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.

Advertisements

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.

In the Garden

IMG-5999

24×48
Acrylic on canvas

Do you ever feel anxious? Nervous? Your stomach is in knots, and you feel powerless?

I can remember moments sometimes faintly, other times distinctly, throughout my life where I was overly anxious. I’ve done different things to try and ease the feelings and keep moving forward despite the fear. At times it was a quote hanging on my wall, other times reading notes from friends, and sometimes it was picturing a place that was peaceful. As a kid, I would picture a fountain and petting a dog that looked like Bengi (from the TV movies.) As I grew older it might be picturing myself someplace I loved to go.

With room to run or to sit quietly in the shade, this picture has a calming peaceful quality. Worries are left behind, birds chirp, a bee buzzes by looking for a flower. I think we all need spaces like this. Reminders of Eden, of rest and beauty, to leave behind what’s been burdening you. Where do you go to recharge?

This scene was inspired by a walk around Leu Gardens in Winter Park, FL. I love the variety of plants and trees they have there. Old oaks with limbs stretching so far, flowering bushes, curving pathways, all to just enjoy.

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.

Wisteria At Hotel Giordano, Ravello

48×48 inches
Acrylic on canvas

My friend Nicki had posted a gorgeous shot of wisteria hanging overhead on a trellis. I  asked if she had a wider shot. She sent me a video, that showed how the photo was taken from a parking lot. (Or car park.) So no wide shot but a gorgeous view of the Hotel Giordano in Ravello. Ravello is also on the Amalfi peninsula but is up on the hilltops. I wanted to paint this shot, and love the mingling of purples and white wisteria is woven over this area. The wisteria trunk is huge and looks to be hundreds of years old. I sometimes think that all living in Italy have a gift of making things grow! (I saw I can paint it, but am horrible at keeping plants, especially flowers alive!)

I actually love that this is in a place where no one would be expecting or looking for beauty. It’s just a parking lot. It’s where you park and leave to get to your real destination. Yet it is glorious. A wonderful reminder to keep your eyes open even during the boring, familiar routines of your day-to-day. You never know where you’ll encounter beauty that takes your breath away! It might be at that spot that hundreds of others have shared on Instagram, but if we seek to look with new eyes we might just find it while exiting our car or scooter in the parking lot!

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.

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.

Golden ride

12×36 inches
Acrylic on canvas

A few weeks ago we forced our kids on a family bike ride. We were riding down a country road and discovered another road we hadn’t been down. A short dead-end country lane. Old oak trees defying gravity, spreading their branches. Sun low in the sky, golden rays illuminating moss and branches. I stopped for a moment looked around at this beauty that was so close to home, but had never been seen. Thankful that we got off the couch, and for mild Florida winters.

I’ve been working on paintings this past month that belong to two different series. One is Italian landscapes, the other is local landscapes like these majestic oaks. The Italy paintings are dependent on using a friend’s photos. It’s a dream to see the sights with my own eyes. I don’t have the benefit of having walked around and examined the angles for myself. To know what is just out of the photo. (Although for the night beach scene I also looked on Google street view.) The landscapes of the oaks are moments captured pretty close to home. I’ve walked or biked around, took in the scene, know what the surroundings are. I can go back to the place for more photos if needed.

I’ve been on a journey. Back when I painted just for myself I didn’t think about if anyone else liked what I was painting. It was simply a time to express myself, to slow down, to see how beauty gives hope and can transform a life. Now as a professional artist one of the challenges is to find inspiration, while at the same time painting what I hope will appeal to local audiences. And it’s been a good challenge. It’s forced me to look around me. To stop the mentality that the grass is greener on the other side. To stop the mindset that day to day is boring, ordinary. To focus on the here and now instead of the next trip. It’s like learning to appreciate vegetables. They are not chocolate or cheesecake. But they are good for you, and your body feels better, stronger when they are a regular part of your diet.

So I’m still learning. Still seeking out beauty here, and I know it will be revealed bit by bit.

Standing Together

30×40 inches

Acrylic on canvas

This week a lot of my mental space has been occupied by my daughter who will be entering high school next year. At school they got information on how to sign up for classes in the fall. I had a lot of questions, and am grateful for friends who are a year or two ahead of me on the journey and can help me, and my daughter navigate through this. One friend said to make sure she has a tribe to journey with her. That stuck with me, and I do find myself praying often for good friends for my daughter.

At the same time, this painting has been on my easel. This stand or grouping of mature Live Oak trees was inspired by Chisholm Park on East Lake Toho in St. Cloud, Florida. A group that has weathered life together, each different yet the same. These trees have been through more than one hurricane over the decades. At times a limb grows along the ground, but it still grows. I’m always amazed at how far branches spread outward. These are no timid trees closed in on itself and contained. They take up space, ever reaching outward, and upward, roots going deep. So I’ve been thinking of this group of trees a bit like that group of friends ones need to thrive in life, and in high school. There are some big branches that you might be able to follow with your eyes from trunk to tip. Distinct, definitely belonging to that tree. But as you look up at the canopy of branches, leaves, and moss, it’s harder to see just what belongs to each individual tree. They are living their lives intertwined, drawing from the same resources, weathering storms, together.

And so I keep praying that my daughter would have some friends to go through the challenges and enjoy this phase in life together.