Friday, January 17, 2020

In the Forest, Fillius Ridge - Colored Pencil Drawing

"In the Forest, Fillius Ridge" Colored Pencil

It is the middle of winter in the Colorado foothills and Fillius Ridge is the spiny crest of a steep, forested hillside. The rugged scene is another study in contrast involving opposing shapes, edges and values.

The forest interior during the winter is one of the most austere places on earth erecting a severe barrier from the rock, ice and fallen lumber found in a forbidding wilderness. Life is a struggle on the lofty rim where plants, trees and animals struggle to survive this season of gloom.

The flickering landscape makes a gradual transition towards abstraction as the indistinct edges of the lodgepole pine melt into the morning sky. The dark mood is alleviated by a trickle of pink light that gradually seeps through a web of tangled branches and needled foliage.

It is a natural patchwork of analogous colors where white highlights streak across the cliff’s snowy surface. The sharp angles of the deep, blue shadows convey action and dynamic movement that spread across this unique drawing.

The murky silhouette of pine trees suggests the impenetrable fortress of a dense woodland. The somber palette is layered over a warm undertone that permeates throughout the entire piece, unifying the intricate composition.

The depiction of this coarse environment is meant to express the stern beauty of a snowstorm’s aftermath. Just like the sun’s first rays breaking through the black of a long night so will the forest’s icy tones surrender to the fiery mosaic of summer.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Winter Storm Gage - An Artistic Effect

Winter Storm Gage

Right at the start of another decade, a named storm descended onto the foothills, dumping heavy amounts of more snowfall. Winter Storm Gage cruised down through the corridor, eliminating any hint of color while leaving behind a landscape converted to gray.

Trudging up a steep hill was a struggle but I did witness white flakes falling against the black trees, creating a soft, artistic effect. There was so much contrast between the two values, I felt like I was walking through a pointillistic painting.

A few snags and fallen logs were representative of the rough life endured by the trees and animals that survive on Elk Ridge. From a high overlook, most of the valley was visible but the horizon line was lost due to the dense atmosphere.

Working my way back down was a bit dicey because the trail was broken by rock, slush and ice. Back down at the bottom, a miserable wind made everything cold and uncomfortable but despite the bad weather, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the hopeful beginning of a new year.

Heavy amounts of snowfall

The valley was visible

A rough life

A gray landscape

White flakes and black trees

A pointillistic painting

The beginning of a new year

An artistic effect

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Christmas in Western Nebraska - Calm Before the Storm

Christmas in Western Nebraska

Christmas in Western Nebraska is a bittersweet holiday because the temperatures are always brutally cold. The northern plains normally get pounded by winter storms and a ferocious wind blows snow across the grassland, creating whiteout conditions that make travel impossible.

During our stay at my parents’ Little House on the Prairie, the weird weather was unseasonably warm. This December, the usually frozen creek was found to be ice-free and flowing smoothly through a semi-frosted pasture.

The cattle had been put out on the corn where the longhorns formed an imposing silhouette against an early sunset. The barren trees stood in stark contrast to the fading, orange light as the entire scene was faithfully reflected on the water’s glassy surface.

Our good fortune only lasted for a few days before the peaceful setting was disappointingly shattered. The forecast turned ominous and just as we were leaving town, a surprise storm appeared out of nowhere and charged down the valley enveloping Chimney Rock.

The fast-moving system buried the Sandhills under a blanket of deep snow. I should have known that fragile window of fine weather at the farm was only a mirage. Those few nice days were really just an anomaly - they were the calm before the storm.

The creek was ice-free

Sorghum bales

Longhorn cattle

A peaceful setting

Faithful reflections

Chimney Rock

Little House on the Prairie

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Mount Evans Christmas - Watercolor

"Mount Evans Christmas" Watercolor

It is a cold and windy day in a spectacular basin known as Upper Bear Creek. Buried under a blanket of fresh snow, Mount Evans is a lofty landmark that imposes it’s iron will on the local weather patterns.

Tethered to the foreground, sturdy evergreens are built to withstand the brutal storms that wreak havoc on this hidden valley. Here, heavy snow clings to the blue spruce creating an intricate pattern of dark and light.

This time of year, the landscape can only be expressed with mostly cool colors like blue and green. Surprisingly, there is also a few touches of pink and yellow scrubbed into this wintery composition.

Such a difficult medium to work with, watercolor painting demands that you relinquish control. Most of the fluid brushstrokes are allowed to flow freely as they encourage you to let your imagination run wild.

Strokes of pale color are washed across the smooth surface, giving a loose suggestion of the vast wonderland. Cerulean skies set the ominous tone that permeates the arctic atmosphere, instilling the inhabitants with a sense of dread.

It’s an uncomfortable morning devoted to tramping around on treacherous terrain. The risk involved in such an undertaking is worth it though because being immersed in such pristine surroundings is an unforgettable reward.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

The Dedisse Bridge - Into the Wild

The Dedisse Bridge

Hidden discreetly in Bear Creek Canyon, the Dedisse Park Bridge is an arched gateway into the remote shadowlands concealing the north face of the Three Sisters Peaks. The structure easily spans Bear Creek and its simplicity in form and color enable it to blend smoothly into the riparian environment.

Despite its close proximity to the crowded Evergreen Lake, the quiet swale remains relatively unknown to most local citizens. During the summer, bright sunlight streams through the abode and explodes into shattered bits of color, reflecting the excitement and energy found in a vibrant forest.

Wintertime is a much different story as the chilly atmosphere is expressed by a scheme of blues and grays. Big storms stall out over the mountains and fill the narrow gorge with extraordinary amounts of snow.

The lower, clear light still finds a way through the dense foliage creating irregular shadows that perfectly trace the deep, undulating drifts. Composed from a diverse array of boulders, branches and brush, the rugged landscape is completely blanketed in the purest white.

Bear Creek is a powerful force born in the big mountains so even during the harshest winters, it becomes only partially frozen. The frigid water flows persistently through a maze of turquoise ice sheets and sheer black rock.

Descending the gentle, southern slopes, a series of switchbacks is a slippery trail leading down to the stream and its modest crossing. Here, the Dedisse Bridge is a symbolic connection offering passage from civilization into the wild.

Hidden discreetly

The swale remains relatively unknown

A gateway to the shadowlands

Southern slopes lead down to the stream

The creek is partially frozen

A chilly atmosphere

The frigid water is persistent

A rugged landscape

Into the wild

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Mtn Muhly Trail - An Aura of Forbidding Mystery

Mtn Muhly Trail

Starting in a quiet corner of Alderfer Park, Mtn Muhly Trail descends into a steep gulch gouged by a little stream called Coneflower Creek. A grove of aspen sparkles in the late light as its long shadows tumble over the embankment and disappear into a ribbon of black water.

During winter, the cup-shaped valley is a barren landscape steeped in an aura of forbidding mystery. The confusion of branches and brush makes for a messy scene but there is a certain charm to be found in nature’s tangle of wild forms.

The slim ravine stretches easily through a dense forest of fir and spruce where only the tips of the tallest trees are lit by the golden ambiance of a setting sun. Climbing up and out of the chasm isn’t too much of a problem as the path empties into a rugged stand of lodgepole pine.

Weaving its way through a maze of old growth, a rocky route traverses the steep western slopes set below the Three Sister Peaks. Just as it begins to get dark, the ominous woodland gives way to a wide open meadow and a pink sky floods into the field of vision.

Once the dark curtain of a winter’s long night finally falls, the mountains get incredibly cold. There’s nothing left to be done outside except wait patiently for the dawning of a new day and hope that it will be warmer than the last one.

Starting in a quiet corner of the park

A steep gulch

Forbidding mystery

Confusion of branches and brush

A slim ravine

A golden ambiance

Coneflower creek

A setting sun

Slope below the Three Sisters

A wide open meadow

Winter's long night

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Big Snowmelt - A Burst of Mild Weather

Big snowmelt

In between winter storms, there are short periods of warm sunshine that result in big snowmelt. The snow slides down off of the tree branches dousing the wanderer with a shower of cold water.

During these fleeting bursts of mild weather, treacherous trails into the lonely forest are packed with rocks and ice. If you dare to venture out during this muddy interlude, tread with caution and expect to get wet.

It may not be the most beautiful time of the year but there is a certain elegance inherent to the dull color scheme. The ochres, browns and grays sparkle in the clear light, contrasting sharply with the morning’s dark shadows.

The meadow has been swept clean by a strong, west wind blowing down from the highest peaks. It has been nice to receive a respite from the repeating cycle of historic storms because it gives us some time to document their impact and prepare for the ones still on the way.

In between snowstorms

Morning's dark shadows

A fleeting burst of mild weather

A muddy interlude

A certain elegance

Short periods of warm sunshine

The meadow is windswept

A nice respite

Snow slides off of the branches

Sparkling, clear light

Preparing for more snow