Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Sporting Art...sort of.

Branta Canadensis, Pen and Ink Study

There's a place mentioned in my last post where I frequently paint, even year round. A bike trail runs along the edge of the lake there. Cottonwood trees and marsh grasses edge both lake and trail. I've seen deer, fox, beaver and muskrat there. Owls and hawks of different species hunt there, as sometimes do eagles. East of the trail are ranches. On the other side of the ranches is the edge of town. Beyond that are the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. 

Canada Geese are common here, as I think they are everywhere in North America. In winter, geese will sometimes bed down out on the frozen surface of the lake. Occasionally on winter walks out on the ice I've come across imprints left in the frost and snow by a bedded down flock, probably from the night before. Each goose leaves an oval imprint with webbed footprints on either side, and ample goose droppings.

A couple winters ago, I walked to the end of the bike trail, hopped the creek there and set up to paint a landscape on the other side near the frozen lake. Nearby was a flock of Canada Geese bedded down on the ice. I thought it was strange that the geese were relatively close to the marsh grasses and brush at the lake's edge. They were also strangely quiet. 

As I painted, a couple little shore birds came along checking the edge of the stream's unfrozen banks for morsels. One of the shorebirds passed by giving me a wide berth. The other walked right under my easel as I paused to watch.

As the painting neared completion, I turned to look at the geese again. They were still quiet. They were still bedded down in their same places. They were still in the same poses as earlier. They were - within shotgun range of the nearby brush. That's when I realized these weren't geese - they were decoys! I had set up to paint near a goose hunter!


The hunter(s) wasn't visible, but hunting camouflage these days is so good that you could be right beside a hunter and not see him. It's possible the hunter couldn't see me because of some nearby thick brush between us. Or he could and just didn't worry about it. Nevertheless, I finished painting as quickly and quietly as I could and got out of there. Still, I don't think I messed up the hunter's outing. There was never any sight nor sound of Branta Canadensis that day. If any had been within a mile or so, I think I would have noticed. Canada Geese are rivaled for noise only by Sandhill Crane, and would have probably made their presence known. 

These days, I try to be more aware and careful of where I set up to paint. Steel shot would not help my painting!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Some Fall Color, and a Snake!

Rocky Mountain Maples in Autumn, 6" x 8" Oil on Canvas Panel
A few weeks ago high up in the Wasatch Mountains, over 8000 feet above sea level, I found these Maples bright red-orange against a blue sky. Now there's snow up there and the leaves have all been blown out of the trees.

The next painting was done almost a week ago down here in the Valley. This was painted along a favorite walking trail of mine down by the lake:

Autumn Ranch Cottonwoods, 11" x 14" Oil on Canvas Panel
The next one was painted two days ago not far from the spot where the last painting was done, looking more towards the south:

Maple Mountain in Autumn, 9" x 12" Oil on Panel
This is one of my favorite mountains to paint. The low sun in the colder seasons highlights the different slopes like giant crystalline facets. This is one of my favorite seasons to paint in, too.

While walking yesterday along that same path I was surprised to come across a snake! This kind of snake is common around here and I often see them sunning themselves on the trail. They're harmless, and I tend to chase them off the trail when I see them so they don't get run over by bicycles or pickup trucks that use that trail to access parts of the ranch there. At least I hope fewer of them get run over. The snake was more stretched out when I first saw it, but when I walked up to the snake and leaned down for a closer look, it bunched up into this shape. The sky was overcast and the air a little chilly, and the snake seemed somewhat lethargic. That gave me time to sketch the snake. When I was done with the sketch, I let the snake alone.

Snake Sketch, 6" x 8" Graphite Pencil on Paper
It surprises me to see a snake out in the middle of November, even though I've seen this sort of thing before. 

Around a year ago I was driving down a dirt road in the West Desert when I came over a rise and saw a large gopher snake in the road. Driving around the snake and coming to a stop, I got out and walked up to the snake for a closer look. There had been snow a few days before, and although much of the snow had melted off there were still lots of snow patches around. The day was chilly. At first the snake seemed not to react to my approach, but then slowly started to move. It went into a striking attitude. I wanted to get the snake out of the road so it wouldn't be run over, but it put on a ferocious, if slow, display of striking. I gave up trying to catch the snake with my hands. The snake's strikes were slow, but it was a good sized snake with a good sized mouth full of good sharp teeth, and it really didn't want to be caught. Gopher snakes aren't poisonous, but I didn't want to get bitten, anyway. True to one of the gopher snake's nicknames - "blow snake" - the snake would hiss loudly every time it struck out, except this one was so cold and slow that it's hisses sounded more like croaks. I broke a dead branch off of a fallen juniper tree and used it to safely lift the snake and place it off of the road. Then leaving the cold, grumpy snake in a sunny spot, I headed off to paint.

A few days before yesterday's snake sketch, on another slightly chilly day, I found a Western Chorus Frog on the trail. The little frog didn't move at first, and then slowly began to stir when I carefully picked it up. I was careful to handle the frog only long enough to move it off of the trail. Perhaps the warmth of my hand limbered the little frog up a little, because it was moving more when I set it down. Even then it seemed too lethargic to hop, and could only crawl a little. 

I guess these cold-blooded critters get lured out into the sun's warmth on these short days, and then get caught out when the temperature drops suddenly. Or maybe it's hibernation time and they just don't want to go to bed yet. I can't blame them. I don't want to hibernate, either.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Show at Terra Nova Gallery

Autumn Cottonwoods, 8" x 6" Oil on Canvas Panel
There's another show I have artwork in besides the PSNM National Show that's opening on Friday, November 4th. The Terra Nova Gallery's Great Things/Small Packages '11 exhibit opens Friday, 6 - 9 PM and runs through the end of December. Two of my small plein air oil paintings are in the exhibit. This annual show traditionally has lots of smaller artwork for sale that would make great gifts.

Near Sundance, 8" x 10" Oil on Canvas Panel
The show is free, so come out and enjoy artwork by local artists. Terra Nova is at 41 West 300 North  Provo, Utah. If you want, while you're out you can do the gallery stroll!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pastel Society of New Mexico National Show

Rubies, Pastel on Paper
This Friday, November 4th, is the opening for the Pastel Society of New Mexico's 20th Annual Pastel Painting Exhibition. The show will be at EXPO New Mexico, Hispanic Arts Center (State Fairgrounds), 300 San Pedro NE, Albuquerque, and runs through the 27th. The pastel shown above is my entry and was accepted into the show. 

Click for Larger Image.
I'm excited to be a part of the show. Last Week I got a sneak peak at many of the other pastel paintings that are going into the show. There are a lot of very good paintings that will be on exhibit there. It's another good reason to visit New Mexico! You can find more information at: