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.

Advertisements

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.

Greeneda Courtyard, Winter Park

Acrylic on canvas
20×52 inch triptych

I’d passed by the entrance many times, saw a line of tables making use of the space between the buildings and assumed that was it. But one day I took the time to walk down the alley and found a delightful little courtyard. Staircases on both sides lead up to apartments or businesses on the second floor. A fountain lazily trickling water down in the center and there are a few tables with umbrellas inviting one to rest.

I knew I wanted to paint this scene. But as I looked around at the space trying to decide on an angle, I decided to make the painting a panoramic to more fully capture the whole space.

This painting went slowly for me. Lots, of details to paint, leaving me feeling overwhelmed. So like any other task that seems all but impossible when looking at all of it, I broke it up into smaller pieces. Painting the back wall, the umbrellas, sketching the brick pattern on the ground, and bravely conquering the chairs! (I paint a lot of tables and chairs but they don’t get easier!) Then brick walls, bushes, windows, etc. the process wasn’t pretty. I wondered if I’d actually be successful in completing it. At times there was satisfaction at times weariness. But I just kept painting. It helped that as I went my daughter commented she liked the piece when I was on the fence about it.

Not sure what or how many things you face that seems overwhelming. I’m sure many of you could relay things far more important and intimidating than completing a painting! My encouragement keep going, even if it’s just a little at a time. You can take breaks and ask for help. Do you have a cheerleader to encourage you to keep going, even if its just baby steps? It’s OK for it to look messy in the middle of the process. I hope you persevere and can see moments of victory as you move forward!

I have enjoyed painting these scenes of Winter Park. I have some exciting news, but I need to wait until this fall to share. Stay tuned!

This and every painting I create is for sale. Some I place on my Etsy site. Everything goes up on my pixel site where reproductions can also be found.

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.

Thor’s Hammer

Thor’s hammer

30×40″

Acrylic on canvas

What’s your name? Or more than a name, your identity? Have you taken to heart what others have said about you? The good and the bad, the prideful and shameful?

As I was painting this scene I was listening to a book called The Soul of Shame by Dr. Curt Thompson. (I will probably need to listen again or read it to absorb just a portion of it.) It talks of the stories we tell ourselves, consciously or not, about ourselves. How they were shaped by those around us. (How unlike guilt which says you did something bad, shame attacks the person, you are bad.)

So I smiled when I realized I was painting what happens to be a famous formation, singled out for being shaped like Mjölnir. This scene is inspired by Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. It not really a Canyon, but a series of amphitheaters filled with thousands of carved orange rocks called hoodoos. Most are nameless, but there is one of note: Thor’s Hammer. It’s the hoodoo featured in the bottom center of the painting. Thanks to Marvel most people know about Thor and his hammer. So because someone thought the top resembled a weapon, this hoodoo has been given much attention. It’s fame increased. Yet it’s made of the same stuff as other hoodoos all around it, it continues to be weathered by the elements.

Amazing the power of words, and names, for building up or tearing down. You might feel like the unknown rock in the shadow of Thor’s hammer, unnoticed, blending in. Yet regardless if your name is known or not, you are significant.

Parkshore Grill Triptych, St Pete

90 x 48 inches

Acrylic on three canvases

I have a love-hate relationship with working on giant paintings! I think the larger works have a presence, they shout at the viewer come, look, enjoy. Many have said that it feels like you could walk right into the scene. They can be dramatic and are considered statement pieces. I think sometimes bigger pieces give the perception of you being a real artist. Not playing cautiously, but going for it. On the downside, it takes a long time to complete bigger pieces. I find myself needing to back up or take a picture of progress made so I can evaluate what needs to be done. Small mistakes, not getting an angle or curve right stand out more. Transporting and shipping larger pieces is also takes some planning.

With smaller pieces, the painting goes quickly, so there is an immediate gratification of seeing the piece come together. They are easier to ship and more people can afford to collect the smaller pieces. However, they are like reserved you have to be willing to slow down and quiet your soul to take in the message that is more of a whisper.

A solo show was coming up and the gallery owner wanted big pieces. I had a few and set about completing this one for the show. The scene is inspired by one of the many restaurants along Beach Drive in St Pete Florida. High-end shops and restaurants, bordered by a beautiful park and beyond it boats sitting in the harbor waiting. When you search online for images of a city you often see skylines. Photos are taken from a distance, trying to sum up a place by its high rises. It shows evidence of man while remaining distant, interchangeable with other places. But when you walk around an area, stay on the ground you are going at a pace where you notice things. A cool courtyard, the flowers planted outside a home. You become part of the scene. And if you’ve been to such a spot all the memories of that place can attach themselves to that image. So this scene invites one to take a seat, enjoy, relax.

Winter Park, FLorida scenes 4&5

Lunch at Prato
Hannibal Square

16×20
Acrylic on canvas

Lunch at Prato features diners taking advantage of mild spring weather while dining along Park Avenue in Winter Park, Florida. If you follow me you know I love these types of scenes. A reminder to slow down, breath deep, enjoy those around you. I appreciate restaurant making the most of the sidewalks, and the idea of walking around, exploring and window shopping.

I loved the vibrant red chairs and choose to match the umbrellas for an extra pop of color. I also enjoy the trees and flower boxes lining the street, proving shade and beauty.

Hannibal Square is located a few blocks off Park Ave in Winter Park, over on New England avenue. There are apartments with cute balconies, trees line the street and there are several restaurants and shops. When I’ve been there it is usually early in the day and several of the restaurants are not open. This patio space is for patrons of the Sausage Shack. (Makes me smile just saying it.) It has it all, a fountain, seating, shade from umbrellas and the trees. Lights strung for night time ambiance, even space heaters for the winter.

Here are the photos I used as inspiration.

Sorrento Harbor

24×24 inches
Acrylic on canvas

This painting was completed in the fall of 2018 but I realized I never took the time to blog about it. It is inspired by the harbor at Sorrento that is on the Amalfi coast of Italy. It is on the north side of the peninsula and you can view Mt Vesuvius in the distance.

I loved the brightly colored fishing boats all lined up, ready for another day. Humans have such spirit, perseverance, and determination. We don’t like hearing, that’s impossible, instead, it seems our human nature is to try and find a way to make the impossible possible. We lack natural wings and so create a number of ways to fly. Our natural habitat is on the ground and even the best swimmers can’t compete with the ease of marine life in the water. Yet many think of the sea as home. And their trusty boat makes it all possible. While few would think the life of a fisherman glamorous, they enjoy the freedom and are able to glimpse the mysteries the oceans hold. They take risks and work hard, and they float!

Hidden Courtyard

18×24 inches, acrylic on canvas

This is the third in my Winter Park series. It reminds me of hiding and being found or seen.

As a child, one of my favorite books was “the secret garden.” I loved the idea of an enclosed garden, hidden away, known only to a few. Children love exploring and making forts. Couch cushions and sheets are transformed to castles, dirt, and rocks arranged in the wood to make a custom hideaway. I was no exception, stuffing our backyard tree house with blankets and treasures, playing monopoly with my neighbor in our fort. Feeling secure, protected from the world.

There are a few courtyards along Park Ave in Winter Park that remind me of childhood. I love this one with the fountains and the black wrought-iron tables with their red umbrellas. A blue door in the corner and bright citron green ones welcoming one to a tucked away store. There are spots that everyone knows about, and others discovered by only a few who will wander off the beaten path.

As I think about hidden places, safety, protection a passage from the book of Psalms comes to mind;

“Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute— you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.” Psalm 139:7-12 MSG

In a secret courtyard, in my room, as I walk through life, there is one who knows me who is with me, who is good.

Lunch on Park Ave

18×24, Acrylic on Canvas

I’ve started a series of paintings inspired by Winter Park, FL. Each painting reminds me of different things. The first painting, Hope Renewed, reminds me to have hope. This second painting is of the Briarpatch Restaurant along Park Ave. It reminds me to have perseverance.

I was in the area a few different times and it was always overcast. One day it looked like it was going to storm and a waiter was pulling in the chairs and tables for the day. But finally I was there when the sun was shining and people were enjoying a late lunch in the mild spring weather of Florida. I can compare the shots with direct sun and overcast and the shadows add much interest to the composition.

I tried something different for this one. Usually, If people are in my photographs I don’t paint them. Yet I took a chance and kept most of the people in this painting. (Shoutout to artist Margaret Baker whose paintings inspired me to keep the people.)

The start of the piece went quickly filling in trees, sky, and umbrellas, then it slowed way down with the people. I wanted to keep it simple, yet needed proportions to be believable. I was often zooming in to make sense of what I was seeing.

The Briarpatch will always remind me of the day I became a mother. It was the last meal I had before my daughter was born. A day that was long and trying, and yet knowing we’d soon meet her allowed me to persevere through the minutes and hours of contractions. And in the end, joy, meeting my daughter. The sunny yellow umbrellas reminding me of that day.