20 September 2013

Getting Stuff Done!

Front Step Damage
Owning an older house has come with it's share of delights and problems.  The gutter over the porch stair, the entrance we use the most, allows water to drain right onto the steps.  Over the winter, this froze and cracked the stairs resulting in this damage.  

Front Step repair in progress
This week, they came to repair the steps for me.  How grateful I was that they didn't need to tear the entire thing out but were able to remove all the damaged portion, reinforce it and repair the cracked and broken area. 

Front Step after repair
After two days work, it's looking good!  Still has a sealant layer and touch up to go as well as a few days drying.  So glad to have a proper repair job done! 

Hopefully the gutter guy will be here next week to install the new improved gutter! 

And the sprinkler system got repaired this week as well!  Lots of big little projects getting done around here! 

Kitty Love!
Another bit of enormous progress around here was sitting in my chair with my Mom's kitty "Kitzy"(the black one in front, who is usually hiding in my daughter's room, and having my other two kitties join us ~ with no altercations!  Just a lap full of purring kitties!  They have all lived together for well over a year and this was a first!  Hope they eventually are able to tolerate one another in such a way that Kitzy feels like she can wander around the house at will.  

17 September 2013

Hollyhocks ~ and Colorado Floods

Lisa P Boni Hollyhocks 2013
After days of torrential rain, the sun is out once again.  Watching the news has been horrifying.  To see my home region so terribly devastated by  floods.  Terrible.   I got out the paints today to help me focus on something a little more joyful this afternoon.  Much happier with this now.   Think it's about finished, but I'll wait a few more days before I sign it just in case I need to tweak something.  Flowers always make me smile.  

Hollyhocks
Inspiration came from these hollyhocks, spotted in an alleyway in West Des Moines, Iowa.  They were so joyful, that I snapped several photos of them.  

Before ~ Hollyhocks
This is where I had gotten this painting to a few months ago.  I wasn't happy with it and had set it aside.  Everything was too yellow in tone and the leaves in front were just a chaos rather than looking like leaves.   

Studio corner 
Here I am, set up and ready to work.  It was a good way to spend the afternoon.  

Early Autumn Aspen
Now that the rain has stopped, and the sun come out again, there are signs of autumn starting to show.  

There won't be any trips to the mountains this year for photos as the there are few routes up into them from our area.  Every major and minor canyon from I-70 west of Denver north to the Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins has damage.  Most of them are impassable with miles and miles of road damage and bridges out, not to mention the huge loss of homes, power, gas, water and sewer to them.  

The damage continues out onto the plains.  The South Platte river which all the mountain creeks flow into, usually flows at about 4-6' in depth, but topped out at nearly 20' at the peak of the flooding.  The waters spread wide across an enormous area, bringing destruction and much damage to many communities around us.  The last estimate of flooded area measured in Colorado was an area the size of the state of Connecticut!  Our annual precipitation amounts usually fall in the 14-16" range ~ we are a semi-arid region.  This storm system brought upwards of 12-18"meaning that we got our entire years worth of water in less than a 5 day period of time, and most of it concentrated over the steep mountain valleys that funneled it down to the plains at an escalating rate of speed.  It truly has been phenomenal to see.  

My daughter's fiancĂ© was one of those impacted as his home was in a mandatory evacuation area.  Thankfully, he only experienced mud in the driveway and yard and had no water in the house.  He was one of the very lucky ones.  I know so many people directly impacted.  

I don't have photos of the damage, as I've been trying to stay home and out of the way of the rescuers and other emergency personnel.  Denver's Channel 7 News has had great coverage on their website if you'd like to see more about what is happening in the area.  There will be months and years of clean up and repair.  So many thousands have homes that are badly damaged.  Just to take care of the debris will be an enormous challenge. 

Where I live is well above the river level and so my little house and I have escaped flood damage.  I did miss two days of work because I could not get across flooded rivers and creeks to Denver.  My DIL Amanda is an EMT in Boulder and she worked 60 hours straight and was one of the first on scene in the devastated town of Lyons.  We got to see her on the evening news as she performed her job.  The plant where all 3 of my boys work was badly damaged in the flooding, so they are now working to recover and restore it, though it looks to be weeks before they will be able to resume production.  

How our hearts go out to those who have lost so much.  Many prayers going out for strength and perseverance through the oncoming days as everyone tries to move towards a more normal life. 

11 September 2013

A Cool Damp Day

Knitting a Hat
After an evening of torrential rain (the second such night in a row), this morning dawned rather overcast and gloomy.  I resolved to spend the day tucked up in my comfy chair knitting.    That lasted about as long as it took me to take a couple of photos of my latest knitting project, a new winter hat in my favorite new blue color.

Fruits of the Garden
I headed outside, intending to simply check on something.  Hours later, I came back in, happy, muddy, sweat pouring off of me like Niagara Falls, back, legs, arms, and hands aching from weeding (they come up so easily when the ground is soft and damp!) and from trimming out the overgrowth and tree sprouts that seem to come up endlessly all over the yard.  But the best part?  Discovering that my poor little neglected vegetable garden has been toiling away despite my lack of attention to it.  How nice to pick some lovely ripe tomatoes and discover that the raspberries, which I thought I had eradicated in the spring, managed to survive well enough to provide a serving of perfectly ripe berries!

09 September 2013

The Gifts of a Day

Plein Air at Bear Lake
Had a lovely day yesterday that finished with a short painting session at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I couldn't get that scene out of my mind from last week's visit.

Magpies and Elk
The elk are not bugling yet, but there are a few bulls starting to gather harems.  The magpies seem to be gathering into groups as well.  Though there are signs that autumn is coming, it seems to be a bit delayed this year.

Zach
Youngest son Zach always has a great sense of humor and had to give me his best "Irish" smile when trying on hats at the annual Scottish Festival in Estes Park!  We spent an enjoyable afternoon listening to music, eating (steak on a stick for Zach, Scotch Eggs for me and meat pies and Scottish Ale for both of us), watching the heavy armor joust, and wandering through booths of kitschy "celtic" stuff.

The best part of the day?  Spending it with my son!  Always priceless to spend time with family!

02 September 2013

A Mountain Day

Brainard Lake & Indian Peaks with shadows
Last week, when our painting workshop was at Brainard Lake, we saw lots of sign that moose were in the area, so I resolved to come back to see them early one morning.  Today, the last day of my vacation, we did just that, rising in the wee dark hours of morning, driving through the slow rising light in the eastern sky and arriving at Brainard Lake minutes after sunrise.  It's a time of long shadows and crisp mountain breezes that make one grateful for a warm jacket.  It's also the time when the moose are out and about.    

Bull Moose
Right away, we spotted a large bull, his antlers still red from having just lost his velvet, probably within just a few hours prior.

Bull Moose
What magnificent creatures ~ with just a touch of the humorous in that long soft snout.

Harebells
Autumn is already underway in the high country and there are just a few flowers left at this altitude (10,500 feet).  The little alpine harebells were scattered across the ground ~ so pretty in the early morning light!

Mt Audubon & Brainard Lake
The morning just got more and more beautiful as the sun rose in the sky.

Bull Moose
We moved around the lake to view the moose from a different angle.  This fellow knew he was being watched!  There were at least 3 different professional wildlife photographers there taking photos and a number of other people watching.  Thankfully no unhappy encounters!

Trying to get rid of the velvet
The bull on the left is flinging his head back and forth trying to dislodge the last large streamers of velvet that are clinging to his antlers.  He got quite frantic about it and we had the opportunity to watch this enormous beast dancing around in what seemed to be the silliest of antics!

Bull Moose trio
In all, there were three large bulls that we watched.

Red Rock Lake
After three hours of watching the moose, we headed down the road and stopped briefly at Red Rock Lake, which is covered in lily pads and reeds.  Lovely spot!

Bear Lake
The rest of the day we spent in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Sitting by the shores of Bear Lake was the perfect way to end our mountain outing!

01 September 2013

A Week of Painting ~ Part 2

Brainard Lake and the Indian Peaks
For Day 4 of the painting workshop, we headed up to Brainard Lake.  What a treat, as it is probably my very favorite place in Colorado!  The morning was pristine and beautiful!  These mountains are called the Indian Peaks and I have so many wonderful memories up here. I've hiked to the top of Mt. Audubon (the tall rounded peak on the right) many times, though not recently.  My Dad climbed every one of these peaks and led climbs up many of them.  When my children were small, we used to come up in June, when the road was still closed due to snow.  We'd scramble over the enormous banks of snow and hike the road up to the lake.  I also learned to cross country ski and snowshoe up here! Lovely memories!

Brainard Lake Reflections
Our instructions on this morning were simply to paint, using what we'd been learning.  The reflections in the lake of the bright green grasses was what caught my attention, so that's where I started.  I should have worked larger than 5"x7"!  I think it would have been easier!  Could have used more contrast on this.

Mt Audubon over Brainard Lake
In the afternoon, I switched to an 8"x10" canvas and was able to put so much more in.  I've never painted with a palette knife before, but found that was what I wanted to use to put the mountains in.  I'd like to go back and paint this again using what I've learned since!

Marc Hanson painting at Brainard Lake
At the end of the day, Marc painted the peaks beyond the lake.  In watching him, all of a sudden I understood what he'd been trying to tell me all day!

Workshop Group
We all loved his work and were so grateful to have the opportunity to watch a master at work!  Here, I must add that there were several professional artists in our group!  No matter our level of expertise, we were able to learn and Marc was able to teach us at our own levels.  Truly a gifted instructor!

Front Range Layers
On the drive down the mountain, I had to stop and take a photo of the layers of peaks looking out to the plains of eastern Colorado.

Leanin' Tree Museum
Friday morning, the last day of the workshop ~ goodness, this week went by SO quickly!  We met at the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art to peruse the paintings of some of the West's best artists.

Martin Grelle painting
I loved this one by Martin Greele.  His brushwork is not dissimilar from mine and I could see my paintings heading in this direction if I work really hard at it.  Love the light!

James Reynolds painting
The paintings of James Reynolds were fabulous and perfect examples of much of what Marc spent the week teaching us.

James Reynolds painting
Another painting by James Reynolds.  They look so detailed and yet when observed up close, the brush strokes are very simple!  But the color and placement are so precise that they give the illusion of detail!  Loved this one!  As I looked at all this amazing art, I realized that I loved the ones that weren't pure landscapes.  When a figure or an animal was added as part of the scene, it suddenly had more interest for me.  This will be a challenge in my own work as doing figures has always been my weakest area!

Barn Studies ~ Memory and Direct
From the museum, we headed north to the Agricultural Heritage Center in Longmont.  For this exercise, we had to choose a scene to paint and paint it twice.  The first painting we turned our easels away from the scene, then turned to simply observe the scene for 5 minutes.  Then we turned away and painted for 10 minutes without looking back at it.  We repeated this 3 more times.  My first painting is on the left.  For the second painting, we turned our easels around to face the scene and spent an hour painting while able to observe the scene.  It was an interesting exercise.  While many of the participants did better paintings from the memory exercise, I think I did better from direct observation ~ except for that barn opening, which I like much better in the first painting!

Workshop Participants Barn Studies
Our week ended with a retrospective look at our work.  I loved seeing everyone's "memory" exercises lined up together!  What fabulous work!

Marc Hanson
To end our time together, Marc showed us some of his work.  Here he is showing us his Gouche sketchbook, which was a wonder to behold!  Each page was a little gem of a painting!

Marc Hanson
Then we got a look at a selection of his oil paintings!

Pastel Palette
What a wonderful week!  I learned so much from Marc as well as from the other artists that attended.  As someone who never had a formal oil painting class before, who learned mostly from reading books and from the Plein Air and Oil Painting forums on WetCanvas, it was truly an amazing experience to be able to do something and immediately have suggestions made.  I felt a little "dense" at times in translating what I was learning and being able to put it to use, but already, I can tell the difference in my thought process.

So what did I learn this week?
 * I need to paint larger than 5"x7"!
 * I need to keep my paint thinner (more medium so it flows better rather than getting too pasty and thick)
 * I need to simplify my paint strokes and not get so "brushy"
 * I LOVE painting!  (I knew this already, but being able to paint all day long for 5 days in a row... what a treat!)
 * I need to get out and paint so much more!
 * sometimes it's the supplies as much as the process ~ don't you just love that tray of pastels and the gorgeous colors?!

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