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.

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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.

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!

Port of Corricella, Procida

36×48 inches
Acrylic on canvas

Three things I’m drawn to; adventure, security, and home. All good things, yet they need balance.

Too much time at home leaves me feeling stir crazy and overly task focused on all that needs to be done. Who doesn’t long for security, safety, yet without risk, there is no growth. We all long for adventure in our lives, experiencing something new, and yet few of us live free of the responsibilities and have bills to pay.

The scene is of Port of Corricella, on the island of Procida, off the coast of Naples, Italy. The island has a rich history, lots of Italian charm and yet isn’t as popular a destination. I loved the colorful boats and houses.

When I looked at the finished piece and how I framed the scene I smiled. You’ve got bright inviting homes calling sailors home from their fishing adventure, all in the shadows of what looks like a fortress. Home, security, adventure.

So how are you doing with balance? Are you playing it too safe? Is your heart so locked up you are missing life-giving relationships? Or do you need to be more responsible, construct some healthy boundaries?

Recently I’ve been longing for adventure and feeling a bit trapped. I’m still learning contentment and to try and discover new adventures closer to home. I may not be able to put a stamp in my passport and fly over to explore this island. However, I can find undiscovered areas near me. Wonderful friends might have moved far away and yet I can continue to open myself up to people who remain and find connection and a sense of home and security.

 

 

Sailor’s Delight

36×36 inches
Acrylic on canvas

You might have heard the phrase; ” Red sky at night, Sailors delight, Red sky at morning sailors take warning.”  This phrase came to mind after I’d finished the piece. The scene is still and calm, a moment of overwhelming beauty. Those perfect moments tend to be fleeting, you never know how long they will last. They are a chance to catch your breath, a respite, perhaps a renewal of hope or time to strengthen oneself before facing the world again.

The painting could be read as either a promise of calm for the next day or a warning of what’s to come. Some storms we can see coming and others take us by surprise. Many times we are powerless to prevent what’s coming. All we can do is prepare. What do you do to prepare? What gives you hope when you know one is coming or you’re in the midst of one?

At times I’ll admit I worry, imagining all that could happen, usually all the worst-case scenarios, stomach in knots. Convinced after looking up my symptoms that I’ve become a doctor and something is majorly wrong. Somehow thinking my being focused on how bad it is or could be can do something other than weighing myself down. Feeling without help in the world.

Other times I shift my focus from the storm to the one who can calm the storm, and promises to be there with us in the midst. I’m less paralyzed and remember that I am not alone. The circumstances don’t change but my perspective does, and a determined hope surfaces.

So smooth sailing or storms ahead I think there is always a reason to hope!

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!

Lakeside retreat

16×20 inches, Acrylic on Canvas

Around my house, I see a lot of live oak, pine and palm trees. This was not always the case. As a child, I remember collecting leaves from the various neighborhood trees for a class project. The specimens were very different: Maples, tulip, willow, ginkgo, ash, oak.

Home is equated with comfort, familiar, we know what to expect. We are curious about the new, the unknown. These past few years I’ve painted a number of trees. My confidence and skill in doing so have grown with time. Weeping willows are not something I see in my day to day life, they present a new challenge with their low drooping branches and yellow-green leaves.

If you see my work you know I love many different and vibrant colors. At times a scene might be beautiful but seem to monochromatic. Everything is green with a blue sky thrown in. I will bump up contrast and saturation at times, and as I continue to study the photo will see hints of other colors. The different hues can add interest to ordinary scenes. I am a painter because I like to amplify my scenes. My goal is to take familiar and new scenes and find a point of view that is interesting.

Lakeside Rest

16×20 inches, Acrylic on Canvas

My paintings always start with photographs. I’m not going for photo-realism, but the photos help me remember details, texture, color. Many times I have one chance to visit a location, to explore and record. After coming home and looking at the photos I wish I’d taken the time to get a different angle, or that I’d gone when the sun was out, or higher or lower in the sky. I love going to places whether downtown in a city or a park setting and walking around. Riding in a car scenes go too fast. Of course, there are places I visit, again and again, where the challenge seems to be seeing with fresh eyes. The familiar can easily be overlooked and dismissed.

Lighting is transformative. I love shadows, and light shining through the trees.  This past summer I had a chance for a change of pace as we traveled to see family in a different part of the country. The time was relaxed, and I was able to take out a kayak a few times to do some exploring. Being low in the water, going slowly allowed a change in perspective. I was fortunate to capture some photos when the sun was low in the sky, elongating the shadows, contrasting the bright spots of light.

There are several other landscape painters I follow, observing their use of color, texture, brush strokes, how they handle different subjects. Noting how they blend realism,  impressionism, and abstraction.

One gallery owner that represents me likes to feature landscapes of mine that are more universal. (Not identifiable as one spot, but scenes that might be found a variety of places. For example, a piece I painted of a path and trees near Zion, might also have been inspired by places in Orlando. ) So I’ve been looking for scenes that are more about capturing the moment than the place.  Keeping brush strokes loose, not overly concerned about details, adding colors where only hints were found.

This scene happened to be inspired by the long shadows and low angle of the sun as I took an early morning kayak ride near my parents house in Michigan.

Fiordo di Furor

24×24

Acrylic on canvas

Ever make a fort as a kid, disassembling all the couch cushions and using all the bed sheets? Or maybe you enjoyed exploring the woods behind your house. A tent set up in the backyard or the basement could be magical. As a grown-up, we might not make forts, but we love finding a tucked away courtyard to sit, relax, reflect. We love exploring new places.

This is Fiordo di Furore. It’s a natural Fjord in the rocks, a small harbor hidden away in the mountains along the Amalfi Coast in the SouthWest of Italy. It’s the kind of place you’d stumble upon while kayaking along the coast. A small hidden beach protected by the walls of rock nearly surrounding it. Apparently, the stairs down from the bridge to the beach have been closed off due to rock slides. You can see other views on this website.

I think our looking for or creating our own hidden worlds points to our desire for paradise. Away from the problems of life, a respite, a hope that there is more what we see surrounding us. Everyone longs for peace. Where have you found a place to rest and recharge? Will you share it or keep it to yourself?!

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.