Saturday, November 24, 2012

Meyer Ranch Park - An Ethereal Experience

Early morning light created an ethereal effect

It was a late fall, Sunday morning and I was searching for peace and quiet. I found it at Meyer Ranch Park just south of Evergreen near Conifer, Colorado. I didn't make it to church that day but it felt like I was in heaven. The early light shining through the transparent aspen leaves created an ethereal effect. It reminded me of being inside a cathedral with huge stained-glass windows. The sun felt warm on my neck and the entire landscape was bathed in yellow. It was perfect. It was paradise. I think this open space probably goes unnoticed from the highway but its history is fairly remarkable.

Mount Legault and its lush meadows were originally homesteaded by the McIntyre family around 1870. They fed and lodged travelers who came up the Turkey Creek wagon road. In 1883 Louis Ramboz purchased the land for haying, cattle and timber. Ramboz built a Queen Anne style ranch house with lumber milled on the property. It is still there today and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Their home became a stagecoach stop and was known as the Midway House because it is located midway between Denver and Bailey. Curiously, the ranch was also called Circus Town. It reportedly served as a winter quarters for some of the exotic animals from the PT Barnum Circus.

Ralph Kirkpatrick bought the place in 1912. In 1940 he cleared the hillside for skiing and opened the Mount Lugo Ski Area. Guests were transported from the road to the base of the lift using a horse drawn sled. From there a motor powered tow rope hauled people to the top. Unfortunately the resort closed in 1942 due to the gas rationing that was then taking place. Remnants of the tow's motor are still visible on the mountain today. Norman and Ethel Meyer bought the ranch in 1950 and made substantial renovations that modernized the home. Jefferson County purchased a portion of the land in 1987 and subsequently opened it to the public as Meyer Ranch Park.

The entire landscape was bathed in yellow

Circus animals may have wintered in this meadow during the 1890s

The Queen Anne style ranch house is still visible today

Mt Lugo Ski Area was open in the 1940s

Meyer Ranch Park today

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Becoming van Gogh

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat, 1887

My favorite artist is Vincent van Gogh. I've spent countless hours studying his art and life. I've read all the books and watched the movies but I've never seen one of his paintings in person. When I found out the Denver Art Museum was going to show more than 70 of his works, I couldn't believe it. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see so many pieces together at one place. Not even a late fall snowstorm could stop us from driving down the hill to experience the exhibit Becoming van Gogh.

I've been very influenced by Vincent van Gogh but not because I emulate his painting style, my temperament wouldn't allow it. It's because I wholeheartedly agree with his philosophy on art, nature, science and religion. The display is interesting as it traces van Gogh's development from beginner to master, plain and simple. All of the drama has been eliminated. There is no mention of "the ear" or "the prostitute" and not a peep about Gauguin. This show is about the evolution of a very talented and driven individual.

The exhibit focuses on Vincent's time in Paris. It was the transitional phase between his earthy, Dutch beginnings and the breakthrough into Impressionism and beyond. This period is filled with paintings of flowers and windmills. I was impressed by the size of some of the canvases. Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin is life-size. The impasto begs to be seen up close and the self-portraits are absolutely stunning. After Vincent's death, the marketing of his legend is how he became famous. Through hard work, sheer will and powers of observation he became van Gogh.

Not even snow could keep us from the exhibit.

Kitchen Gardens on Montmarte, 1887

This portrait of Roulin is larger than life.

Self-Portrait, 1887

One of my favorites, Landscape Under a Stormy Sky, 1889

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The World is Yours - Colored Pencil Drawing

"The World is Yours" Colored Pencil
It's a mysterious scene. A man and a woman on a secluded, tropical beach. Turquoise blue water and a clear blue sky serve as a backdrop. Something dramatic is happening. The woman is desperately clutching his leg as if pleading "Please don't go!" We see only the man's back. His attention seems focused on the oil rig platform out in the distance. Why is he clutching a black pistol? It looks like something out of a romance novel. That's because it is! I finished the cover for Tye DiPirro's new book The World is Yours.

I'm not exactly sure what the story is about but Tye gave me a description of how he wanted the cover to look. I don't have much experience with book illustration so my strategy was to have everything worked out before I started on the final drawing. I gathered lots of reference material and made several line and color studies. By spending the majority of time on preliminary work I was able to complete the illustration very quickly. To finish up, I scanned the piece, cropped and resized it, and added some text.

I tried to evoke some mystery through the colors and shadowing using my natural drawing style. It's a little bit simplistic and abstract and probably not as dramatic and modern as what you will see on the market but Tye seemed pleased. He has the story written and now he has an image to go with it. I'm very curious to find out what happens next. I know he has explored some of the different avenues for getting it published so hopefully things will happen for him. It was good to try something different and I'm glad I did it.
Final illustration

Preliminary value and color studies

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mule Deer - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Mule Deer" Colored Pencil

A young mule deer buck is alert while trudging through deep, December snow. The rut is coming to an end and the hardened antlers will soon be shed. Now it's all about survival, anything that can help conserve precious energy is a blessing. A harsh winter is a real threat to the survival of a mule deer. If the ground forage completely disappears, these tough animals will consume twigs and branches. During lean times their stored fat reserves can quickly become depleted. That's why from late spring to early fall the mule deer gorges itself on succulent leaves, grasses and flower beds.

Two prominent features distinguish the mule deer, large ears and a black tipped tail. The mule deer is stout with a thick, strong neck and chiseled face. The eyes are black with a distinct, dark brow. Patches of white highlight the throat and rump. An orange and sienna coat becomes charcoal gray in the winter. This prey animal uses camouflage effectively by changing its overall coloring with the seasons. No matter what time of year, they seem to blend perfectly into the natural environment.

Mule deer are very common in this area. During the winter I frequently see mule deer in town raiding bird feeders and grazing comfortably. They seem to tolerate human presence but if spooked they will dash off into the brush. The image of a doe and twin fawns is a sure sign of spring. There's always a good chance of seeing mule deer when hiking in Three Sisters Open Space Park on a summer evening.