Foothills from Horsetooth

66×24″ triptych on gallery wrapped canvas.

For twenty years our life has had a pattern. Every other summer was a long road trip across the country to Ft. Collins, Colorado. I’ve only been there in the summer, but I’ve said many times I’d love to live there. It’s about an hour north of Denver. The town is big enough to have many chain stores I regularly visit, yet feels more like a small town. It has a charming old part of town, that I’ve heard was the inspiration behind Disneyworld’s Main Street. There are also awesome parks and miles of bike trails. It is a town on the edge. Helping to orient the directionally challenged the foothills of the rocky sit just to the west. (This seems just about perfect to me, mountains minutes away but living on fairly flat ground.) One of the places you can go hiking is around the area of Horsetooth rock. It’s a distinctive formation that looks like a horses tooth that can be seen clearly from town.

It was about four years ago when we thought our kids were old enough to handle the hike up to Horsetooth Rock. It was hot. I wasn’t adjusted to climbing or the altitude, the hike challenged us. We were so close, at the base of the rocky outcropping when I decided to stop and rest in the shade while my husband and kids went further on.

My husband took this wonderful picture just before the reached the top. My kids were so proud of themselves for making it all the way. I love the green rolling foothills, how you can just glimpse the curvy roads that people take to their homes. (I naturally make lists and plans, and knowing what’s ahead makes it easier, so I love when you can catch a glimpse of what all is ahead.) Here your work is rewarded with such a wonderful viewpoint.

This summer the pattern is disrupted. My husband will still go to Ft. Collins for a work conference, but my kids and I won’t be joining him. I won’t miss the long car trip. But I will miss being out west.

I’m climbing a different mountain right now. Being a professional artist, trying to build that into a profitable business. Every so often I’ll turn a corner and see a wonderful vista. But more often than not it’s one foot in front of the other, sometimes backtracking to find the path. At times I feel so deep in the ravine I can’t view anything but the path. It’s an unfamiliar path and I have no idea how long it might take to get to the summit. So I’m trying to enjoy the journey. Celebrate the beauty found along the way. Remembering the pictures I saw that made me decide to start the journey.

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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.

Ringling’s Banyan

12×36 Acrylic on Canvas

I am fascinated by banyan trees. One tree can look like a small grove, arms stretching parallel to the earth, and then it sends down roots, that slowly grow down to the ground and eventually provide support for the heavy branches. They are maze-like, one tree can take up an acre of land! The banyan tree is the national tree of India, yet can be found in Hawaii and other temperate climates. Henry Ford, with Thomas Edison, planted the first banyan in the continental United States, in Ft. Meyers, FL in hopes of finding a cheaper source of rubber. I’ve been able to see a few of these marvels in person. Legoland in Florida took over the Cypress Gardens where one was planted 90 years ago. I’ve also enjoyed walking the grounds of the Ringling museum which contains several of the trees. This painting was inspired by the grounds there. If you are in Sarasota this is a treasure, the grounds are beautiful. It also has a wonderful collection of art and a fun look back at the circus.

I was reading about these large fig trees and found they have also been called “the strangler tree.” The seeds of the tree often germinate on branches of other trees, and as it grows, roots and branches surrounding the host tree it can end up strangling the life out of the host! This hit me, left me pondering. I can think of positive and negative things in a person’s life that acts like a banyan. On the negative side I think if we allow things like hate, bitterness, or greed to fester and grow, they can take over. They influence every area of our life and choke us, leaving a hollow shell. Yet on the flip side, the positive, I know people who have surrendered control of their life to God, and his spirit starts working within. The transformation is amazing, bearing the fruit of love, joy, patience, peace, self-control.

Learning about the strangler tree I think I will now look upon it as a reminder and a caution. What am I letting grow in my life? Will it choke me or allow me to be stretched growing in grace and beauty?

The photo inspiration for the painting.

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!

First Watch

30×48

Acrylic on canvas

The alarm was set for way too early, but no time to snooze. I checked outside the window and could see the outlines of clouds on the horizon. Quickly we got ready and hopped in the car. We drove North along A1A and the sky got brighter. Finally, we arrived at the Cocoa Beach Pier. A few others stood facing East, ready for the sunrise. The sky was a beautiful display of colors, the water reflecting and crashing onto the shore. Birds took off from the pier flying in an agreed-upon pattern and settling again.

Looking at the lifeguard tower makes me think of readiness, watchfulness, and diligence. Far too often rather than being watchful, it’s more like I’m playing in the sand, digging, busy, head down, suddenly surrounded by the tide, my designs washed away. Life is busy. But I think it’s meant to be lived with built-in rhythms. Sunrise and sunset. Work and rest. Waiting, and catching up.

Busy Relaxing- Siesta Key

Acrylic on canvas

20×60 triptych

A Colorado landscape artist will likely have paintings of mountains and aspen trees. A painter from the southwest might find themselves painting cacti. As an artist focused mainly on landscapes, living in Florida, there is an expectation to see beach scenes.

We live less than an hour from the coast. On an average year, we might make it to the beach once or twice. While millions vacation in Florida, we long for mountains, hiking in the woods or cooler northern temperatures. We tend to take for granted the familiar, what we see every day. While I do enjoy painting palm trees, I long to see changing leaves in the fall, tulips and cherry blossoms in spring, and a landscape that has some changes in elevation. So I try and have new eyes, and appreciate what’s around me.

I had no desire to paint beach scenes, sun setting with pelicans and a few palm trees. I was inspired when I saw a series Teil Duncan Henley did of the beach and poolside. What was highlighted wasn’t so much the surf and sand but the human elements of enjoying the beach. There is so much color at the beach, from the umbrellas, buckets, towels, surf boards, chairs, swimsuits. Nothing is understated.

Teil embraced what we add to the picture. Rather than trying to get shots without people, I decided to embrace it too.

I had to pick up a painting on the west coast of Florida. So we stopped by one of the most popular beaches in the state -Siesta Key Beach. The day was overcast, and love bugs were everywhere. However, the beach was packed with people. I took some pictures to work from. I usually leave people out of my painting, not this time. However, I kept the style loose, more focused on shape and color than making anyone recognizable. I decided to do a triptych to allow for a wide angle view. Hopefully will take in the beach a few times this summer and get some more photos.