Saturday, March 17, 2018

Wild Iris Meadow - Watercolor

"Wild Iris Meadow" Watercolor

Wild Iris Meadow is a wonderful park located just beyond Evergreen, Colorado. It’s a warm Spring day but the weather is about to change as storm clouds have gathered over the snowbound Mount Evans Massive.

The black guidelines are scribbled in with a felt-tipped pen, setting the tone for the simplification of the pretty scene. The bright colors are derived from a palette of pure yellow, green and blue.

The loose brushwork is a difficult technique because it’s uncomfortable to let the fluid medium flow with uncontrolled freedom. Soft passages of warmer pigment spread unchecked across the painting’s lower foreground.

Working in this way provokes great difficulty while dealing with the immediacy of an unforgiving medium. Despite its challenges, hopefully, this quick sketch captures the surreal beauty of a pristine wilderness.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Northern Flicker - A Unique Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

We’re starting to see some unmistakable signs of an early spring. The daylight is lasting much longer, the snow is melting quickly and the lonely, winter trails are beginning to burst with new birdlife.

First to arrive this year were the red-winged blackbirds, then house finches appeared and then flocks of Canada geese searching for open water. I’ve also seen several mountain bluebirds as they’re decorating our brown meadow with a splash of bright color.

I like to observe the gradual changes that occur in the mountains during the seasonal transitions. I enjoy watching the birds come in and begin nesting but one of my favorites won’t show up here until it gets a bit warmer.

The northern flicker is a unique woodpecker that spends much his day on the ground, poking his beak into the ground while searching for insects. He announces his presence by establishing territory with a familiar call that echoes loudly throughout the pine forest.

These elegant birds are colored brown with a barred back and wings, spotted underparts, black bib and a white rump. The ones we see here are called ‘red-shafted’ because of the red wing and tail linings and the males sport a red ‘mustache’.

Because he spends so much time down in the dirt, the northern flicker engages in an unusual preening activity. Dust particles picked up by the flicker absorb oils and bacteria that are harmful to the bird’s feathers.

To clean himself thoroughly, the flicker squishes ants and then preens himself with the remains. Ants contain formic acid, which kills small parasites embedded in the flicker’s skin and feathers.

While hiking the summer trails, the flicker is flushed from the grasses and flashes white as he flies for the safety of a higher perch. Despite their off-beat hygiene and raucous call, I’m looking forward to encountering the northern flicker once the weather gets warmer.

One of my favorites

A unique woodpecker

A familiar call

An elegant bird

Bars, spots and a red mustache

A higher perch

I'm looking forward to encountering the flicker

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Pikes Peak - A Soulful Mountain

Pikes Peak

Traveling south through the heart of Colorado, the Rocky Mountains form an almost impenetrable barrier to the west. Rolling away to the east a broken forest clings to the numerous buttes and bluffs that are a prelude to the big peaks.

This time of year the southern mountains are speckled with white snow as much of the powder has been whisked away by a relentless breeze. The frigid wind blows down across the corridor making outdoor activities utterly miserable.

Rising out of the rugged terrain, Garden of the Gods is a glorious gateway to the soulful Pikes Peak. The unforgettable scenery features red sandstone slabs that stand out sharply against the dark greenery growing below.

Dominating the view at Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak has been inspiring explorers, gold seekers and artists for over 200 years. It’s named after the accomplished adventurer Zebulon Pike who first beheld the majestic, purple mountain in 1806.

When gold rushing 59ers set out for Denver in a quest for mineral riches, they emblazoned their wagons in fresh paint with the famous words "Pikes Peak or Bust!" The rocky monolith still commands the southern skyline and has become a lasting symbol for the entire Front Range.

American songwriter Katharine Lee Bates was so influenced by the extraordinary vista from the summit that she wrote the lyrics to America the Beautiful. The popular anthem is actually a superb tribute to the unique beauty and vastness of the Colorado landscape.

An impenetrable barrier

Speckled with white snow

Garden of the Gods is a gateway

Soulful Pikes Peak

Red sandstone slabs stand out

Dominating the view at Colorado Springs

A majestic mountain

A rocky monolith

A symbol of the Front Range

An extraordinary vista

Unique beauty of the Colorado landscape

Saturday, February 24, 2018

American Robin - A Cold Weather Inhabitant

American Robin

The American Robin has become so common that his classical beauty is often overlooked and his mere presence taken for granted. By the end of February, males of this species show up here looking to establish territory.

The identity of this Proclaimer of Spring is unmistakable with his bursting, brick-red chest, gray-brown back, charcoal head and pale throat with dark streaks. The bird’s sharp eyes are ringed with white and the yellow bill is tipped with black.

He prefers to nest up high in the bough of a healthy ponderosa pine but he spends most of his day scampering about the meadow searching for insects and earthworms. While on the ground, he’s ever cautious as he keeps a wary eye out for any approaching birds of prey.

He is an industrious bird that is first to rise in the morning and last to roost in the evening all the while singing a cheerful song. During the summer, his nightly lullaby serenades the forest dwellers with a peaceful melody.

There are a few hardy individuals who attempt to overwinter here. Somehow these cold weather inhabitants survive by plucking berries from shrubs and trees while hydrating from tiny slivers of open water.

He’s more tempestuous than the suburban stereotype his personality invokes. When romping around in Colorado’s wild backcountry, though, there is something comforting about catching a glimpse of this familiar fellow when straying so far from home.

The American Robin is common

They show up in late February

Proclaimer of Spring

A bursting, brick-red chest

A gray-brown back and charcoal head

Scampering about the meadow

An industrious bird

They serenade the forest to sleep

Some attempt to overwinter here

Somehow they survive

A suburban stereotype

Something comforting about this fellow

Saturday, February 17, 2018

La Plata Peak - Watercolor

"La Plata Peak" Watercolor

At this time of year during the dark days of winter, dreams are filled with idyllic images of the picturesque high country. The presence of a monochrome landscape is replaced by a sleepy vision of vibrant color.

Majestic, purple peaks are robed in slopes of fresh green and they loom above a sliver of shimmering, blue lake. Stretched across the page, an indigo forest of fragrant pine is a beautiful buffer zone.

The immediate foreground is an alpine meadow filled with an absolute riot of dazzling wildflowers. It’s hard to imagine now but in just a few months, this impossibly-summery scene will become a virtual reality.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Grazing Horses, Nebraska - Colored Pencil

"Grazing Horses, Nebraska" Colored Pencil

“Through art we can change the world.” ~ #twitterartexhibit

It’s a warm summer day in Bridgeport, Nebraska and a pair of horses is grazing peacefully in a prairie paradise. The grasses carpeting this Garden of Eden are a patchwork quilt of verdant colors.

A few cottonwood trees are topped with a full canopy of dense foliage, casting blue shadows that offer some cool relief from the oppressive heat. Hopefully the gathering of bulbous clouds will result in an afternoon rain shower.

Colored pencil is applied over a stipple-textured paper, portraying a fleeting impression of this pastoral scene. Flecks of white paper show through even the darkest passages, creating a pointillistic effect that sparkles with light.

The optimism expressed by this picture is derived from the beauty of the two animals on display. An Appaloosa and a Red Dunn Quarterhorse, they reveal a perfect harmony that can only be found when immersed in nature.

During this digital age, the world has become much smaller. People can connect internationally with a single touch of the keypad. There seems to be an insane lust for speed, technology and profit.

Despite the demands of a modern lifestyle, we must continue to search for a healthy balance between the artificial and the organic. Working with an animal naturally can therapeutically restore your sanity because it requires patience, trust and sympathy.

Grazing Horses, Nebraska is my contribution to the upcoming Twitter Art Exhibit: Canberra, Australia. This unique event is an international exhibition of original postcard art benefiting Pegasus Riding for the Disabled of the ACT Inc.       

Pegasus Riding for the Disabled of the ACT Inc. provides horse facilitated therapy programs and activities for people living with a disability. Their vision is a world that sees the ability in people with a disability and they are the only Riding for the Disabled Centre in the Canberra region.

Pegasus ACT provides over 2000 sessions a year to more than 100 people living with a disability. They provide mounted (riding) and unmounted programs, Hippotherapy (physiotherapy on horseback), school holiday, garden and early intervention goal-based programs – all according to ability and need.

All proceeds from sales will support Pegasus ACT’s horse facilitated therapy programs that are developed in collaboration with qualified coaches, therapists and families.

Twitter Art Exhibit: Canberra, Australia is the eighth installment of this open international exhibition of handmade postcard art for charity, donated by artists from around the world.

Social media plays a major role in the Twitter Art Exhibit. It is their intention to tweet, share and promote contributing artists to thank them for their participation, and to make this event a success for all involved.

The event will be highly publicized and well attended by art buyers and enthusiasts, members of the press, local artists and the TAE community.

For more information, please check out this link: #twitterartexhibit

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Dillon Reservoir - Centerpiece of Summit County

Snowy Dillon Reservoir

In 1883, during the height of Colorado’s gold rush, the town of Dillon was established at the confluence of three remarkable rivers. Ten Mile Creek, the Snake and the Blue came together, creating a natural finger lake in a basin of unsurpassed beauty.

After the mines played out, Dillon’s population dwindled while other towns in the area began to thrive thanks to the booming ski industry. Denver’s population exploded and folks in that dusty, old cowtown were thirsting for more fresh water.

The Denver Water Board came up with an idea to dam the Blue River and divert water via an underground pipeline dug through the Continental Divide. The board acquired the land and water rights needed to construct the reservoir while residents and businesses were notified that they must sell and leave by September 15, 1961.

The earth-filled dam was completed in 1963 and it sends water gushing from the Blue River Basin through the 23.3 mile Harold D. Roberts Tunnel into the South Platte River which then flows right through Denver. A few buildings were flooded but most of the Dillon townsite and its cemetery was relocated to the northeast edge of the reservoir.

Today the sparkling lake is the centerpiece of Summit County and it’s a fluid hub for almost any outdoor, recreational activity you can imagine. Hordes of people flock to this destination looking to hike, climb, bike, boat, fish, ski, snowmobile and bird watch.

The setting for such excursions is absolutely spectacular as gigantic, snow-capped peaks surround the broad valley. The scenery is gorgeous any time of the year but it’s especially dramatic when experienced during changing weather conditions.

Tremendous snowstorms lay siege to this area as dense clouds become socked into the basin, filtering out most of the light. The surreal atmosphere spawns a fantastic landscape of mountains and water that you’ve probably only seen in a dream.

It’s during such dreary times that one can find solitude along the shores of this magnificent preserve. I’ve spent hours exploring and photographing this special place and I hope to find more time in the future to enjoy everything this park has to offer.

Unsurpassed beauty

The sparkling lake is a centerpiece

A fluid hub for outdoor recreation

People flock to this destination

Snow-capped peaks

A broad valley

Gorgeous scenery

Changing weather conditions

Tremendous snowstorms lay siege

A surreal atmosphere

A fantastic landscape of mountains and water

Snowy solitude

A special place to explore

Find more time in the future