Great Horned Owl
We had a pair of Great Horned Owls visiting this evening!  This one sat on the fence and watched as I took photos.  It's always amazing when a wild creature allows a human to get so close.

The pair sat on the fences for the longest time.

Great Horned Owl
But the top of the utility pole is the favored perch.

Great Horned Owl
Love this one eyed look!

It really was an amazing evening!


The Gift of an Evening

Northern Colorado Sunset
Life can throw so many little things our way and eventually they build up to an overwhelming tumult.  I need a break, an opportunity to clear my head and so I head out for a country drive in the early evening.  The prairie calls my name and I head north, past the small farming communities and out to the open grassland between Greeley and Cheyenne, Wyoming.

There is something about the wide open spaces of the high plains, the peace of them, the calm on an evening like this, that touches me deeply.  Thunderstorms and blizzards can rage across the prairie doing their worst, and still the land remains, little changed. Heat and drought can burn the surface to a crisp, but in God's good time, the rain comes and soon the prairie once again turns green and lush and filled with life.

What a gift to breathe the free moving air, listen to the sound of a distant meadowlark, the sound of wind in my ears, to be witness to such a magnificent sunset and to have a few precious minutes alone with God.  Out here I feel my rightful place in this world, where the sky seems endless and the great mountains to the west are reduced to blips on the horizon, where God and his creation take precedence and I and my petty issues become as insignificant as they really are.   It's good to put things in perspective from time to time.

Northern Colorado at Sunset
As I walk back to the car, the indigo velvet blanket of dusk slowly covers the land, the light fades and I leave for home, my soul soothed.

(click on the photo for a large version!)


Dibs and Dabs

Winter white barns 09Dec05 06
When I was living in Iowa, I often drove past this group of barns and stopped frequently to take photos of them.   I loved them in all seasons and found myself going out of my way in order to drive past them. They intrigued me, how they sat in a line at the edge of a vast field with no farmhouse in sight.  I loved the worn white paint, the aged grey shingles on the roofs. They spoke to me of an idealic world somehow, when life was more basic.

Barns Framed 3Oct05
I hadn't been painting very long when I did my first painting of them.  It was sold at an auction to benefit a family who had lost their mother during childbirth.  Months later, I heard back from the family who bought it.  Their father had been a farmer with similar white barns on his farm and they bought it as it reminded them of it.  When they went to hang it on the wall, they realized the date that I painted it was the date that he had passed away.  And so the painting had quite the poignancy for them and also for me.

Evening barns in progress
Moving from Iowa was hard.  I dearly loved the open landscape, the slower pace of life, the barns and farmland and how beautifully green it was.  Even the deep frosty chill of winter had a magnificent beauty.  It was a land that soothed my spirit.   After I moved, I started another painting of the barns, wanting to capture the light of an early spring evening when the smell of damp earth permeates the air and the green lushness of new growth fills the senses.

But life intervened and between moving from Iowa to Colorado to Arizona, the time it took to job hunt and ending up in a place that wasn't as conducive to painting, I lost my way with this painting and so I put it away.

Evening Light
Now, 7 years later,  it's time to bring it back out and finish it. The dust has been scrubbed off and painting resumed.  It isn't complete yet, but it's well on it's way and it makes my heart glad to see it progressing!   

Painting at Lake Loveland

I've also been doing a little Plein Air painting.  Two of my friends and I spent a delightful morning at Lake Loveland sketching and painting the scenery.   Lovely to be out painting with friends!

Lake Loveland
Here is the result.  Just a couple hours after we finished painting, the clouds deepened and the skies filled with lightening and heavy thunderstorms.  How grateful I was to have had a lovely morning and that the rain held off until we were through!

It's all just dibs and dabs of paint, but it makes my heart glad to be painting again.  I hope that in some small measure, my paintings can share my joy in this glorious world that God has created.  How blest we are.  


The Muse...

Roses at the Neighbors
After having felt such a lack in the creativity department for the past many months, I think the magic has returned!  All of a sudden, I can't wait to capture what I see in paint (and stitching too!)

I first took up oil painting back when my children were all quite young.  I realized after just a short while that I could either be a good painter OR a good mother, but not both as the urge to paint consumed nearly all my time.  So I set it aside.  Then when I was in nursing school in Iowa, the urge to start painting again hit hard.  Every moment that I wasn't studying, I was painting and sketching.  For three years I painted steadily.  I sold a few, gave some as gifts, tucked some away as "learning exercises" and framed a few others to hang on my own walls.

Once I moved to Flagstaff, I struggled with the poor light in my apartment and not enough space.  Though I continued to paint for a time, it became very frustrating.  So instead, I turned my creative eye towards stitching and photography, both of which I deeply enjoy.   All the while, I still yearned to paint.  For the time being, I contented myself with watercolor and ink sketches.  I love doing them and how portable they are, the fact that I can take it anywhere.  But it was oil painting I was longing to do.  

Jump forward to this past autumn when we moved into this house.  How wonderful to now have the space ~ though not huge, it's enough ~ and good light ~ though it isn't the coveted north light that most painters crave, it is still bright enough to paint throughout the day.  I set up my easels and got the paint and palettes ready.  But nothing came.  Each time I tried to paint ~ all I got was total junk.  It felt like I was trying to force something that wasn't there.  It was terribly discouraging. 

So I decided to just settle for a while.  I spent the time reading about painting, taking photos, visiting museums and exhibits ~ learning and getting my mind back in a painting mindset.  And now, after nearly 6 years of not painting, the muse seems to be back ~ each day I get up ready and anxious to put brush to canvas and capture the lovely small scenes around me!  The paint flows almost effortlessly and I am not longer fighting for mere scrawls and scribbles.  

I love being able to capture the small moments that delight ~ glimpses of sunlight on my neighbor's roses and the play of sunlight and shadow on their cottage and the canoe peeking out from behind the shed, the dappled play of sunlight on leaves.  It's these small things that make my heart sing! 

In August, I am blessed to be taking a workshop with Marc Hanson, a painter I have admired for many years.  He is featured in the July/August issue of Plein Air Magazine!  Though I have had a few art classes over the years, I consider myself primarily a self-taught painter ~ learning by copying the work of masters, working exercises in various painting books and by participating in online groups such as WetCanvas.  I really look forward to a bit more formal instruction and am eager to see where it takes my painting!


Getting back to Painting

The Neighbor's Shed
I've been itching to do more oil painting.  Every time I would start, something would come up and I'd get distracted or I'd sit there and stare at the white canvas and not know where to begin.  But today, I was looking out the studio window at the neighbor's shed across the fence and loved the way the light was playing across it's surface and lighting up the roses and the canoe they have stored on the side.  I quickly got the palette set up, chose a small canvas and got right to work.  It's nice to find that all I had to do was start playing with the paints and the skills came right back.  It's not perfect, but I'm happy with it and happier still to have actually gotten painting again.  Here's hoping that I can keep up with a small painting fairly frequently now!

Rays of Sunlight
Yesterday while I was driving between Boulder and Greeley, the sun broke through a thin spot in the clouds and sent rays of light cascading through the sky.  Had to stop and take a photo!

How heartbroken I was to hear of the Hotshot Firefighters who lost their lives yesterday.  If you've been reading my blog for a long time, you may remember that my sister is a firefighter and the  Forest Deputy in Fire Plans (for the Kaibab National Forest) and the fire behavior analyst for one of the Type II teams in Northern Arizona.  I am grateful that she and her team are safe, but I also know that the firefighting community is a close knit one and the loss of these young men will be a hard one to bear.   My heart and prayers go out to all the families and co-workers.