Gone Girl Comes Back

I’ve been thinking about my blog and how I’ve neglected it for so long.  Poor blog!  The longer I stayed away, the harder it got to make myself sit down and write a post.  I’ve been painting, and I’ve been writing, I just haven’t been putting it HERE!

So here’s a brief update:  I hiked in Sedona… and painted this:

Red Rocks of Sedona

Sedona was magical, I came home with a renewed love of the desert and so many more images to put onto canvas.  This is the first, but won’t be the last.

I hiked in the Three Sisters Wilderness with my dear friend, Amira and painted this next image. I struggled with capturing our faces and still feel out of sorts whenever I look at it.  But, I decided to add it to my blog so you can see that while I may personally have trouble with some of my work, I’ve learned that other people LOVE them!  And pieces I love, other people feel somewhat “meh” about. Who am I to say it’s good or bad?  It comes down to your own taste.

Cold July Camp

I was commissioned to paint a beloved family member.  Elkton was an older dog, and his photo’s didn’t do him justice.  I managed to shave off a few years and pounds and drop him into a regal hunting pose.  Here he is, surveying his kingdom:

Elkton the Wonder Dog

And I painted a portrait of my son and his girlfriend.  He was heading out for a job interview and Karen sent me a quick shot of their morning and a glimpse into their thoughts as she titled the photo.  I loved this selfie she took; I had to capture that smirk!

Dressed for Battle

Then I painted a view of my willow that seemed poignant, yet crisp and quietly vibrant. I hung it in the newly remodeled guest bedroom to bring a bit of the outside, inside.

Winter Willow

Followed by a few fantasy images to get in touch with my feminine side and to reflect the deep introspection I had been exploring of late.  I sustained an injury the previous fall that just managed to get worse over time. When you are dealing with chronic, long term pain, it helps to spend time listening to your body.  I kept asking that question…  what are you trying to tell me?  I think my body just wanted me to sit down for awhile.

The Hermit Girl Meditates

Connections of Love

Besides these images, I’ve tooled around with some odds and ends art projects and did some remodeling on the house.  I’ve had to readjust my life in the past year as I’ve been dealing with a shoulder injury that really set me back in my activity level.  You wouldn’t know it by the new flooring and slate tile I managed to lay down, but still, 2017 has been my year of recovery.  I couldn’t ride or hike or do my normal kinds of things, so instead, I took my “Wilderness of Women” paintings on the road.  Literally.  I created a presentation about my art and hiking, how each one influenced the other and gave my lecture/slide show at REI stores from Portland to Medford. It was inspirational for me as well as for others and after it was over, I began to focus on a writing project that germinated from this dog and pony show.  I’ll devote another post to it, later, but for now, this one will have to do.

I think it’s time for this hermit girl to come on out of her cave and say  hello to the wide world of life.

Hello world!

Trail Magic

Good Morning South SIster

Good Morning South Sister!

Trail magic is when you find something you need or suddenly someone is there with food and water or even an ice cold beer.  It’s incongruous things that seem to be provided magically.  “The trail provides” is an oft bit of shared hiker wisdom, but I think it’s really life that provides.  If “provide” is the right word, really.  It’s just that on the trail the need that is provided for is seen so clearly for what it is, it doesn’t get lost in the chaos that is most people’s day to day struggle.  But trail magic happens all the time.

The other day I had misplaced my keys.  As I was searching for them, I found a letter that had fallen under a table.  A letter I needed because it contained key information about a project I was working on.  Immediately after finding the letter, I found my keys.  Coincidence or “trail magic”?

I could probably come up with a list of these kind of serendipitous moments, but really, they’ve become so common place I just go “ahah!” then move on with my day. However, their common place-ness doesn’t detract from their wow factor.  They are for me the exception that proves the rule, with the rule being, life is an amazing and magical place.  We are here to remember our connection to the magic, the universe, the “god-ness” of it all.  These little markers are our verification that that kind of energy exists and we are a part of it.

The above painting is from the day after my own magical day on the PCT.  The day I met Mowgli and Raven and blissfully walked  from the Minnie Scott Spring to this exact spot.  I set up my tent just outside of the above image and took the snapshot first thing in the morning as I got back on the PCT.  South Sister was indeed that blue in the morning and I was full of joy and happiness as I made my way to Mirror Lake.

It seemed fitting that it was my very first painting after I returned home from the trail and this seems exactly like the best spot to leave it in my running commentary/transcription of my trail journals.  I still have a few more days to put together, sadly however, I recently lost most of my photos from the last leg of my journey.  A crappy SD card is to blame, but I managed to upload some images to the cloud so I am still able to illustrate my journey.  For now, I thought the painting would do, along with a reminder that trail magic is all around.  It doesn’t exist solely on the trail. You just have to notice that it can be anything from a stranger’s smile to that $20 you found when you were hungry.

North of Walker Pass

With all the recent attention given to the Pacific Crest Trail because of Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild, and the movie, and the Oscar nominations, there seem to be some who worry that their beloved trail is going to see a huge spike in activity. While most hikers are generous, caring, helpful and kind, there is a seedy underbelly of fear that has prompted a few on social media to be… well, less than kind in their criticism.

From what I can see, it’s all just a tempest in a teacup.  Twenty six hundred miles of trail is a long, long haul and the dedication and hard work involved in just getting to the PCT will thin the herd.  The trail will not be loved to death, there is still plenty of long, lonely miles to cover.  If anything, more attention to the PCT will ensure it’s protection in the future.  Sure, there may be some growing pains, but time marches on and interest will ebb and flow.  There are many other trails out there and new ones to blaze.

3FJack

I myself have trod more than  a few of those miles and will continue to visit the wilderness for its beauty, solitude and the replenishment of my soul.  I love it out there and always have.  I was the girl who  played in the woods, and I grew up to be the woman who dives deep into the forest.  Spending an afternoon following a deer path almost always sounds like a good idea to me.  When I die, I’d like to curl up under a tree on the edge of a meadow with a view of the mountains and let my soul escape to the wilderness.  My idea of heaven has craggy peaks, moraine lakes and clear blue water.

Fishes and Wishes Oil on Canvas 12"x16"

Fishes and Wishes
Oil on Canvas
12″x16″

The older I get, the more all the facets of my life appear to converge into one vanishing point.  That point seems to be focused in a small cedar sheathed studio in my backyard.  As I painted Hope Pass (https://skyevans.wordpress.com/2014/11/06/hope-pass/) I was struck by how easily this landscape came to me.  I hadn’t done a landscape that I felt so moved by until Hope Pass. It spoke to me and brought life to a seed that I had forgotten.  That seed was my favorite place and I found myself longing to see it again.

Three Sisters Oil on Canvas 22"x28"

Three Sisters
Oil on Canvas
22″x28″

So I am returning to the wilderness, but this time, I am returning to be inspired.  Because it seems as if images of the trail inspire me in that lightning bolt way that I am yearning for.  That bolt struck me last week as I was flipping through Facebook, reading posts by women hikers.  I came across another image I had to paint; thank you Jennie Norris for taking that wonderful photo and generously allowing me to use it.  That is the spirit of the hiking community, a heart that is so full of joy from the trail that they just want to share it with the world. It’s not the trail itself, the hardships, the gritty, dirt, sweat, heart pounding work that we want to share.  It’s the joy and the feeling and the emotion of wonder.  That’s something that can’t be boxed or quantified.  You can get out there and experience it for yourself or you can find someone to recreate that feeling.  Someone to move you.

Moving tools

Moving tools

It takes poets and writers, musicians and artists to do that.  Which is why Ms. Strayed’s book is so powerful.  That’s what great writers do, they move you to feel something.  If she didn’t move you, well that’s ok, she’s not for everyone.  But she DID move thousands and maybe eventually, millions.  And that, my friend, is powerful stuff.

I hope my art can move you too.  Because it is moving me.  Tremendously.

North of Walker Pass on the PCT

North of Walker Pass on the PCT

Golden Dawn

Sometimes an idea strikes and I have to paint it.  Sometimes the image itself is strong and compelling or the idea behind it is the strength.  My fractals were all about the idea.  I didn’t know where I was going.  But lately I have been obsessed with an image.  Not an idea or a concept, but a real place… a real image.  And the hardest part about painting from the real is trying to do justice to the real.  I really  like abstract and non objective… it is liberating and freeing!  No need to recreate the real… I can paint outside the lines.  I can choose colors I never saw, I can paint by feel and gut and it’s somewhat mindless.  For me that’s true, not sure about other artists.  However, I can’t say I prefer abstract… there is a meditation to painting with your eyes and not your heart.  By that, I mean, I spend a lot of time looking at the image of what I am painting and for the first time EVER… that looking was at a computer screen.  A modern process I had not embraced before this image.

THIS image… oh, it was so brilliantly  beautiful;  I wanted to, no, I had to, capture the moment.  It’s a photo of a sliver of time… just as the sun peeks out over the edge of a mountain in Colorado.  I’m not sure which one…  but the photographer will research that for me.  She’s a bit busy right now, but she did give permission for me to use her photo so I could try to capture where she was on that early morning last month.   My photographer is a young woman by the name of Ashley Lowe (trail name: Iguana) and I met her last spring on the coast of Oregon where she was giving a lecture on her 2011 thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

A “thru hiker” is someone who finishes a long trail.  In our country, we have 3 major trails that run North to South, two of which go border to border from Canada to Mexico.  The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the Appalachian Trail (ACT).  I’ve done a few bits of the PCT and ACT and am awed by the drive and determination it takes to actually finish one of these endeavors.  I loved hearing Ashley’s tale of the trail and she had a wonderful video of the hike as well.  You can watch it yourself here:

She graciously allowed us all to friend her on Facebook and watch as she tackles her next big thru hike, the CDT.  Remember the part where I said she was busy right now?  She is actually getting close to the end right now as I write this post. I’ve been amazed at how she is able to upload photos and keep in touch as she hikes thousands of miles through such rugged and remote trails.  It’s been inspiring and has refueled my own interest in returning to backpacking (another story all together).  But last month, she took a photo from high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains that rocked me.  I had to paint it.  I won’t post the photo… it’s not fair to compare the two, but I will say that the colors in her photo were more subtle that what I chose.  Artist’s license and all that.

Ashley was kind enough (and even a little excited) to grant me permission to use her brilliant photo.  I sketched it out, posted a photo of the outline and got to work.  Which is why my blog has been a bit quiet lately.  One of her followers made a comment about my “paint by numbers” sketch, but really, that just says how old the guy is.  Do they even make paint by numbers anymore?

Sketch for G.D.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on this painting because I am using a glazing technique (sometimes called “Old Masters”) that requires layers of thin washes.  Fortunately modern oil painters have fast drying mediums to mix into their paint, so I don’t have to wait months, but still, it is a time consuming process.  And because it is, I have decided to post a picture of Golden Dawn in progress.  I am getting close to the end, I want to add some shadows and layer in some depth, but for the most part it’s time to share.  When I get an exact location from Ashley (other than it was near the Twin Lakes) and I get all the final layers in place I will repost.  But for now… enjoy my latest obsession.

Golden Dawn Oil on Canvas 20" x 16"

Golden Dawn in progress
Oil on Canvas
20″ x 16″