Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Present to Myself...

Best Christmas present: a solid week of nothing but painting in my studio! 

Rarely do I have the opportunity to paint multiple days in a row. Well, unless it's the weekend and I have nothing else to do! Usually I paint, I run errands, I do some cooking, I hike, I garden... but not Christmas week this year. I painted!

Selfishly, unapologetically, I painted. All day, every day except Christmas Day. It was glorious!

I wanted to finish the Sheep Rock painting I'd started in November. This was such a fun painting. One of my favorite things I've realized is that when I'm painting these larger landscapes I absolutely remember standing outdoors, painting the scene en plein air. I remember if it was hot, if it was windy. I remember if someone came by, if I spoke to them. Painting these paintings in my studio is like creating a time portal. I love it.

Sheep Rock is so spectacular. It's rhythmic, heroic, and fittingly the 'icon' for the park. The Visitor's Center at John Day Fossil Beds looks out to this mountain. Visitors sit out with their lunches at picnic tables and admire its unique beauty. My last day at the park was spent painting this scene. I think it's amazing.
Sheep Rock. 18x24 oil on Trekell maple panel
(Someone told me they thought they could see a woman in a flowing dress in this painting. I think that is a beautiful, subliminal accident. Do you see it?)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Eat, Drink, and be Merry!

... And that was the theme for the 2015 Sarasota Chalk Festival held in Venice, Florida.

FLORIDA! A mad dash, red-eye flight, crossing of fingers to make it both in and out of Denver in November, and a 5:15am arrival in Tampa. Ooh, tired eyes, crooked neck and very excited heart!

Sketch and color study in hand, I signed in at the Festival office and Set out for Miami Avenue.

For the Eat Drink and be Merry theme... I knew I didn't want to create an image of anyone eating and definitely not anyone drinking, that made Merry my inspiration. Merry; I started thinking of laughing, happiness, joy, spinning, twirling, dancing, music. MUSIC!

After some sketching of people dancing followed by others of musicians, I drew a woman holding a moon like a Lute or Bass. Moon = Luna: Luna and Music: Luna's Merry Music of the Spheres!

Okay that last part is a bit of a jump, but after I'd finished my sketch and color rough, I was still massaging the title of the piece. I sent the art to my Mom and Sister and my Mom wrote back that made her think of The Music of the Spheres. Huh? What?

Thank you Wikipedia- I soon learned about a long ago concept of Pythagorous which in its essence describes the planets as consonants and whole notes - celestial sounds and music. 
Perfect! "Luna's Merry Music of the Sheres."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sheep Rock - in the studio

A day of firsts.

Gathered my paintings, photo reference and sketches from my Residency in John Day Fossil Beds; set up 2 big easels; selected an 18x24 maple, cradled panel by Trekell; and worked up a series of thumbnail sketches to decide on the composition for my new painting.

First landscape painting to be created in the studio (instead of Plein Air.)

First of the final paintings, the last chapter, of my National Park Service Artist Residency.

First weekend in a really long time that I spent in my studio.

I'm very happy with my start today and it was fun! I was so happy out there!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reflecting and Planning

Enough time has passed that I can now objectively look over my paintings and even think (somewhat) fondly of the moths that would attack my hair at night.

It's always a bit of culture shock when I step back into my 'life' after a long trip. Weeks of painting and driving, my only concern really: where to paint, shifts abruptly to alarm clocks, public transportation and sitting. Sitting on trains, sitting in traffic, sitting at my desk.

I'm now through the 'shock' phase and excitedly in the what comes next phase! I LOVE this phase!

First, I set out all the paintings. I'm very pleased!
These are the New Mexico and Oregon  residency paintings lined up together - a pretty nice set!

I've also downloaded, and then uploaded, all the photos from John Day Fossil Beds; selecting some to print to use as reference for the paintings that I'll paint in my studio. This is an exciting time because I see finished paintings in my head... Combinations of my Plein air pieces, mixed with photos I've taken, and hopefully - HOPEFULLY - some images from Native stories... They all come together as rich images in my mind.

The next, next phase is a frustrating phase (ha ha! so true!) where I try to reconcile the imagery in my mind with what I actually paint. I always get to the right place eventually but inevitably there is frustration and doubt on the road to I LOVE IT!

I'm so grateful for the Residency experience in Oregon. The family that hosted me at their delightful B&B, Lands Inn. The Park staff that fielded my many questions and provided me with wifi and respite from the heat.

This coming weekend I'll order the photos, clear out any distractions in the studio and start sketching out my paintings! I'm really looking forward to this!

Friday, September 25, 2015

In Search of Indians

The John Day Fossil park is a geological treasure. The Visitors Center and historic homestead across the road have an astounding collection of plant and mammal fossils, bones, seeds, minerals, rocks etc. etc. There's also farming equipment and early settlers' home items and books. What is hard to find though is information about Native Americans that lived in the area.

So history from 45-15 million years ago and from 100-150 years ago, easy, but what about 300 or 500 or ?? Not so much.

So after spending Thursday morning at the Visitors Center looking for info on Native people of the area, followed by working on my last painting, unfinished, of Sheep Rock...

I packed up my apartment at Lands Inn and spent my last night in the airplane hangar!

Farewell sweet, beautiful overly affectionate kitty. Goodbye road hogging cows!

I'm so grateful for the wonderful hospitality and beautiful location of Lands Inn. I can't imagine a better place to stay in the area. Friday morning, car packed, apartment and kitchen cleaned, I headed down that 5 mile gravel road one last time.

Just about the time I was leaving the Ochoco Forest I could smell smoke. The sky was sooty orange brown, somewhere nearby was a wildfire. Very glad I was off the mountain!

Still in search of information on any Native American Indian Tribes from the region, I headed North to the Warm Springs Indian Reservation to meet with the curator at their Museum.
I didn't learn a lot but did come away with a general area to begin my search: the Paiute Indians were very likely in the John Day River area. It was also suggested to me that I visit the High Desert Museum in Bend.

Good thing I was headed that way!

At the High Desert Museum I saw snakes and spiders and eagles and an interpretive Indian life exhibit but didn't learn much more other than the Paiutes were a nomadic, seasonal tribe: traveling for root, salmon, eel and berry seasons. 

I think my best bet for information, particularly any native storytelling, will be found in an online search ;)

Nice to be back in Bend. Saw a section of the Deschutes River here in town that was set up with obstacles to simulate rapids and people "white water" kayaking through that area, looked like a lot of fun!! I opted for a 90 minute massage ;)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Incident with a Cow

Not an accident thankfully, but definitely an "incident."

Heading out this morning for the '5 mile drive down a gravel road' I first have to park, get out of the car, open a gate, drive through the gate, park the car, get out of the car and close the gate. You are picturing this, right? Every day- coming or going- this is the routine.

Today, I drove up to the gate and there, on the other side were cows. Maybe 8 or 11? Big cows. Waiting. Staring. Chewing.

What to do?! 

I parked as close as I could to the gate and decided to push the gate out towards the cows. I shoo'd them. They stared. They chewed. I got into my car, I said 'STAY!' to the cows. I pulled through the gate. I got out of my car. I went to close the gate. The cows stared. They chewed. ALL BUT ONE.

ONE made a run for it. ONE cow trotted past my car and into the Lands Inn property. Oh no! I called out to the cow. I asked it to come here, this way, no no, come back... It stared. It chewed.

Now the grass IS better on this other side of the fence because there IS grass on this side. The cow would not come to me. And I was NOT going to it! I couldn't go back to tell anyone because I was certain the other cows would all then make a go of coming in... So, I drove away. The group of cows looking concerned and more likely jealous that their buddy was locked on the other side...  and had plenty of food to munch away on!!

I had to drive about 45 minutes until I found a few bars of Verizon so I could call and report (confess) the cow incident to the Inn. There was probably a better way to handle a small herd blocking the gate and I'm sure I did it all wrong :(

Moo'ving on...

Today I drove to Clarno, the furthest section of the park, to hike, meet with Josh the Ranger/Paleontologist, and do some painting or sketching.

It's a pretty drive along the John Day River and it takes about 2.25 hours. (With the cow incident I was now about 45 minutes behind schedule.)

But Clarno is heroic! It's regal! It's huge!

I hiked up to the base of the palisades and completed two different trails. On the first, a couple I passed said to me, "umm, there's a rattle snake up there on the rock so watch out." Uhh, whaa- yikes!

It is not easy looking up at these towering pillars of rocks and at the same time watching every step and scoping out every single rock for a rattle snake!! Sheesh. Never did see a snake but I did see fossils ;) Leaves on rocks from about 40 million years ago which is pretty awesome!

After the second trail I stopped at the Ranger outpost to say hi to Josh. He talked to me about the park and what he does... But no there was no digging today :(

So, cow incident and near rattle snake sighting and extreme heat fatigue all prodding away at my nerves, I gathered up my lunch from my car and sat at a covered picnic bench where I sketched the Clarno Palisades and nibbled on string cheese, V8 and mandarin oranges sealed in a plastic cup :)
Very relaxing. Just what I needed.

On the return drive I stopped off in Kimberly which is well known for its orchards. I picked up a few Golden Delicious and some Ambrosia Apples (very good and super crisp!)

I stopped too at Foree for one last shot of those blue green formations...

Finally, I made my way back up the 5 mile gravel road and was relieved to see not a single cow. Safely inside MY side of the gate I unloaded the apples and made up a quick dinner so I could catch a little of the sunset.  Beautiful.

Wild Horses

Today I stayed 'local.'

I was up very early so got a great start to the day and was scouting out the best view of Cathedral Rock and setting up by 8:45am. 

Pulled over into a few bends and turns but either the location wasn't safe, the shadows weren't great or they wouldn't be great soon... So I ended up painting in the same spot I painted the Cathedral Rock in watercolor when I first arrived. And I do love that view!
I'd like to paint the whole scene sometime but for now zoomed in to that ribbon of dark oranges, yellows, creams, peach and greens... It's just so showy and spectacular! It's Cathedral Rock!

A nice family, a mom with 5 boys, stopped by for a lengthy visit, which was really nice. Other than that, no visitors today. I kept hearing noises like someone walking on gravel behind me, so I'd turn around and then - no one. I finally realized it was miniature rock slides from the opposite side of the road ;)

My god it was hot! I thought I'd pass out so started packing things up before finishing... It's very close though!
I want to knock back a bit of the intensity and value on the orange capped rock but otherwise it came out really nice. 4.5 hours, pretty long for one Plein air painting. It's 11x14. I like that there is a layering in the rocks and a layering of foreground, center, middle and a few background masses. I am pleased with that.

Life is so interesting. I stopped at the Visitors Center to use the restroom and splash some water on my face and as I walked back to my car someone asked me "Are you Sara?" It was Megan, the Ranger from the park that I interviewed with via phone and that I corresponded with when I initially applied for this Residency. She had a vacation planned for the same two weeks of my Residency! Of course I was disappointed I wouldn't get to meet this person who had been so instrumental in my selection to work here.... 

So there she was, saying hi in the parking lot! Also, asking if I was coming over for dinner tonight ;) umm, yes. sure. Where? Was I supposed to know this?

Apparently word was sent and I would have learned about the dinner once I'd returned to Lands Inn. So after a much needed shower and short rest I met up with the girl who runs the Inn, Molly, and her Mom, Carol, and we drove down to Megan's to have dinner along with her friend Betsy, a Ranger from Glen Canyon in Southern Utah (another BEAUTIFUL park!)

Dinner was delicious and fun, and a great change to my routine out here. 

But a gift of gifts, a treat and somehow a spiritual experience, came from our drive back up the mountain. It's of course very dark, Molly's driving and around a curve, through some sage brush came running 3 wild horses!!! Amazing!! A little stocky; 2 larger and one smaller/younger. So cool!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Research, Scheduling and an Excursion

Pretty serious words for a Monday!

Started off the day saying farewell to the other guests. It's been so nice to have such interesting people around to visit with at night; sharing stories of our explorations and our lives.

After a round of hugs, it was back down the mountain to the Visitors Center to schedule the rest of my week with the Rangers and choose the day for my on-location walk-about with a Paleontologist. 

Next up was getting the addresses and hours for the different Indian Confederate Tribe centers where I will research the local Tribes of the John Day River area (which I learned today was originally called the Maha River.) 

While I've been painting, sketching, hiking, taking photographs and absorbing the unique geography of the area during my residency, my goal is to incorporate these things with some of my research into Native Tribal folklore and storytelling. I want to weave the landscape with the stories and create a series of paintings in my studio.

As part of my Residency, I have 4 months to submit 3 completed paintings to a panel from the NPS here at John Day Fossil. The panel will then select one as the FINAL piece. I'll then have an additional 2 months to make any changes to it, let it dry, have it varnished, framed and shipped! ( Come to think of it I may have already explained this in an earlier post! Oh well...)

I gathered up my schedule for the week, took a walk down to the river for a peek, then headed out for my EXCURSION! 

Yes. I, Sara. Drove. 3. Hours. To visit the Pendelton Woolen Mill in Pendelton, Oregon!! Gorgeous climbing drive up to 5075 ft surrounded by Ponderosa Pines then back down and across wheat colored grasslands and past weathered wind blown barns. 

I toured. I shopped. I drove down Main Street. Saw great, big old Craftsman Homes. I found a Starbucks! I got gas. I drove 3 hours back.

Well, 3 hours and 12 minutes thanks to a mandatory sunset photo and cow traffic on my last 5 miles up the gravel road

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday at Painted Hills

Despite a flurry of moths pinging off the walls and windows all night, and systematically throwing covers off and then blindly searching for them to put back on... I managed to sleep just enough and to wake up early to get off of the mountain and down to the highway in record time this morning. 

An hour drive and a hike up to a great vantage point and I was ready to paint by 9 am! Applause, applause!
Check out my fully loaded Kelty backpack, I was ready for anything.

After some sketching I decided on a composition without a sky, I think my first landscape without a sky!

Sunday seems to be a busy day in the park, I had a lot of opportunities to visit with people... Well anyone who made the hike up to the vantage point ;) I was surprised how many people just walk part way or just walk to the edge, take a photo and jump back in the car!

4 hours in, just doing some minor tweaks, a boy hiking ahead of his family stopped to see what I was doing. He was probably 8 or 9... "I think you're done. You've already achieved a lot of depth." His name was Cole, so Thank You Cole!

A couple from Bend came up about then so I asked the girl if she would take a photo for me...
Umm, could you get any FURTHER AWAY?? Too funny.

Overheated, thirsty and tired, I retreated to a small cafe in the bustling town of Mitchell ;) 

A Very Good Saturday

Legs stretched out across a couch, I'm eating apples and sipping a Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (I'm going to miss these!) and I'm thinking... This was a really good Saturday!

I made it off the mountain in pretty good time, earliest time yet :) I drove up the road to Foree and hiked out to the end of a trail to paint this giant blue geological formation, ie "rock." I'll have to check with one of the ever growing number of Geologists staying here what the real name of the 'rock' is, probably some lahar butte or such and such...
but I just like how it is the only free standing blue rock and it has beautiful shapes within its mass. It also seems like the same shape as all my gear in my Kelty backpack;)

I was out there and set up at 10 am. Already hot. No one else around. So, so quiet. About 3 hours in, a couple from Vancouver, Washington hiked by and stopped to visit for awhile. Later a young couple came through, didn't stop or visit but did have their selfie stick trailing them the entire time. Sigh.

As I said it was hot. It was bright too with the sun bouncing off all the light blue, green and pale yellows... I decided to paint my piece in those 'high-key' colors and values. Came out great.

After packing everything back into my backpack and hiking to the car, I needed shade desperately. That's pretty impossible to find out here. I headed down the road, eye out for a pull out and shade... and 30 minutes later I found myself in the small town of Dayville in a cafe with ice tea, wifi and Marion Berry Pie. I had a salad of course too :)

While I cooled off and had a great lunch I was able to back up all my iPhone photos to Dropbox thanks to their wifi  (hallelujah!)

Feeling like the morning and afternoon had been very successful, I drove up to Blue Basin for a hike. AMAZING! The trail takes you around a blue rock gorge and to an overlook with spectacular views. On one side is a hill that is black from the big June fire and the other side opens out to the John Day River valley and the ash/rocks. Can't explain it but, look!

Took me about 1.5 hours, it's very steep and you climb for 2 miles and then switch back down for another mile. 

So, a very good Saturday!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Small World and Sketches

It's Friday, it's here so fast!

It's also sunny, blue and warm! (85 this afternoon) I drove back out to Foree this morning and hiked up to the 'Ring of Fire' - a steep but not too far trail up to an overlook with a sweeping view of layered rocks. 

The formations here are so unique, I started a painting but quickly realized I was making up some of the forms, not really understanding what was actually in front of me. I'm not a realist painter, don't even want to be, but I do want to understand what I'm seeing so I can push and exaggerate from something "real." 

So I walked to another viewpoint and sketched...
The formations are a lot like folds of fabric, triangles spilling down to triangles and fluid forms like curtains. The blue greens are a Celadonite (sp?) a type of low temperature Mica. Very beautiful.

As I was out at the end of the trail I saw a guy walking towards me with a huge backpack with a strange green contraption coming out of it... A Google trail camera.
So bizarre. Also, the guy was from San Jose :) His girlfriend was with him too, she is also an artist... Such a small world.

I met a lot of people today, I think because it is Friday and it was the first sunny warm day in about a week. I'm expecting it to be 'busy' this weekend here in the park, we'll see.

I'll stay close again... Which only means somewhere within 45-60 minutes of driving, as nothing is CLOSE and even if I see something stunning, I can only paint THE PARK.

We have two new campers tonight up at Lands Inn, the woman is a book artist :)

I love how random and small life can be and the interesting things you learn about someone when you don't have your face in your phone and strike up a conversation with strangers. Today I met a couple who live on a boat in Mexico,  a BLM Ranger/security patrol guy who lives in Pahrump, Nevada and a Photographer from Idaho.

Where I'm staying is very beautiful and pretty remote. No wifi. No internet. No cell service. Off the grid, solar and propane. Coyotes yapping. Cats running around. Somehow big moths get in my room every night... So my bedtime ritual is to catch and release the moths, write the blog, catch some more moths and go to sleep about 9! I post the days blog the next morning, when I stop by the visitors center :)

So goodnight! (Or good morning!)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Mixing Things Up

Well it did finally rain.

I stayed up pretty late Wednesday night, sitting close to the wood burning stove, nice and toasty, reading a book on my Kindle and listening to the fire crack and the rain hitting the hangar.

What I didn't realize was that it was actually raining pretty good. I found THAT out when I went to my little apartment and heard a drip, squish, drip, squish... and saw a very wet bed. 

Not my bed THANKFULLY!!! but a twin bed down at the opposite end of the big room. Water dripping pretty steadily from the metal roof, hitting the edge of the bed and then squishing into an ever growing wet swath of carpet. It was 10pm. 

So I pushed the bed out of the way, grabbed a plastic garbage can and set it under the dripping.

The drip squish turned into a tap, tap, tap as water drops hit a plastic liner in the plastic can. So, so glad I packed ear plugs!!!

After capturing and releasing 3 good sized, near black moths who seemingly wanted to read my glowing book with me - I went to sleep.

Thursday morning was drizzling and grey so I set out to find a good spot to paint Cathedral Rock. The rain pumped up the colors, gorgeous, and kept me from setting up the oil paints. So I pulled out my watercolor pans and painted the view from the back of my car, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Met a nice couple from Holland who stopped by to see what I was doing. 

I don't paint in water colors that often anymore, but just after today I'm reminded how much I love it. It was my first love! I'll have to not neglect it so much ;)

It continued to rain and was 56 degrees so I drove up to Foree, another section of the Park that has beautiful blue/green formations to hike around (ie: I needed to warm up!)
but as beautiful as it was I got frustrated and fixated on my stupid iPhone which wouldn't take anymore photos. I sat in the car seeing what I could delete and did this and did that but nothing. 

I drove back down to the Visitors Center and did some more deleting and checking what photos I'd already backed up etc etc and managed to make a little bit of room on the phone. Tomorrow I'll  drive to Dayville where there is a cafe with wifi and Pie ;) I'll back up photos to Dropbox and then delete the rest on the phone. So frustrating!! 

OK. Thankfully I made some room because the sky opened up and there was spectacular light! This is Sheep Rock right across from the Visitors Center...

Crisis postponed, I drove up to Blue Basin to hike. I only brought my sketchbook because it looked like it was going to open up and pour any moment. It's fantastic! Gorgeous! I'll go back and paint when it's not wet but wow wow wow! 
Look at that sky! Sketched though and met some nice folks curious about what I was doing and why I had Volunteer gear on :)

Tonight is game night. I'm here with 4 Geologists and the girl who is running the Inn, Molly, a few cats and the dog, Black. 

Tomorrow, more iPhone shenanigans and then hopefully blue skies and oil painting.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Clarno, the Furthest and the Oldest

I'd heard rain was on the way so planned on staying close and exploring Hwy 19 and the Sheep Rock section of John Day Fossil Beds.

As I drove up 19, I first came to an amazing layered and perfectly named  'Cathedral Rock.' No great pull-outs for roadside painting but I'll figure that out and be back!

The sky had tiny patches of blue, still mostly grey but no rain - so I decided to keep driving and head out to the furthest section of the park, it also happens to be the oldest Geologically; Clarno. (Approximately 53-40 million years ago.)

The weather held thankfully, and now I will have seen each section of the park and can more easily plan where to go for early morning light and for afternoon shadows. 

It took so long to get to Clarno! .. a bit over 2 hours. A beautiful winding road following the river, more mountainous and with great big pine trees... But it seemed to take forever. FOREVER!

Ahhh, but Clarno! So spectacular!
The palisades are enormous, you come around a bend and there they are!  Deep rusts and golden greens mixed with blues and mauves. Lovely.

Originally I wanted to go for a hike, just check out the area, but I had to get a quickish painting in, I mean - I'd come so far! It was fun to talk to visitors, not a lot of people out that way but nearly everyone I saw came over to say hello and see what I was doing. Of course I was decked out in my NPS Volunteer clothing, and people were curious about the Artist in Residence program :) I met people from Ohio, Germany, Portland, 'the Tri-Cities' (still not sure where that is) and Australia. 

I stayed as long as I dared because I knew I had a minimum 2 hours of driving to get back, I needed to get gas (station closes at 5), I wanted to get a good picture of the John Day River 
... and I didn't want to get back to Lands Inn in the dark because of all the deer!(Instead I had to maneuver around some annoyed cows.)

Just as I was closing the cow gate behind me, the rain began.

I will not go on a long drive tomorrow!

I'm now drinking a Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (a fantastic local beer), eating scrambled eggs for dinner and visiting with Abby (the Geologist.) She just told me that tomorrow is game night and that a couple other Geologists from the park are coming up here for cards. Too funny.