Saturday, July 23, 2016

Beaver Brook Reservoir - A Blue Pearl

Beaver Brook Reservoir

Situated below Old Squaw Pass Road, Beaver Brook Reservoir is a blue pearl offering some solitude in the bustling foothills of Colorado. Getting to the shore is just a short saunter through a dense forest of aspen, pine and fir.

A converging perspective and big clouds always seem to create complications in the background. Constructed for confinement, the wonderful watershed allows a steep outlet into an infinite, green gorge.

After spending numerous hours near the water’s edge, I’ve never actually seen the lake’s nocturnal namesake. Despite the unfortunate absence, many other creatures are quite common.

Deer and elk skirt the forest boundary while out on the rocks, garter snakes seek the sun. Betrayed by its distinctive trill, the elusive kingfisher flees from my camera like a desperate fugitive.

Luckily, the mountain landscape is more cooperative as it always keeps perfectly still. I envy the stoic peaks and their unchanging nature because down below, the seasons are moving way too fast.

With life streaming at lightning speed, there is much work to be done. A sense of urgency exists at the studio and in the field where I know I’ve got to hurry if I’m ever going to catch that blasted king-bird on film.

A blue pearl

Solitude in the foothills

A short saunter through the forest

Big clouds

Create complications

A wonderful watershed

An infinite, green gorge

Near the water's edge

The mountain landscape is cooperative

The stoic peaks are unchanging

The seasons are moving fast

Life is streaming at lightning speed

A sense of urgency exists

That blasted kingfisher

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Cattle and the Canal - A Peaceful Retreat

The Nebraska Sandhills

Flowing through the southern Sandhills of western Nebraska, an irrigation canal offers some relief from the sweltering, summer heat. A ditch road that runs alongside the waterway is the perfect path for a morning hike.

Rain from the night before creates a thick haze that burns off into white clouds as the day begins. Even though filtered light glazes the landscape with gold, the pastures seem greener than normal this year.

A bunch of shaggy sheep are vocal inhabitants while swallows skim across the water’s smooth surface. Sometimes I’ll see wary jackrabbits or a white-tailed deer but in this big sky county, cattle are king.

They are voracious grazers but when confronted by peculiar visitors, it piques their interest. Cows and calves come running in order to get a closer look at the unexpected newcomers.

The deep, blue water is a natural barrier between us and the domestic beasts so the situation remains completely harmless. As we continue on our prairie trek, it starts to get scorching hot.

We head back to where it all began, hoping to get some much needed rest and a cold drink. Still full of life, the old homestead is our peaceful retreat in the middle of the Great Plains.

The irrigation canal

The ditch road is a perfect path

A thick haze burns off

Filtered light glazes the landscape

The pastures seem greener than normal

The water's smooth surface

Big Sky County

Cattle are king

It got scorching hot

A peaceful retreat

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Gore Range Wildflowers - Colored Pencil

"Gore Range Wildflowers" Colored Pencil

Drawn mostly from memory, this landscape depicts the vista from Ute Pass, looking across the Blue River Valley. The summery scene is an optimistic vision of a fruitful future.

North out of Silverthorne, the gentle mountains turn jagged, purple and picturesque. As golden clouds glide overhead, the chaos of opposing angles creates an exciting composition.

A bouquet of colorful wildflowers fills the foreground as the natural beauty is a garden of earthly delight. Delicate details of dark and light define this beautiful arrangement.

Rising sharply out of the fertile plateau, the rugged range is still laced with an intricate pattern of white snow. Finally, the forms are intentionally simplified in order to better express the mystique of these heavenly peaks.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Sharp-shinned Hawk - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Sharp-shinned Hawk" Colored Pencil

Perched patiently on a rusty fence, a sharp-shinned hawk has appeared in a flash. It’s winter in western Nebraska and a flock of sparrows has congregated in the farmyard, feeding on chicken scratch and corn.

Relying on stealth and camouflage, the sharpy prefers ambush to capture its prey. Decorated with a gold-leaf pattern, the pale chest is cloaked by dark wings that are detailed with the suggestion of broad feathers.

The raptor’s noble head is a remarkable profile distinguished by streaked spear tips and bright yellow eyes. Just a juvenile, this bird of prey is a natural born hunter that’s still trying to find its place in the forest habitat.

The unsuspecting sparrows are easy pickings for this woodland warrior. While living on earth can be a struggle for most of us, it’s not so for the sharp-shin. This confident creature seems to have the world by the tail.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Western Bluebird - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Western Bluebird" Colored Pencil

The Western Bluebird is an energetic pioneer always looking to expand his territory. It’s early spring at Noble Meadow in Evergreen, Colorado and this male has recently arrived, robed in his finest breeding plumage.

Backlit by golden light, the diminutive monarch oversees his vast domain from a mullein stalk perch. With his abstract background framed by a simple border, the confident bluebird sits comfortably in the spotlight.

Upon close inspection, the triadic color scheme becomes obvious. Multiple shades of red, yellow and blue are applied in translucent layers on textured paper, resulting in a finished piece that sparkles with luminosity.

In order to capture the essence of this scene, the photographic accuracy of the drawing has been simplified. Also, the color saturation has been exaggerated in a way that better expresses the lively spirit of these vibrant, little birds.

The focal point of this creation is the bluebird's remarkable eye and head. By carefully rendering the details in the bird’s eye and head with more precision, the viewer's attention will be directed to that part of the composition.

Artist friend Ann Kullberg asked me to thoroughly document the unique methods required to produce this work of art. The painstaking process of drawing, scanning, writing and re-writing has been compiled into a small step-by-step booklet.

Published by Ann Kullberg, the drawing guide is part of a series of JUMPSTART lessons for beginners. They feature simple instruction that includes pencil stroke and pressure descriptions, promising that even a novice will learn the ropes in a flash by following ten easy steps.

If you’d like to learn more about drawing in colored pencil, please check out this site: Western Bluebird Step by Step

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Vesper Sparrow - A Happy Grass Dweller

Vesper Sparrow

So far this summer, the bird I’m seeing most frequently in our foothills is the decidedly nondescript vesper sparrow. His name is Latin for ‘evening’ a time when this bird loves to sing.

At first glance, this stout sparrow looks rather drab but if you take the time to look closely, you’ll discover that he’s really quite beautiful. His overall light-brown color is intensified by a bright orange patch on the shoulder.

A pattern of dark streaks helps him to blend perfectly into the environment. Barely visible in the vast meadow to even the keenest observer, his exuberant song is what gives his presence away.

If you happen to cross paths with him, he’s not shy and he can be photographed rather easily. He tolerates a friendly encounter and watches curiously with his white-ringed eyes.

He hops down the dirt trail searching for his favorite foods, insects and seeds. If you get too close though, he will flash his white outer tail feathers as he alights to a nearby mullein stalk.

From this summer perch, the vesper sparrow vocally declares ownership of his nesting territory. This happy grass dweller loves to bask in the sun but even on a dreary, gray morning, his cheerful song will brighten your day.

Decidedly nondescript

This bird loves to sing

He looks rather drab

He's really quite beautiful

An orange patch on the shoulder

He's not shy

Tolerates a friendly encounter

Vocally declares territory

His cheerful song will brighten your day

Saturday, June 11, 2016

White Ranch Park - Summer Unfolds

Summer at White Ranch

It’s really hot and dry down at White Ranch Park in Golden, Colorado. Van Bibber Creek is running low and slow as the rocky watercourse cascades through a grassy, green gulch.

On a warm Saturday afternoon there’s not a cloud in the hazy sky. Ascending the steep Belcher Hill Trail on such a dusty day is definitely a sweaty endeavor.

During the climb, a looping traverse opens up and offers sweeping views across an impressive valley. To the right is Ralston Reservoir and the Hogback is an arched ridge connecting a rugged rock formation known as the Devil’s Thumb.

Back down at the bottom, the forest canopy is a priceless sanctuary of cool shade. Compared to what we usually see in the high country, the place is bursting with all kinds of colorful birds.

The black-headed grosbeak sings with passion and a Bullock’s oriole is a flash of brilliant orange in the tangled brush. Donning a black mask, the blueish scrub-jay is a striking creature while a spotted towhee’s fiery red eyes seem almost supernatural.

As summer unfolds, the usual cast of characters continues to return. The tourist season is one of my favorite times of the year because back are the aspen, irises, columbine, hummingbirds, bluebirds, squirrels and of course the thunderstorms.

Van Bibber Creek is running low and slow

Belcher Hill Trail

An impressive valley

A long ridge connects Devil's Thumb

A cool sanctuary

Black-headed Grosbeak

Western Scrub-jay

Spotted Towhee

It's tourist season

Summer is one of my favorite seasons