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