Saturday, January 30, 2016

Western Nebraska - A Winter Eden

Winter in western Nebraska

This season, the weather in Western Nebraska is absolutely wonderful. Wading through waist-deep snow, the stark Sandhills are a white oasis.

Spread across the blank space, a humble homestead appears in the distance. A halo of soft light is a soothing beacon of hope, offering sanctuary from the frigid cold.

After a week of severe weather, the entire region is transformed into a pristine snowscape. An arctic chill unique to this place, seeps into your aching bones.

Cradled in the Great Plains, this fertile crescent is inhabited by hardy settlers and exotic animals. Surprisingly, the Garden of Eden is located here, near the banks of the mighty North Platte.

Along the slippery edge of a brown creek, arched cottonwoods form an intricate corridor into a lush reserve. Golden rays of afternoon light permeate the frozen wilderness, warming an icy bog.

The secluded marsh is home to timid species that are spooked by my unwelcome appearance. Flushed from hiding are a family of white-tailed deer, a few northern flickers and a blue jay.

Strong, west winds wreak havoc during the long, restless night. By dawn, beautiful patterns of drifted snow are engraved into the rugged landscape.

Indian peacocks are a precious commodity perched high above in the barren trees. Down below, African guineafowl peck at the frozen ground, foraging for sparse food.

White-headed eagles are majestic monarchs ruling over this dominion of land, water and sky. A hungry hawk is a visiting dignitary, searching for unsuspecting sparrows.

Like a pale apparition, a mysterious, white horse grazes along the edge of a dormant cornfield. The eerie atmosphere is enhanced by the chorus of coyotes howling in the forest.

Dried sunflowers are a bitter reminder of our fleeting existence but now I know where it all began. If you thought paradise was a tropical garden, you’d be wrong, because I’ve discovered that Eden is actually a winter wonderland.

A humble homestead

North Platte River

A brown creek

Afternoon light is golden

An icy bog

Indian peacocks

African guineafowl

Majestic bald eagle

A hungry hawk

Unsuspecting sparrows

A mysterious, white horse

A dormant cornfield

Dried sunflowers

Paradise is not tropical

Eden is a winter wonderland

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Elk Ridge Evergreen - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Elk Ridge Evergreen" Colored Pencil

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

It’s the morning after an early-winter storm and Evergreen’s Elk Ridge is dusted with a layer of fresh snow. Gloomy clouds have passed so the clear sky forms a bright-blue background.

The far foothills are expressed with graduated tones of cool gray that blend into the distance. Sparkling under a radiant sun, a row of silvery spruce is stretched along the steep hillside.

Up front, the dark pine is a rigid focal point that carries weight into the corner. Cast by the red tree, intricate shadows form an abstract pattern that’s spread across the snowy surface.

It’s fascinating how an idea born in the brain is nurtured in the heart and transmitted through an eager arm, resulting in an expressive piece of art that’s completely handmade.

Elk Ridge Evergreen is my contribution to the upcoming Twitter Art Exhibit: NYC. This unique event is an international exhibition of original postcard art benefiting Foster Pride’s “Handmade” Program, in which young women in foster care learn to create and market a unique line of goods.

The young women in HandMade create and market their own line of highly original crocheted goods under the HandMade by Foster Pride label, which is sold in New York boutiques, in Paris at Milk on the Rocks and online, at Etsy.

Students learn about design, marketing, and small business skills, and develop personal and interpersonal qualities such as motivation, collaboration, and sustained effort that will be valuable to these young women as they age out of the foster care system.

All proceeds from sales go to the talented teens who run this small business, and who also have the opportunity to secure internships with industry professionals.

Twitter Art Exhibit: NYC is the sixth installment of an open international exhibition of handmade postcard art for charity, donated by hundreds of participating artists from around the globe.

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

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

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bergen Peak First Snow - Colored Pencil Drawing

'Bergen Peak First Snow' Colored Pencil

It’s late fall in Evergreen, Colorado and Bergen Peak is flecked with the season’s first snow. The warm palette of autumn hues is kindled by an orange undertone.

Placed in a patch of fiery grasses, an abiding boulder is the obvious focal point. Rendering the unwavering rock is a simple study in the sharp contrast between dark and light.

Drifted across the open meadow, an opaque snowfield dissolves into a corner of cool shadows. As a prelude to the looming peak above, a few ponderosa pine are painted indigo blue.

The big mountain in the background is drawn with a bumpy line and tinted a verdant gray. Frosted with sparkling white, the summit’s complex contour is clarified by sun and shade.

Overhead, a dispersing cloud is drawn back like a curtain, revealing a periwinkle sky. The entire landscape is posterized into a pattern of interlocking shapes filled with flat passages of color.

The trails are cold and quiet as we anxiously wait for winter to come barging into the high country. Despite the disruption, there is something special about the mountains on the morning after first snow.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Yellow Pine - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Yellow Pine" Colored Pencil

It’s another gray day in Evergreen as the entire landscape is shrouded in an eerie mist. Stationed at the forest’s perimeter, a yellow pine is a sturdy sentinel standing watch over Elk Meadow.

The tree’s transparent bough allows flecks of the orange field to stream through. Edges become softer and the colors less saturated as grayish hills are stair-stepped into the background like paper-cut silhouettes.

Gnarled branches twist and turn, creating an intricate web of limber, red wood. Writhing towards a lemon sky, the spirited lookout is a living, breathing organism with a personality all its own.

The foothills are a fascinating mix of plants, trees and animals, each depending on the other to survive. Though engulfed by a sea of ochre grasses, the ponderosa pine is perfectly suited to life on golden ground.

Resilient in the face of fierce winds and heavy snow, the fearless straggler is an essential part of the alpine setting. It’s an unflinching inhabitant eager to endure the worst weather Colorado has to offer.

Living in these mountains will test your patience and perseverance. Just as it does for this resilient tree, withstanding the unruly elements in such a harsh environment will only make you stronger.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Zion Canyon - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Zion Canyon" Colored Pencil

Celebrated for its rivers, lakes, mountains and canyons, the Colorado Plateau is a complicated composition. It would take a lifetime to fully explore and comprehend this unusual place.

To express southern Utah’s unending beauty through perfection would certainly fail. Devoid of tedious details, this desert landscape was drawn freely from an etched memory.

It’s a sizzling, summer day in Zion Canyon where the clear air is hot and dry. An orange undertone permeates the textured paper and infuses the dreamy rendering with a warm glow.

Providing some relief from the heat, a row of crooked cottonwoods lines the muddy riverbank. Exiting at an angle, the Virgin is a refreshing river whose color reflects the powder-blue sky.

The soft edges of a wispy, white cloud seem to melt into an infinite atmosphere. Photographs are unable to interpret the scenery with acceptable realism so a vivid imagination is required.

As a cactus anchors the corner, trees form an archway leading to the sculpted spires that were carved so many years ago. The sheer, cliff walls are massive and the suggestion of their strange forms is defined by dark shadows.

When broken down to its basics, the true power of this chasm may be understood. Upon each return, a new lesson is learned and hopefully the experience gained will result in an honest expression of the stunning Southwest.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Zion Narrows - A Startling Labyrinth

Zion Narrows

Deep inside Zion National Park, the red-rock walls start closing in. There, our first experience in the dark chasm was negotiating that startling labyrinth known as The Narrows.

At first you follow a traditional pathway but after a mile, the river becomes the road. From this starting point, the shallow stream is about ankle high but before long you’re wading through water that is waist deep.

Tinted a muddy green, the Virgin is an unpredictable force propelled by a swift current that gets even stronger as the canyon becomes compressed. Thunderstorms that occur miles upstream can create a dangerous situation for unsuspecting hikers in Zion.

Heavy rainfall can send a powerful swell through the unforgiving gorge, trapping anything unlucky enough to be stuck inside. Fortunately, our canyoneering experience was filled with nothing but beautiful scenery and blue skies.

Due to unstable footing, attaining the mysterious slot was a slippery endeavor but well worth the struggle. The way out went much better as the brisk water swept us smoothly back to our original port of entry.

I found the Southwest to be anything but desolate as the unusual landscape shocked my senses with wonder and awe. I’ve spent years observing how things work in the mountains but life in the desert remains a mystery.

Traveling through Utah was such an eye-opening experience that I’d like to record my impressions with pencil on paper but I’ve found it too difficult to describe. Maybe if I close my eyes and dream about the extraordinary colors everything will turn out fine.

Red-rock walls start closing in

A startling labyrinth

The river becomes the road

The shallow stream

The virgin river is muddy green

A swift current

An unforgiving gorge

Beautiful scenery

Unstable footing

An unusual landscape

The desert is a mystery

It was an eye-opening experience

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mule Deer - A Curious Creature

Curious Mule Deer

On a wintery afternoon, a hardy visitor unexpectedly appeared out of the mist. A young mule deer buck was out in the meadow foraging for the most nutritious food source available.

Munching on mostly shrubs, twigs and tree branches, our famished friend displayed an enormous appetite. On just such a diet, the disheveled deer had managed to survive another harsh winter.

As I slushed through snow to document our encounter, the curious creature came even closer. Face to face with a magnificent muley, time stood still during an unforgettable nature moment.

I’m not sure what he was thinking. Maybe he thought I had food for him or maybe he wondered why I was out in the middle of a snowstorm. Anyway, after close inspection, he went back to his herd and I went back to mine.

An unexpected visitor

Foraging for food

Munching on shrubs

Another harsh winter

The curious creature

Came closer

Face to face with a muley

A nature moment

Middle of a snowstorm

He went back to the herd