I’m sure we’ve all been somewhere and seen something that tears at your imagination. Sometimes it brings a feeling of peace or maybe even fear or terror. I’ve been to a couple of old buildings in my youth or even in Mexico that have given me a very uneasy feeling. Yet there is something about old barns that seems to stir a feeling of warmth in me. I grew up on an old farm and enjoyed playing with our goats, gathering eggs and riding horses and sometimes the cows. The barn was always a place to play and enjoy friends and animals. Most people that have barns build them to protect their animals and store food for them. If you are riding a horse, that horse always knows where the barn is! It’s people caring for the animals and in return the animals provide milk, eggs, and even their own bodies to nourish us. Of course there’s always the old barn cat chasing the mice who’s been a stealin’ the grain. The barn, for me, is the circle of life. It’s the warmth of people caring for their animals and the great stories of the animals that lived in them.
I’ve always admired beautiful architecture. Like the Eiffel Tower in France or the Golden Gate Bridge that crosses the San Francisco Bay. It’s another form of art. In this case it’s a “piece of work” set in a beautiful canyon “palette” on the Salmon River in Idaho. I saw the old wooden bridge taken down with a heavy heart. Then as I watched the new take place, I was in sheer admiration how the crew seemed to defy the laws of nature! Huge machinery clinging precariously to the canyon walls! The men working them were the brave and the strong. I was in awe as I saw pieces of metal and cable transform into a beautiful and well engineered bridge. The work of human hands set into a beautiful canyon. As I painting in this place I felt God and man had worked together and the place I was standing seemed to like a beautiful Cathedral, a place of reverence.
I’m not sure why, but it seems every year around Holy Week, something happens that makes me struggle. There’s a hardship, a challenge a pandemic, something?! Although I’d like it to go away, I’ve found that if I lean into it, I find a contemplative space and a place of creativity and compassion towards all those who encounter sufferings or hardships. We are all on this earthly journey together. As a Christian Nation who better to identify and unite sufferings than the figure of Savior. A God-man that used his powers to heal, who could’ve used those same powers to destroy those torturing him . Why suffer… is it because we know a better good can be accomplished or to show love, a way to unify?! Easter Sunday, is around the corner. For now let me just sit here, take it in and look at the face of love.
It was a beautiful morning and I’d been busy packing and preparing for my travel to visit familia in Mexico. I knew this was my last chance to capture a winter scene. I packed on my winter boots, warm layers, my backpack full of paints and my faithful dog. As I trudged thru the snow I couldn’t help but feel the exhilaration of spring on the horizon. I noticed a few robins flashing their bright red breasts, a woodpecker pecking for a snack and my dog was delighted to catch up to a few slow moving ground hogs (sorry hogs). I knew the scene I wanted to capture and was just trying to get the angle. My husband is an avid outdoorsman and excellent hunter. Bringing back much meat and filling out freezers. His Friends and family have never been without some kind of wild game to eat. As I trudged home I felt very grateful for the abundance of scenery. I felt connected to nature and to all who enjoy the outdoors, even If I hadn’t captured a scene as a hunter doesn’t always end a hunt with a kill. That evening, gathered around the table for our meal of venison, my husband and I partook in a ritual we’d grown up with and taught our children. Mike and I were the only ones gathered (with Ruger at our feet and grown children) we bowed our heads and said our grace before meals. I thought I heard my words of thanksgiving echoing throughout the generations. Whatever it is you do, what is life enjoyed if you can’t have a grateful heart?
After several days of gloomy winter weather. Mike said let’s go for a drive. We loaded the grown kids, the dogs a couple of brewskies and I snuck in my backpack full of paints as Mike threw in his fishing pole. We drove an hour up the mighty Salmon river till Mike saw a good fishing spot. He immediately got to his spot as the rest of us literally slipped thru the rocks and mud. I found a good view of the river, set up my paints and balanced my beer on a rock. The kids started the rigmarole of starting a fire in a drizzle..Mike missed the only fish in the river, the kids blew a couple of lungs trying to get the fire goin’, the dog was shaking like a leaf. My paints were dripping off the pallet and as I reached for my beer I knocked all my paints and brushes into a crack in the rocks. As I looked at the crazy scene in front of me, it still took my breathe away ! I gazed at the incredible beauty of the majestic river and everyone I loved displayed in my view. I finished my scene in studio, smiling at the memories.
A couple years ago I was talking to another PleinAire Artist who was also a teacher. He made a comment that if you knew how to do a good landscape and understood lighting and shading it would transfer to painting portraits. I believe this is true at a physical level. I find the added complication to portraits is capturing the soul of the person. How do you capture an 86 year old man who was a well educated engineer, served his country, faithful to my mom and us 9 children. A man of deep commitment and faith. A man that loved nature and was so proud of me finally coming full circle, of raising my own family, a career and going back to my first love of art. I see him in some of my children and when I talked to my grieving mom,, I could see she saw him in me.