takes us down a short, but steep hill to this lovely creek. The views heading down the trail are spectacular, especially in the fall when the aspens turn to brilliant golds and yellows. This time, it was early spring, the aspens still bare, and patches of icy snow in the shady spots as we left the trailhead. Having nearly died once on a narrow icy trail, I was nervous. Now some might say I wouldn’t have died, but I certainly would have at least broken several appendages. Thanks to Clint’s lightning fast reaction, as my feet shot out from under me he grabbed the strap at the top of my daypack, holding me until I dug my trekking pole into the snow and rolled back up onto the strip of trail. What ensued was something like a bear trying to get up from a greased linoleum floor. It wasn’t pretty, but I got both feet back under me and we continued. So, that experience was in my mind that day as we set out.

All went well until we came to a short steep stretch in shady patch of a hairpin turn covered in snow. It was slick as can be and Clint coached me onward, “Step in the footprints that are already there in the snow so you don’t slip.” That sounded like a good idea to me and with the first step, I discovered the snow was about three feet deep as my leg postholed without touching any terra firma and I spun around in a physically impossible position, my free leg bent, knee slip-sliding across the icy crust. Think awkward bear on greased linoleum again, as I struggled to get my leg out of the hole. Eventually I did and promptly decided to slide on my butt down to the bottom of the berm. I was thankful the people behind us on the trail hadn’t caught up to us yet to witness this ridiculous spectacle.

From there the way was clear and we quickly made it to the bottom where the trail opens up to a beautiful broad meadow in a steep walled canyon. We made our way towards one of our favorite spots along the creek that runs the length of the valley. It was a stunning day and the water was a thick ribbon of green and blue laced with white foam.

PS. Though I haven't been painting as much as I'd like to, I've been remiss about posting my pieces. Apologies! More to come soon.