Saturday, May 31, 2014

Upper Bear Creek - Colored Pencil Drawing

"Upper Bear Creek" Colored Pencil

Deep in the heart of Colorado's Front Range, Upper Bear Creek calmly meanders through a grassy, green meadow. It's a warm, summer day but a chilly breeze blowing off the still snowy peaks offers some invigorating relief.

Dark, forested foothills descend steeply forming a narrow passageway into the Mount Evans Wilderness. The tempestuous tributary can trace its origins back up to a glacial cirque punctuated by icy Summit Lake.

There's no reason for anxiety here. This is a place where tall grass has healing benefits that can't be found anywhere else. Birds are chirping with delight and the smell of fresh hay is in the air. Summer, summer, summertime. Time to sit back and unwind.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Red-winged Blackbird - A Happy Harbinger of Spring

Red-winged Blackbird

The red-winged blackbird is a prosperous native American and happy harbinger of spring. Over 200 million strong, these gregarious creatures are the most common bird found on the continent. Their underrated beauty is distinguished by a simple palette reminiscent of a Mondrian. They're colored a glossy black but boldly decorated with shoulder patches of bright red and yellow.

About the time of year when water thaws and evening light lingers, speedy males swoop in from the south and establish compact territories in the surrounding wetlands. Streaky-brown females arrive a couple of days later and begin nest-building immediately. The basket-shaped dwellings are hidden between reeds just a few inches above the waterline.

The redwing spends most of the day perched high above a cattail kingdom singing his heart out to anyone who will listen. The familiar tune, played over and over again, announces his arrival and confirms boundaries that should never be crossed. The fearless, black bird will vigorously defend its territory, aggressively challenging all intruders no matter how small or large.

After a summer so full of activity and life you begin to take them for granted. In an instant they're gone. Dreary days of cold and darkness fill the empty void. The birds have dispersed to a better place - a mysterious land of peace and warmth. There, they reunite with family and friends in an enormous flock. Hopefully, if we're lucky, we'll see them again one day soon.

A happy harbinger of spring

The most common bird in North America

An underrated beauty

Perched in a cattail kingdom

Singing his heart out

The familiar tune is played over and over again

The redwing is a fearless defender

Hopefully, we'll see them again soon

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Spring Snow - A Most Unpleasant Storm

A most unpleasant spring storm

On Mom's special day, Mother Nature unleashed her fury. In the middle of May we got hit with the most unpleasant storm of the year. After an unusually dry winter, the snow came in waves of large, moist flakes that poured down from above like rain. The surprise blizzard disrupted a holiday, soccer games and nest-building. There were angry birds perched in the cold, white meadow.

Irritated robins became feathery puff balls waiting patiently for better weather. Meanwhile, agitated red-winged blackbirds sought refuge in the surrounding cattails. Native conifer trees and budding aspen remained defiant as they were well adapted to handle the barrage of heavy snowfall. In the distance, the softened edges of mountainous contours melted into the misty atmosphere.

Volatile weather offers the artist an opportunity to experience nature in a more interesting way. Dark storms produce rare lighting effects that can't be found on a perfectly sunny day. You must work fast because after a shot of sunshine and warmer temps, the release of moisture into the ground will infuse the landscape with a kaleidoscope of fresh colors and striking contrasts.

The snow came in waves

The surprising blizzard was disruptive

There were angry birds

An agitated redwing

White Meadow

The cattails were a refuge

A late spring snowstorm

Mountains melted into the misty atmosphere

Experience nature during bad weather

Rare lighting effects

The snow-covered lake

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Painters Pause - A Place Where Artists Linger

Elk Meadow and Bergen Peak

Painters Pause trail is a gravel path descending southward into a confluence with a watery gulch flowing out of Bergen Peak. The alluring mountain is an irresistible backdrop for the creatively inspired. With brushes and easel in tow, it's a place where artists linger.

It's a cold morning during a solitary sojourn through Noble and Elk meadows. The aspen are mere skeletons against the drab pine. Long, violet shadows rippling across the yellow field are an interesting note during an ordinary sunrise.

The wilderness is just now coming back to life. Elk have lost their winter coats and graze peacefully. Bluebirds are back but prefer to keep their distance. The familiar tune of the meadowlark is heard although the vocalist cannot be seen.

A relentless wind and everlasting light foretell a seasonal change. After a long, monochrome winter, patience is a virtue. Anxiously awaiting those shades of green, spring must be close. Not so fast my friend, it's supposed to snow tonight.

Painters Pause is an inspiring trail

A watery drainage

Bergen Peak is a dramatic backdrop

A place where artists linger

Noble Meadow

Troublesome Gulch

Bare aspen and grazing elk

The wilderness is coming back to life

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Evergreen Lake - A Frosty Morning

Evergreen Lake

"Put one foot in front of the other and soon you'll be walking cross the floor. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you'll be walking out the door." ~ Kris Kringle to the Winter Warlock

It's spring, time for a fresh start or a new beginning. It's like learning to walk all over again. I attempted to circumnavigate Evergreen's jewel of shining sapphire on a frosty April morning. After a two week confinement, the fresh air in weakened lungs and soft dirt beneath shaky legs felt good.

In the beginning, steps were short and cautious. Filled with confidence, the search for strength was gratefully discovered. The bright, morning sun radiated warmth and quickly melted the dusting of sparkling snow. It was an unusual arrangement, peace and quiet during a busy workday. I could get used to that.

Frozen glaciers in the high peaks had not released their winter reserves so the creek was running low and the dam barely overflowed. The lake was thawed and birds were bustling with activity. The red-wings were first, nesting in the cattails. Mallard pairs drifted along the shore and robins were the early birds searching for worms on the grassy bank.

A cobalt sky and dark trees were reflected in the glassy water while the arched bridges were elegant connections during the circuitous route. Back at the start, things looked different. Colors were brighter, air was fresher and sounds were clearer. Maybe they were right. Sometimes we have to come full circle to find the truth.

A shining sapphire

A frosty April morning

Bright morning sun

The creek was running slow

The dam barely overflowed

Red-winged blackbird

Mallard near the shore

A robin was the early bird

Arched bridges were elegant connections

Sometimes we have to come full circle