Wednesday, September 30, 2009

National Parks - Places to Refresh, and Photos

Stunning natural beauty, raw rugged lands, clear moving waters, big skies... I have a goal to see every national park and monument...
"Nature's Painting" - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
This small piece of Yellowstone is a stunning example of what I saw throughout the park. I was amazed by the dramatic colors created by sulphur and other minerals, misty steam, creeks and channels, and the grand size and variety of beautiful scenery. To know that I was atop the huge caldera of an ancient volcano was eerie but fascinating.

National Parks Photos
I just entered these 5 photos in Fodor's National Parks photo contest (wish me luck!)... some of my favorites, these are from recent road trips. Looking at them again, I'm getting the urge to hit the road and see all I can see, drink in that gorgeous outdoor beauty, and crisp cool air, satisfy that desire for becoming just part of the landscape... no phones, computers, lists... And I think, too, my photos are just waiting for me to paint them soon.
"Contrast and Mystery" - Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
I traveled this planked walkway through the misty steam, over delicate areas hiding thin crust and bubbling underground geothermal activity. This place spoke to me of the beauty and paradox of nature. Yellowstone offered amazing contrasts that I often remember.

"Land of Fantastic Shapes" - Badlands National Park, SD
I was captivated by the array of mounds, spectacular formations, and golden grasses in the area. I could see the effects of erosion on the dry rugged vistas. I understood why the aridity and treacherous canyons led the native Americans to name it "bad lands".

"Otherworldly Beauty" - Badlands National Park, SD
As I walked in the white hot afternoon over the undulating dry landscape, I felt transported to an otherworld of stark beauty... punctuated by the occasional sound of a rattlesnake.

"Dusk at Lake McDonald" - Glacier National Park, McDonald Lake, Montana
The breathtaking beauty of early evening evoked a feeling of being at peace. Rugged glacial mountains, deep green forests, and shimmering reflections in the water called up the desire for adventure and exploration.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Birch Bay Sketching and Painting

Fresh sea air, wispy clouds, people digging clams, crows, a peaceful day by the sea, just you and me...Birch Bay Trip
Another outing for the day, we headed north about 90 miles to Birch Bay almost to the Canadian border. It's a small quaint town where nothing is happening, and it's nice and quiet. And it has a wonderful park along the length of the beach and forested park area in the hills above the beach, a perfect place to sit and observe, take a walk, just be.

Above is one of my on-scene sketch paintings. For this one I did the sketch first, then laid down the paint over it. Sometimes I paint first and embellish with pen afterwards... this time the people kept moving and so did the crows, and I added a bit more color than the real thing. We do have a few brilliant days here, but often we have that NW gray overcast, and I may not want it to look photo realistic anyway, or sometimes I just like to make it up, imagine something a bit differently than what I'm really seeing.
Below is a photo I took of the same place I painted...
And below is the same Birch Bay beach but looking down the road, and even more colorful. This sketch painting I did in 2006 in my personal journal.
And finally, another sketch while riding along in the car....

Saturday, September 19, 2009

North Cascades Mountain Trip, Sketching and Painting

A relaxing day of road tripping, sketching and painting in the mountains... Peshastin Pinnacles and a Painting
This is my final painting of the day, painted in the car in the dark while my husband drove back to Seattle at the end of our day. I'm very pleased with the vibrant colors and had wondered how it would come out given the lighting, but I challenged myself to paint it in the dark anyway. One of the last stops of the day's outing was at Peshastin Pinnacles State Park near Cashmere, WA, basically very dry rolling hills with lots of golden grass and orchards... almost a feeling of the Southwest. I took artistic license with the colors in the painting, as I had to have some reds in there, and my golds are much more gold than the rolling hills I observed that day! The above photo is of the 200 ft pinnacles, very craggy sandstone slabs and spires which are a rock climbers paradise. They are quite stunning shapes, almost looking like gigantic dinosaur spines rising from the ground, and I can imagine several paintings out of the photos I took. Originally located within private land in the midst of orchards about a decade ago, several local climbing and outdoor groups, including REI (great outdoor store), mounted an effort to save these and have them accessible, thus they are now public lands, a state park.

North Cascades Hwy 2
Above is my first sketch of the day, pen and watercolor as I was riding in the car on our way east on Hwy 2 which is a portion of the fabulous North Cascades Scenic Loop trip which we have driven many times. And below is a quick photo right through the windshield, you can see some of the fall color changes beginning. The vine maples and wild huckleberries turn brilliant reds while the cottonwoods and other trees scattered among the firs wear various golden colors. Spectacular mountain scenery along this route and as it get closer to Leavenworth, bordered by a river on one side.
We stopped in the town of Leavenworth which is known for it's "Bavarian" style and cross-country skiing, but skipped the actual town as we have seen it many times. Instead we revisited the Icicle Creek park area, some serious rock climbing areas with huge boulder overhangs, and a salmon fish hatchery. Below is an on-site painting sketch done in a gazebo at the hatchery where we enjoyed lunch and more mountain views.
Nature never fails to inspire me, the shapes and lines, the shifting colors, a never ending art work in itself.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Red Rock Fossil Beds, a Sketch and Inspiration

I have always loved red land and rocks and spare desert landscapes and find myself still painting them...
Here is a glimmer of red rock inspiration. This on-site quick pen sketch and watercolor painting above was done on a road trip last year to Ashland, OR. We took a side trip to California where it turned out to be the hottest day, over 100 degrees. But we had a fun day anyway when we got to Lake Shasta, seeing the bluest blues and redest reds. We took a short boat trip across the lake, headed up a mountain, and walked through relatively cool Lake Shasta Caverns.
Red Rocks and Fossil Beds
The above two paintings are recent ones. These both are compositions of my imagination, a synthesis of remembered scenes from road trips, remembered pictures from countless books or documentaries, and my sense of those places. The first one is watercolors with a bit of pen (Sep2009), and the second is acrylic, entitled "Fossil Beds Revisited" (Jun2009) which I included in a July show this year. I will be "revisiting" and painting more of these. It is interesting not only to see how my interpretation has evolved over time, and also to try out different media for a subject.
The bottom painting in the above set of 3 is probably my first take on the fossil beds from a photo I had taken in the mid-90's. The first two from 1997 and 1998 are very large watercolors painted with a very loose interpretion of my photos in a more free expressionist washy style after taking a class from one of my favorite painters Jan Hart who shares a love of O'Keeffe and desert.

My inspiration comes from many road trips with some camping and backpacking to the Southwest a couple of decades ago... the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Nine Mile Canyon, to name only a few of the many places we explored. Another inspiration, which I was quite astounded to find on yet another road trip a decade ago, was almost in my own backyard (sort of), at least only one state over, in Oregon, the John Day Fossil Beds. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any of my old pictures to post yet (they were pre-digital camera, if you know what I mean). But, check out my friend Lisa's blog, La Vida Artistica, in my sidebar of blogs to inspire. She shares similar inspiration in her Aug 28 posting that includes fabulous photos of this wonderful place and also details of her upcoming studio tour showcasing her spirited art.

For me the desert and red rock areas have always been those exquisite areas of beauty that get down to the bare essentials, lots of sky and horizon, and vibrant land with undulating shapes, and so metaphorical in so many ways. That sense of place with the O'Keeffe kind of feeling from the sheer grandness of it.

Sunday Meditation
Where do you get your inspiration? Have you tried expressing the same subject in more than one media?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Art Date on a Rainy Afternoon, A Sketch, Bicycling and a Blog Tip

the rain came rolling in last night, good sleeping weather, we could hear it beating down heavily, and smell that rich wet earth smell...
An Arty Sunday Afternoon
I love rain and it did come down last night and today. But several of us dodged the drops and met to have one of our regular Art Dates. Such a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, with a circle of a half dozen like-minded artists, each with our own projects to work on... after a busy summer it was fun to catch up on news and share new art and techniques. If you don't have a group like this, I really recommend it, even if it's only a group of two, as it's very inspiring, we learn from each other, and it's nourishing for the spirit.
A Sketch from Artfest
Reaching into my archives, I retrieved this quick sketch I did last year on the ferry from Kingston. I always grab my sketchbook, pens and sometimes colored pencils or watercolors on the ferry rides, I'm fascinated with all the shoreline scenery, and like the look of all the little houses here and there on the hills... just thinking wouldn't it be terrific to live right on the water with a view like that... Anyway, this sketch came about right after I had just finished another long weekend at Artfest, that huge and wonderful art retreat over in Port Townsend.

This came to mind, since in our group today, only 2 of us are going to AF next April, and registration is due this week. The rest of us have decided not to, breaking a long pattern of going year after year, and instead will opt for other things. I'm thinking of specific painting workshops, travel or some other options instead... It's always good to try something new.

If you are a bicycling fan (or even if you're not), go check out this new blog Bicycling Over the Hill.... My spouse who I consider an expert on it decided to start a blog, and he takes great photo's too. I think I mentioned before, he does the 200+ Seattle to Portland bike ride every year in 1 day.... used to climb and did all the peaks around the NW too. I'm in awe of people who can do such physically challenging things, as I don't. Anyway, this is my welcome to him, and I know he'd really appreciate a welcoming comment from you to confirm there really are people out there that read these blogs!

A Blog Tip
Check out the upper right hand corner of my blog and you will see a new gadget. I replaced my previous language translator gadget with this new one from Google which is far and away the best I've seen. People can choose the language and it translates the blog page right there, no navigating away, and very easy for them. You may want to add it, after all, there are artists all over the world. Just click on the gadget, find it and get the code.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sketches, Dahlia Farm Gardens, and a Color Test for Artists

Lazy colorful days of summer... enjoying the sunshine while it is here... Capturing a Moment
I recently was in an Open Studio and Art Sale at my friend's house, and while we sat outside in her gardens she hooked a rug, as I was capturing a quick sketch. She asked me if her chin was that long, of course not, this is a quick sketch, no details, sketcher does not guarantee accuracy of proportions, features, etc.! I love the colors she had on and in her rug.Trip to a Dahlia Farm
My spouse and I made a day trip of going down to Lacey, WA to do our annual trek to Connells dahlia farm. There is fantastic color and an amazing array of over 350 different types of dahlia's in this 5 acres of gardens. There are blooms from a couple of inches to 8-10" dinnerplate sizes, 2 foot bushes to 6 foot bushes, and some shaped with wild cacti-like split petals (as in the photo), and some shaped like water lily's or pompoms. They are open for visitors through Sep 7 and I highly recommend it for flower lovers. Here are a couple of sketches....One of the dahlia plants near the table where we had a picnic lunch......Another quick painting sketch of scenery along the highway. A bit challenging to do this in the car as my husband drives, but I've learned how to balance everything, the watercolor palette and sketchbook are both fairly small.A Color Test for Artists
Here's a fun thing to try, I ran across this through a Photoshop group... this website has a Color Test for Artists to test your color acuity. There are about 90 different little squares of color hues for you to arrange and see how you do.... I was really surprised as I got a "0" which means 100% accurate acuity on hue! They mention there, but I don't know who determined this, that 1 out of 255 women and 1 out of 12 men have some form of color vision deficiency. The test was challenging, and I have to wonder if there might be an effect that tricks your eye to having so many similar color squares near each other on a screen.