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.