Saturday, December 29, 2012

Portrait of Bill Snyder - Colored Pencil Drawing

"A Coaching Moment" Colored Pencil

Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder barks the game plan to his quarterback before the next series of plays. It's a road game for the Wildcats, at night, in a hostile environment. Colorful words are sometimes exchanged in the heat of battle. It's a coaching moment. The silver helmet gleams from the stadium lights creating interesting shadows across the player's face. A violet and yellow color scheme is complimented by sharp contrasts of dark and light. The focus of this simplified drawing is on the unmistakable man in charge.

Bill Snyder has silver hair and wire rimmed glasses but don't let his understated appearance fool you. In reality, this guy is a cold-blooded competitor dishing out defeats, one after the other, to some of the nations best college football teams. Snyder arrived at Manhattan, Kansas in 1989 and took control of college football's losingest program. The meticulous, workaholic demanded consistency and attention to detail. With a defined goal to get a little better each day, the team started winning immediately. Kansas State was transformed into a national power. It was one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the history of college football.

Coach Snyder's incredible drive and painstaking commitment to excellence propelled him to the pinnacle of his profession but to be the best at something requires extreme sacrifice, especially in the ultra-competitive world of Division I College Football. There are reports of the coach eating only one meal per day, laboring 120 hours a week and conducting three hour practices on Sunday mornings. During the obsessive quest for perfection, the cost can be expensive. A normal life is impossible and relationships with faith, family and friends may become strained.

After a short three year retirement, Bill Snyder is back on the sidelines coaching in the stadium that bears his namesake. Using the vigilant philosophy to replicate his first rebuilding miracle, he's teaching impressionable young men hard lessons once again. The Wildcats are back on top but I wonder if there are any regrets. Is it worth it? Is he happy? Only the stoic Coach Snyder knows the answers to those questions.

Note: I created this colored pencil drawing of Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder on commission for a Wildcat alumnus and fan.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Colorado Christmas

Snowy Elk Meadow
"The closest thing to Heaven on this planet anywhere is a quiet Christmas morning in the Colorado snow." ~ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

We finally got our snow just in the nick of time. It has been so dry we thought it was going to be a brown Christmas. The severe drought means less rain during the summer and not as much snow in the winter. Sure, it's been nice to walk around in short sleeves  and not have to shovel the driveway but something just doesn't seem right. Lakes are drying up, trees are dying and the animals are getting edgy. We needed the snow.

Winter in Evergreen lasts about six months and it can be a struggle. Heavy snow, high winds and bitter cold make life difficult but that's how it's supposed to be this time of year. There is something special about the mountains after a big storm. The peaks appear higher, the air seems cleaner and the sky looks bluer. The hearty inhabitants love a white Christmas and are delighted to celebrate the holidays in a variety of ways.

Locals disregard the brutal elements and enjoy skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Ice hockey and figure skating on the frozen lake, until after midnight on New Year's Eve, is a chilly tradition. The clear black sky is lit up by colored bulbs that dangle from snow covered roofs. Evergreeners don't stay cooped up inside and neither do their Christmas trees. Native spruce and pines are transformed into elegant symbols for the spirit of the people who decorate them.

Maybe things are starting to turn around. It looks like it's going to be a white Christmas after all.
We thought it was going to be a brown Christmas

There's something special about the mountains after a big storm

Winter in Evergreen can be a struggle

Evergreeners love Christmas

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Karma - A Natural Law

Buddha reinterpreted the theory of karma
The kids on my soccer team have asked me if I believe in karma. They always use the word as a synonym for luck. They think good karma means good luck. Sometimes after a loss they blame it on "bad karma" and resign themselves to the belief that karma is something beyond their control. They believe the outcome of their game had already been determined. A fatalistic point of view that couldn't be farther from the truth. The Buddhist states that the present is influenced by the past and the future will be based on choices you make now. Your choices are made of your own volition, so you control your own destiny. You have free will.

The theory of karma originated in ancient India and is central to Hinduism. Buddha later reinterpreted and explained the doctrine. He taught that karma is a complex, non-linear, unseen natural law that flows freely through the universe. The Buddhist version was exported to the United States where its true meaning has been lost in translation. Karma is the force that initiates the cosmic principle of cause and effect. Buddhists imply that there is no such thing as good or bad karma, there is just karma.

In its original sanskrit form, karma means action or deed. Buddha also translated it as intention. Many of the Eastern religions believe that a person's thoughts, words and physical actions, whether good or bad, will have consequences, good or bad, for that person. A Western interpretation for this thought process would be "What goes around, comes around." As a Christian, we are taught God's justice from Galatians 6:7 "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap." In the cycle of action and consequences, karma refers to the action part only. The consequences or reactions are known as vipaka.

Karma works in very mysterious ways. One aspect of causality I find interesting is the payback. You may receive results that are impossible to trace back to their original actions because it doesn't always happen instantly. It could take days, months or years and if you believe in reincarnation it could take several lifetimes. It all seems fairly logical. If you give kindness, compassion and generosity, you will receive peace and happiness in return. Anger, cruelty and greed will be met with suffering and misery. It's such a simple concept but often difficult to put into practice.
Karma comes from ancient India

Free Will is symbolized by flowing water

Karma is a complex, natural law

Kindness, compassion and generosity brings happiness

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rocky Mountain Goat - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Rocky Mountain Goat" Colored Pencil

A Rocky Mountain goat is backlit by the early, morning sun. His white wool contrasts sharply against the dark, blue sky. It's springtime in the Rockies and the solitary goat has returned to his familiar position high above timberline. These hearty animals are built to live in the harsh environment at the top of the world. Warm temperatures and high winds have cleared the rocky summits of most of the snow so the goats move easily across perilous ledges. The resilient creatures somehow manage to survive through the winter enduring bitter temperatures below 50 degrees and wind gusts up to 100 miles per hour.

Mountain goats are found only in North America but the herd that inhabits Mount Evans is not native to Colorado. Their natural range extends from Northern Wyoming to Central Alaska. In the late 1950's about 14 goats were released on Mount Evans. In the perfect alpine setting, the population has thrived and multiplied. There are currently about 100 sheep living in the area. We always find the herd above tree line casually grazing but they will migrate seasonally to higher or lower elevations, especially when on the search for salt.

The mountain goats are fun to watch. The big males are impressive looking with long white beards and curved black horns. The little ones are hilarious and full of personality. In the early summer, if you can find the nursery, it's like a comedy show. The kids antagonize the annoyed nannies that are in charge of maintaining a perimeter. They will also chase, charge and buck around the cliffs in a high altitude game of King of the Mountain. For me, the Rocky Mountain goat symbolizes the spirit of the wildlife that lives in the Front Mountain Range.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mount Evans Winter - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Mount Evans Winter" Colored Pencil

It's a cold, windy day on Upper Bear Creek. Mount Evans is buried under a blanket of fresh snow. The sturdy evergreens are built to withstand winter storms like this. Heavy snow clings to the blue spruce creating an interesting pattern of dark and light. The landscape is expressed with mostly cool blues and greens but there are some pinks and yellows woven into the foreground. Being outside on a morning like this can be uncomfortable, although the mountain scenery is a beautiful reward.

We've trampled all over the Mount Evans Wilderness Area exploring places like Chicago Lakes, Gray Wolf Mountain and the Sawtooth Ridge. The diversity of wildlife above tree line is amazing. We've seen coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, marmots, pikas and my favorite, the white-tailed ptarmigan. The herd of Rocky Mountain goats that inhabit the summit are fascinating to watch. The goats tolerate human presence and seem to be curious and intelligent. The little ones are playful and buck around on the steep, cliff ledges.

The mountain was originally named Rosalie after the wife of German-American artist Albert Bierstadt. The romantic, landscape painter is credited with making the first ascent in 1863. Bierstadt explored the region creating numerous sketches and paintings that accurately depict the local scenery. The name was officially changed to Evans in 1895 in honor of Colorado's second governor John Evans. A nearby summit became Rosalie and next to it, an impressive peak is called Mount Bierstadt.

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 - A Fantastic Exhibit

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 fantastic exhibit entitled 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.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Brook Forest Inn - Ghosts, Germans and Gold

The Brook Forest Inn is southwest of Evergreen

It was the summer of 1943 near Evergreen, Colorado and the Brook Forest Inn was a luxury resort nestled in a stand of lodgepole pine at the base of Black Mountain. Carl was at work in the nearby livery stable when he learned that his wife, Jessica, had been unfaithful.

Jessica also worked at the inn and she was preparing the Monte Carlo Room for that evening's guests. Carl stormed in, confronted her and a violent altercation ensued. Fueled by a jealous rage, Carl strangled Jessica to death. Overcome with guilt, Carl returned to the stable, constructed a rope noose and promptly hung himself. The stunning tragedy shocked the idyllic mountain community.

A few years earlier, before the outbreak of World War II, a suspicious group of German tourists checked into the hotel. They claimed to be on a bicycle tour of America. Come to find out, they were actually spies. They used the place as a headquarters while they studied and mapped the United States for Adolph Hitler.

It is reported that the dining room carpet covered a large swastika painted on the floor. To this day, it is believed that Nazi gold from Hitler's personal war chest is buried somewhere in the labyrinth of secret rooms and tunnels that are now sealed off, underground, beneath the resort complex.

Not long after Carl's murder/suicide, a small child became sick and died from influenza in one of the third floor rooms. That's when mysterious occurrences started to be documented. Visitors on the third floor have heard children giggling, running up and down hallways, and knocking on the doors even though no children were in the hotel at the time.

Carl's spirit has been seen prowling throughout the inn on several occasions. Neighbors have reported seeing a full apparition of a woman on the Monte Carlo Suite balcony when the resort was known to be vacant. Other reports include the smell of rotting flesh, objects moving on their own, light anomalies and ghostly sounds.

Ghosts are defined as the spirits of dead people that for some reason are "trapped" between this plane of existence and the next, often as a result of some tragedy or trauma. Do I believe the Brook Forest Inn is haunted? I don't know for sure, I've never actually stayed overnight there.

The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society recently investigated the claimed paranormal events and concluded - "With the data obtained thus far there is something unusual (whether manmade, nature, or supernatural) occurring at the Brook Forest Inn."

Locals will tell you as well, "There's something strange going on up there at The Brook."

The inn is nestled in a lodgepole pine forest

Nazi gold may be buried in the catacomb 

Mysterious occurrences have been documented

After the murder, Carl returned to the livery

Neighbors have seen an apparition

The interior front lobby of the inn

There may be something supernatural

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Romance Novel - Colored Pencil Drawing

Value and color studies for the romance novel cover
An aspiring writer asked me if I would be interested in illustrating a book cover. He said he had just finished writing a novel and was working on getting it published. My first thought was I don't have time. I'm a production artist for a printing company by day but my nights are reserved for more fine artistic pursuits. I guess you could call me a "Sunday Painter". Time is precious but I was curious. I asked him what the book was about. He enthusiastically exclaimed, "It's a Romance Novel!"

There was a division between the two sides of my brain and they were battling it out. The logical, left side said, "You can't do it! It's too difficult! Don't leave your comfort zone!"

The cool, right side responded, "Chill, bro. We got this. Dude, try something exciting and new. It'll be fun."

After the dust cleared, I guess surfer guy won because I accepted the commission and asked for more specific details. I'm going to illustrate the cover of a Romance Novel.

Now fully committed to the project, I processed the author's instructions. "...a man and a woman on the beach. The man is standing facing out towards the ocean in only a swimsuit, exposing his back, staring at an oil rig far in the distance. The woman is on her knees, just to the left of him in beach attire, hugging the man's leg implying 'please don't go!' The man facing into the distance has none of his attention directed towards her, just the oil rig, a pistol in his right hand, not aimed, just in his hand."

The analytical left flipped out, "I told you! We can't do something like that! Are you crazy? That's impossible!"

The irrational right confidently replied, "Dude, relax. Work up some studies. We got this."

To be continued...
Prepatory line drawing for "The World is Yours"

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Evergreen Lake Summer - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Evergreen Lake Summer" Colored Pencil

A cool mountain breeze offers some relief on a warm, summer day at Evergreen Lake. Puffy, white clouds race across the wide, open sky and because the lake is a reflection of the scene above, it translates as clear and blue.

A sparkling blue spruce stands guard over the weathered boardwalk and the green grass is starting to turn brown from the scorching sun. Summer is the busiest season at the lake as red-winged blackbirds are nesting, Canada geese are bathing and the cormorants, with wings outstretched, are drying out on the dam.

About 100 years ago the dam was built across Bear Creek just above the small town of Evergreen. A lush mountain meadow was flooded, creating the lake visible today. The purpose was two-fold, prevent the annual spring flooding in Bear Creek Canyon and provide a beautiful setting for outdoor recreation.

In the summer, the lake provides opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking and birding. Some of my favorite bird sightings have been White Pelicans, Kingfishers and Osprey. In the winter, the frozen lake is transformed into a rink featuring ice skating and hockey.

The spirit of Evergreen Lake pumps lifeblood into the surrounding area. There is a certain charm that circulates through the people during concerts, cook-offs, weddings and the other events that happen at the Lake House.

Evergreeners are very protective of their water, motor-less boats only, no swimming and a catch and release program. You can detect the pulse of the community just by visiting the lake. This crown jewel of the Denver Mountain Parks system is definitely the heart of Evergreen.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Gore Range Thunderstorm - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Gore Range Thunderstorm" Colored Pencil

A slow moving thunderstorm passes over the jagged Gore Range. The dark mountains seem small compared to the huge, dramatic clouds. A thin slice of Green Mountain Reservoir sparkles in the distance and the foreground shimmers with broken tones of green and violet. It's a beautiful scene. The colors are toned down but the rain makes them clean and fresh. The edges are soft, they become lost in some places and reappear in others. The low key values express a somber mood but I'm happy trying to depict nature's weather effects.

We experienced that storm this summer on our way back home from Steamboat. During our approach to Silverthorne, that's the scene we beheld. Because Sunday afternoon traffic on I-70 out of the mountains is a nightmare, we detoured off the main highway. Our first stop was at the Green Mountain Dam, we went out in the rain and explored the interesting structure. Slowly, we made our way down the remote pathway that's situated along the western edge of the lake. We took some photos of deer, horses and an enormous raven. Next, we drove through the town of Heeney, which is really just a cluster of vacation homes and private residences. Shortly after that, we came upon a large black bear casually strolling down the road and, before we knew it, we were back to the main highway.

Despite our stall tactics, we still got stuck in traffic. It took us forever to get home. I guess that was alright because the time spent in the car allowed me to contemplate the images I'd seen that afternoon. I learned that if you're willing to get off of the beaten path and explore the unknown, you're often rewarded for taking the risk. It was a drive I'll never forget. Sometimes the side-trip proves to be more fascinating than the main one.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Soccer in Steamboat - A Lesson Learned

Fall color on Rabbit Ears Pass
I've been helping out with my 11 year old son's soccer team for six years now and it's been a lot of fun. Soccer is a great sport because it's a player's game. Once the whistle blows the action is non-stop with little or no interference from the coaches. The players are free to make their own decisions concerning positioning and ball movement. As the boys have grown older, my duties have evolved from tying shoes and wiping noses to shagging balls and picking up cones. Sometimes at practice, if the numbers aren't right, I have to jump into a drill and if I'm lucky I might even get to play in a scrimmage. I think the boys accept me like a teammate, I know I've grown very attached to them.

We recently traveled up over Rabbit Ears Pass and down into Steamboat for a league game. It was a tough first half as our team constructed some good buildups and took great shots, they just couldn't finish. There were near misses, balls hitting the post and great saves by the opposing goalie. Down two to nil, things didn't look good. The guys were upset and frustrated. They were even bickering with each other out on the field. It would have been easy to just shut it down and quit.

At halftime the head coach asked the team to remain calm and stay positive. He urged them to continue working hard and promised good things would happen. It was exciting to watch the boys take techniques perfected at practice and display them during the match. A spectacular second half ended with a five to three victory. Hopefully the lessons they learn on the pitch will translate to success in the real world. Life is also full of rejection and failure, I know, but I witnessed something magical that morning in Steamboat. Something that proved what I already believe. I like being around those kids because they inspire me. I will never give up.
We took some good shots but just couldn't finish

A tough first half ended down 2-0

A spectacular second half was capped by a 5-3 victory

Hopefully lessons learned on the pitch will translate to future success

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Canada Goose - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Canada Goose" Colored Pencil

A Canada Goose bathes in the warm sunshine of an early spring day. Its reflection shimmers across the surface of chilly, Evergreen Lake. During the cold winter, the lake becomes literally an ice skating rink. When this happens the geese leave searching for a milder climate. They're not gone for long, though, because they are easily tempted back to even the smallest pool of open water.

These elegant birds are delighted to swim about and graze on the local vegetation. A long, sleek, black neck and a black head with a white chinstrap distinguish the Canada Goose. The body plumage is colored with rosy beige and golden ochres. Because these large waterbirds are so common, I think their beauty sometimes goes unnoticed.

The goose is loyal to family and will fiercely defend its territory. If threatened they are well equipped to handle the situation. The Canada's powerful wings are capable of delivering a blow of surprising force. Rarely does a natural predator like a fox, coyote or raccoon take a full grown goose.

Many geese feel comfortable enough to spend the molting season in Evergreen. Molting is when adult geese lose their wing feathers and cannot fly. This occurs from early June until late July. To safely molt, geese must be near water and an easily accessible food source. A great place to view Canada Geese during the summer is Buchanan Ponds.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bergen Peak Summer - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Bergen Peak Summer" Colored Pencil

On a warm summer day in Evergreen, Elk Meadow is dry and yellow. Weathered farm structures contrast with the fresh wildflowers. Bergen Peak provides a dark, green-violet background as low clouds drift across the shimmering, blue sky. At 9,200 feet, Bergen Peak is an Evergreen landmark.

People don't describe this mountain as awe-inspiring but the views from the top are. Bergen doesn't attain the same status as a fourteener and some even dismiss it as just another gentle foothill. I've learned not to underestimate Bergen Peak because it can be quite defiant.

The easy accessibility and excellent trail system make this park an Evergreen hot spot. In the summer, the trails are filled with hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers and horseback riders. The resilient mountain takes a beating from the heavy usage but if you're not careful it will bite back. I've gotten very sick from racing to the summit and I've taken some nasty falls descending the steep switchbacks.

I've gotten caught in the meadow by thunderstorms and have been nearly struck by lightning. One morning during the fall rut, I got chased off by some frustrated elk. I've discovered that when I'm on Bergen Peak the unstable terrain, abundant wildlife and unpredictable weather can turn an ordinary stroll into an exciting adventure.

Bergen Peak may not be the most beautiful mountain in Colorado but I always bring my camera and it's not the toughest to climb but I always get a good workout. Also, despite the chaos and crowds, if you know when and where to look, peace and solitude can still be found. It is definitely one of my favorite places in Evergreen.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Colorado Artist in Disney World

Full Moon over Epcot

It was a normal day, up early, off to work, pickup kids from school, soccer practice and supper. But that night was different, my wife announced those five famous words "We're going to Disney World." Wait...what? I know what you're thinking, so was I. How cliche, a family of four on the obligatory pilgrimage to the Mecca of amusement parks. What about snorkeling with penguins in Antarctica or that photography workshop in the Galapagos or studying the Old Masters at the grande museums in Europe? Not Disney World, the symbol for everything that goes against what I believe in.

As a humble artist living in the Colorado mountains, I cherish simplicity, peace, morality and spiritualism. Disney World is about complication, confrontation, decadence and materialism. I'm a sensitive soul searching for answers to life's great mysteries, not a seasoned tourist on a frenzied quest for fun. Try and explain that to my two boys who were dancing hysterically through the house. I reluctantly packed my bag and off we went. We were flying in from the North, Hurricane Isaac was blowing in from the South. A collision was inevitable.

I've never been East of the Missouri River so the tropical habitat was fascinating. The contrast between dry, brown Colorado and wet, green Florida was stunning. The inclement weather actually worked in our favor because the crowds were thin and the lines were short. We rode the rides, watched shows and played games. We needed that vacation, the kids loved it. It brought us closer together as a family and created memories we'll never forget. The roller coasters gave me a headache and the exotic food upset my stomach but there were elements of extraordinary beauty to satisfy an artist's eye. I must confess, I enjoyed myself and I'm glad we went. Someday, maybe, I'll make that trek through the mountains of Peru to Machu Picchu.

Castle Reflection

Tropical, Green Florida

Tree of Life

Palm Tree

Head-rattling Rollercoaster