Sunset over Dead Horse Point

30×40”
Acrylic on canvas

Sometimes the best plans fail. We had enjoyed a few previous trips to the Southwest and knew we’d be returning in the summer. From experience, we knew hotels to book up fast and had made reservations months in advance. I had started a Pinterest board of hikes and places of interest I wanted to explore on the trip. We would be going across the country to New Mexico, then up and over to Arizona then, Utah and Colorado.

I love the landscape of the Southwest and have loved painting it since my first trip there over 15 years earlier. The time change, the heat of summer and my eagerness propelled me out of bed each morning and kept me wanting to explore until the sun had set each day.

We had scheduled several days in Moab, with Arches and Canyonlands being close. But shortly before our trip, I saw they were would be working on the roads in the park. The park would close at 7pm and reopen daily at 7am. No sunset golden hour pics in the park, no sunrise hikes. I was a bit disappointed. Yet looking back that restriction lead to some great things.

Knowing about the closure made us look at what else to do around the area. We checked out a wonderful hike to Corona Arch outside the park. No crowds, really few other hikers and wonderful scenery. We went to Dead Horse Point State Park. It is right next to the Isle in the Sky entrance of Canyonlands. One night we were driving out of Canyonlands and a quick shower had just left and we pulled over for wonderful rainbow that spanned the canyon. The sky that night was such a great mixture of colors and clouds. We came back for another sunset as the first night we arrived a bit late and much of the canyon was already in shadows. That night the canyon had some great oranges with blue and purple shadows.

Not sure what detours you’ve faced recently. Detours remind me how much of life is out of my control. Yet when I look at this painting it reminds me that sometimes detours can lead to wonderful things, things richer than what I could plan for myself. One thing we can control is our attitude. We can choose to complain and stew or be open to the unexpected. It feels I’m continually learning to surrender the illusions I have of control and try to enjoy the ride.

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Alluvial Fan, Rocky Mountain National Park

Acrylic on canvas (triptych)
24×78″

The summer had included a lot of exploring and adventure. Hiking in a number of National Parks as well as some state parks from Texas, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. We’d looked off the edge of cliffs, across canyons spread out before us, and looked up at the towering walls of stone. It was amazing and tiring and well worth the sore feet and grime washed down the shower drain each night.

Our last stop. Our last day, at the end of the day we went someplace we’d not visited in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Alluvial Fan. An alluvial fan, by definition, is a fan or triangle shaped deposits of water transported materials. (Like rocks and logs.) Back in 1903 farmers made an earthen dam that increased the size of Lake Lawn, high in the mountains, so as to provide a water source for nearby Loveland. Over the years that dam eroded and in 1982 the dam suddenly gave way, sending 200 million gallons of water down the hillside, along with rocks, trees, and debris and flooding the nearby town of Estes Park, and creating Alluvial Fan!

There were signs around to be careful. The ground is rocky and uneven, the current is fast, and the water is cold. For our kids, it was a dream playground. Tons of rocks to bolder around on and explore. But as history had shown, these parks are not Disney world. There is no safety railing. Wildlife is just that, wild. Healthy respect and caution are necessary.

Our kids had grown confident from a few weeks of hiking and exploring. My husband warned them to be careful. Don’t get too close to edges, watch out for loose gravel that could cause you to lose your footing. We all continued to explore. Taking photos, marveling in the size of boulders as big as cars that had been swept, down the hill.

I heard my husband shout, at my son, panic in his voice. My heart beat faster. I had no line of sight but was fearing the worse. Your mind jumps to what if. Did he fall? Was he being swept away in the water? What if he had a broken bone, a concussion, or worse? Would we be that family that everyone talked about who lost their son in the summer of 2017?

Had we just turned a corner and spent our last day as a family?! Our son had fallen in the water. I made my way over boulders to where my husband was fearing what I might see. Praying, crying, yelling, please God no. Help us. Let him be ok.

Then I saw my husband with my son. Dripping wet, shaking crying, scared, but without injury! He had stepped on a spot on the rock that was wet and slid into a shallow pool of water. It was slippery and he needed help getting out. It could’ve been so much worse. We were beyond grateful he was OK. Our family intact, spared. Redemption. A second chance.

So this scene in all its beauty reminds me our days are numbered, and we don’t know that number. Appreciate those days. I love this scene. It’s beautiful. But it’s a beauty born out of destruction. Lives were lost in that flood in 1982.

The photos that inspired this painting were taken just moments before the accident. If you look close my kids are sitting by the water on the left, my husband is at the far right.

The Watchman and the Virgin River, Zion

Acrylic on canvas
30×40 inches

We live in time, in the present, with the past experiences, victories, and regrets shaping us, and future hopes and dreams guiding how we use our time now. Lately, there have been a lot of movies, tv, and books where the future looks pretty bleak. (Dystopian fiction anyone?!) And many stories have dealt with the idea of time travel. Being able to go back to correct a moment in time, erase mistakes and regrets.

It was almost two years ago when my family had a wonderful time in the Southwest. Soaking up every minute of our time, getting up extra early to hike before it got too hot. Taking in every sunset. Retracing our steps on places we’ve visited before and discovering breathtaking new ones along the way. I’d done a fair amount of research before our trip, bookmarking different hikes that sounded interesting. Benefiting from others experiences.

Our days were full. One day while visiting Zion, we were about to head back to our hotel room. The sun was setting, much of the canyon was in shadows. Several people were stopped on a bridge, cameras in hand. We found parking and joined them. The sun was just lighting the tops of the mountain. You could hear the river below us, as it continued its path through the valley floor. It was beautiful.

I long to return to visit again. I follow different parks on Facebook and Instagram. See the changes of not just seasons but that the trails, landmarks, the wilderness that is so loved doesn’t stay the same. Storms cause roads and trails to be covered in mud and rendered unpassable. The Virgin river that winds through the narrows flows with a much greater capacity after a winter with lots of snow. These parks show the passage of time as well. And with time comes change. Sometimes welcome, or necessary, other times leading to sorrow. The parks are a treasure, I appreciate all those who work to preserve them so future generations can enjoy them. (As the saying goes, leave only footprints, take only pictures.) But even with all that is done to preserve the majesty of these parks, they will still continue to change.

It serves as a reminder that our relationships are also a treasure. They are not static. Ever time marches on. They need to be invested in, protected, worked on so, as inevitable changes come, they can weather the storm, adapting, rich with shared experiences.

Chisholm Park Sunset

12×36
Acrylic on canvas

While January means snow and cold for most of the United States, Florida tends to be selective in how much it participates. We stayed in town over Winter break. There were a few days I broke out a sweater, but several found me in the standard short sleeves and flip-flops.

Most of our break was low key. Stayed local, rested a lot, and took time to visit some picturesque areas around town.

Chisholm Park is about 15 minutes from us along the east side of East Lake Tohopekaliga (Toho for short). The park is beautifully shaded by a number of old live oak trees. Branches defy gravity, invited the adventurous to climb. Spanish moss drapes adding an air of mystery. We arrived about an hour before sunset and enjoyed our time watching the light cast shadows and light up leaves and moss. We walked along a horse path, listened to Sandhills cranes sounding like dinosaurs and even dipped our feet in the water. (While keeping an eye out for gators.) Not a bad way to end a winter day!

Encore Sunset Lullaby

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36×36
The left panel of swan sunset diptych
Acrylic on canvas

I had finished the first painting, intending it to be a stand-alone piece. It was pretty closely based on a photo I’d taken a while ago. I was reading/researching a little about swans when I came across some photos of swans with their babies, cygnets, riding along on the mom’s back, secure in her wings. I had a lot of skyline left so I decided to add a second panel. This piece was compiled from a few different images, and I wanted to match the scale, coloring, and tone of the previous piece. There is another portion of skyline left in between these two, but I don’t have the time right now to do a third at the moment. Maybe another time.

I spend a lot of time in my studio painting, alone. I listen to music, audio books and sometimes will catch up on a missed sermon. As I painted this piece I was listening to Jules Verne’s “20,000 leagues under the sea.” The fictional work detailing the underwater adventures of Pierre Arronax, a doctor and naturalist, who finds himself on board Captain Nemo’s the Nautilus. He taken aboard against his will, yet exposed to wonders of the sea, he finds he enjoys the journey to the point of being hesitant to leave. I still have many chapters to read and discover Mr. Aronax’s fate. (No spoilers please.)

The story makes me think about how many times figuratively, against my will, or despite planning or protests, I’ve found myself in unfamiliar waters. And I know I’m not alone. Plenty of stories out there of the underdog, in movies, literature, and the Bible has some amazing examples. We cheer when unforeseen, unfortunate circumstances are redeemed and lead to the hero overcoming. Right now I’m in the boat. I see the shore, but it seems impossible to reach. Some days my boat can be the Nautilus, containing and exposing me to treasures unknown. Other days it feels like a smelly leaky fishing boat, no motor, one oar on a stormy sea. I’d like to enjoy the journey, feeling as safe as a cygnet surrounded by its mother’s wings. Perception makes a world of difference.

Here are the two panels together, and some in progress shots.

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Sunflowers on a Cloudy Day

Acrylic on Three Canvases

20×60

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I love vibrant colors. Flowers, sky, buildings. I’ve been searching for landscapes to paint with flowers. The seasons are muted here. No snow, very few trees change color and drop their leaves and no blossoming cherry trees or tulips in the spring. While I appreciate not freezing for the winter months, I’ve been missing the indicators of seasonal change. When you live in a place that has more defined seasons, a winter where life freezes and goes dormant, spring with its new life and promise of sunshine calls for a celebration.

So I was excited when a friend’s Facebook feed showed her family enjoying themselves locally in a field of sunflowers. A local farmer planted the field and made it a maze. About the time I found out about this place we entered into several days of heavy rain and storms. There was a day when although overcast it looked like there would be a break in the rain for a few hours. So off we went with towels and extra pairs of shoes. The sky was gray with thick clouds. The trails were soggy from all the rain. We felt a few drops fall as we were finishing. However, it was beautiful to see this field of brightness. Thousands and thousands of cheerful flowers.

Even though it was overcast all sunflowers faced the same direction. Others have observed and recorded the process of heliotropism, where the heads of young plants shift their faces following the sun throughout the day, then move back to the East to catch the sunrise! Scientists are unsure why this happens. I like the lesson, no matter what’s going on they look for the light, look for the source of life. I also appreciated that even on a cloudy day they didn’t close up, but were open and bright. Their circumstances didn’t affect their beauty. They knew even if they couldn’t “see” the sun, they were trained and knew it was still there.

I took lots of photos to use for a painting. And here is where I’m glad I’m a painter, not a photographer. The sky was pretty much cloudy and grey. I found inspiration for this sky from some photos taken last summer.

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Summer Sunset at Knox Farm

24×24

Acrylic on canvas

In March I completed a series of 20 some mini paintings. Quick sketches of sunrise and sunsets. They were quick to complete, loose brush strokes, unconcerned with detail, wonderful colors. There are a few of the mini paintings I did after completing a larger piece with the same subject. It’s a challenge for me to maintain the expressiveness in larger pieces that comes so easily in smaller ones.

For this piece I picked a small study I had done and aimed to produce something similar but larger. I put some detail into the bottom using photos I had of Knox farm as inspiration. Then for the sky I broke out bigger brushes, and mixed more colors. I wasn’t satisfied with the result, they looked like two parts that didn’t quite fit together. So I went back into the sky to add some small brush work.

Sometimes I finish pieces thrilled with how they came out. Other times I chalk it up to a learning experience. I struggle with paint transparency, and an interesting yet cohesive piece. We are all still in process. It can be easier to stick with things we know, or come easy. (I hear complaints daily from my teenager of when will she ever use some of what she is being taught.) Yet we cheer for each new milestone a baby reaches. History remembers and movies celebrate those who keep pushing themselves. Who didn’t give up when they failed, but learned from it.

(Smaller study)

Casa Monica at Dusk

24×30

Acrylic on canvas

When I visited St Augustine I was taken by the architecture of Flagler College and the Lightner Museum and learned they were formerly hotels built in the 1880s. What I didn’t realize was the Casa Monica was built around the same time and has its own history. It looks newer, more pristine yet still having the same style of the Spanish Renaissance. The newness comes from a remodel in the 1960s that covered the poured concrete with stucco. More renovations happened twenty years ago when the building was bought by Kessler hotels.

Originally the hotel was built by Franklin W. Smith, who built his house Villa Zorayda with the New poured concrete method. When Smith ran into financial difficulties Henry Flagler bought the hotel. It was connected by a bridge to the Hotel Alcazar (Lightner museum) at the turn of the century until the hotel closed with the Great Depression. At one point later it housed a courthouse.

As I was reading about the history of the hotel the phrase time stands still for no man came to mind. The building has remained, yet it’s gone through many changes over the decades. As time and history progress, it brings change. The challenge is to learn, and grow, improve as changes come.

Along Avenida Menendez – St Augustine

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24×48
Acrylic on canvas

White strung lights adorn many of the buildings and trees in the old part of St Augustine around Christmas time each year. They add to the beauty and charm of the buildings and street. We arrived as the sun was setting one night and found parking on a side street. We walked along enjoying the scenery of this old town. It was chilly for Florida and a brisk breeze came off the water. None the less, we enjoyed exploring and seeing buildings that belong to a different time.

This is the first in a new series of paintings depicting St. Augustine, Florida.

The town has a long history and there are many buildings with interesting details. This was taken near the Bridge of Lions facing Avenida Menendez avenue. The fort Castillo de San Marcos finished in 1695 is at the far end of the street. Lights wrap each palm tree and horse-drawn carriage awaiting tourists. Sailboats bobbed in the water of the Matanzas River.

Have a favorite place? Share it with me!

Courtyard of Hotel Alcazar

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24×30
Acrylic on canvas

As a child, I loved the book “the secret garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved the idea of a hidden away garden, a secret place full of life. Ask any parent and they will confirm children love making secret hideouts and can happily spend a day making a fort from cushions and sheets. Something in us longs for private sanctuary.

My family took a short trip to St. Augustine, Florida. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States. It was fun to explore the narrow streets, take in the fort and other historic buildings. While searching for a bathroom we discovered Hotel Alcazar. It was built over a hundred years ago, and it now contains various shops and a museum, and an inner courtyard. Surrounded by an arched portico, the courtyard has palm trees, and other plants as well as a coy pond with a bridge. It’s own secret garden. A little place of peace and beauty to rest.