Archive for the Art Category
One awesome benefit of being awarded artist residencies in national parks is discovering and falling in love with new places! This recently happened to us at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana/Wyoming. We stayed at historic Ewing-Snell Ranch about twenty miles north of the Park Visitor Center in Lovell, WY. There are numerous visually and historically interesting structures at Bighorn, with Ewing-Snell being the one continually inhabited until most recently. Many of the ranch buildings have been lovingly restored over the last 30 years. Until this past autumn Ewing-Snell was the only one still used as a residence by the park service and it was provided to us as part of the artist residency. Sadly, the ranch burned to the ground on December 9, 2015. We feel very fortunate to have stayed at this wonderfully restored historic building, and we are extremely sad that it is gone.
With my parents, who were visiting from Lincoln, Nebraska, we had the amazing experience of watching the supermoon eclipse from the porch of Ewing-Snell Ranch. Since no street lights were visible in any direction we enjoyed a clear and open view of the moon as it put on an amazing show, rising heavenward over the vast expanse of park land. It is truly a memory we will cherish for the rest of our lives. In light of the burning to the ground of the ranch merely weeks later, we had only an inkling of how truly lucky we were to be there at that moment in time.
Over the course of our two week stay at Bighorn I worked on a woodblock print representing one perspective of the park. It was not an easy place to narrow down to merely one image simple enough for a woodblock print… So many interesting cabins, canyons, horses, bighorn sheep, mountains and vast panoramic vistas! We visited all of the historic ranches, and saw many of the wild horses that live in the canyon and the Pryor Mountains that flank the western edge of the park… we wandered up into the Bighorn Mountains on the eastern edge of the park where we witnessed the ranchers herding their livestock down the mountain from summer grazing on Forest Service lands. We also had the humbling experience of spending several hours transfixed by the amazingly tangible energy at an ancient power spot called Medicine Wheel. Bighorn Canyon and its surrounding area is a very magical and humbling place. Stay tuned for a future posting about this amazing place.
Lockhart Ranch and its owner, Caroline Lockhart, held my attention early in our visit. Lockhart was probably the talk of the town (small as it was) when she bought land and began ranching in the Dryhead region (now part of Bighorn Canyon NRA). One of the quotes from this city slicker and author/newspaper owner about living there was “My job is writing books and the last thing I had in mind when I came to the Dryhead was filing on land or engaging in the cattle business, and certainly not locating in a country where a fresh track in the main-travelled road is an event.” Though likely scandalous to some she never married, and she surely enjoyed being the person in charge – of her ranch and of her own destiny.
Lockhart apparently never planned to own a ranch but bought L/♥ (her brand) in 1926 when the owner defaulted on a loan she had made to him. The ranch was then just 160 acres but she expanded it to over 6,000 by 1952 when she finally decided to make Cody, Wyoming her permanent home. She raised cattle, kept a lover at times, wrote books and made an excellent living on the ranch. Truly an inspiration for the liberated woman!
As part of my Find Your Park Through Art weekend at Bighorn Canyon a handful of artists joined together to offer workshops and to hike, paint, photograph and draw together in some of the interesting sites in the park. I met some lifelong friends while working together to create a fun and informative weekend for participants. Painter Stephanie Rose led a workshop at Ewing-Snell on plein air painting, and Photographer Marilyn Feather led a sunrise trip to photograph the canyon with other participants. Both were full of energy, freely dispensing tips and sharing knowledge of their subjects, and were truly a pleasure to work with. Marilyn even shared Ewing-Snell with us for about four nights, dodging the local black bear and enjoying the comforts of a wonderfully remote home base.
I led a group into Hillsboro Ranch to draw, photograph and paint on the final morning of the Find Your Park Through Art weekend. Although my Bighorn woodblock print depicts a building at Lockhart Ranch, Hillsboro wound up being a favorite place, mainly for the variety of interesting structures, but also because of the stories of mountain lions seen in the canyon. When our group arrived at the ranch we soon discovered a domestic cat that had somehow made its way to this remote spot and was very happy for our attention. When we left Hillsboro that day one of the group members, realizing that the kitty could easily end up as a cougar snack, decided to adopt her and a few of us happily took turns carrying her out to the trailhead. We were all relieved to get her away from the wild creatures! Blackpaw now leads a happy life with as much food and love as any cat could hope for!
After our day at Hillsboro we returned to Ewing-Snell where I did a demonstration of woodblock printing for an inquisitive group. As I said, we fell in love with Bighorn Canyon and the surrounding mountains, and we hope to return and explore for a longer time in the future. I only regret that we will not be able to stay at Ewing-Snell Ranch again. This blog post is dedicated to the park staff who spent many hours lovingly restoring all of the buildings at Bighorn. We all appreciate your efforts and expertise, and we too were very sad to learn of the demise of this special historic gem.
There have been clouds of wood shavings flying from the woodblocks in my studio these days – I’ve also been focused on drawing and making prints. I believe I’ve generated more prints in the last four or five months than the many previous years combined. Some might say I have been visited by my muse. I appreciate the concept of the muse in art – a spirit or source inspiring art creation… However, ideas and creations are not solely the responsibility of a potentially fleeting spirit outside the artist…
Another definition of muse is to have deep thoughts, or to meditate. This is a large part of how I see my artistic muse these days. It is not merely a presence visiting and inspiring – it is hard work, observation and time spent in the outdoors – and being driven as well by the desire to push my ideas to the next level ~ along with many hours of drawing and carving fine lines in wood.
I hope you enjoy my musings from the last few months…
I am a printmaker, environmental sculptor, exhibit designer, writer, photographer, graphic designer and museum professional. I just completed an eight year tenure as Director/Curator of an exceptional museum in northern New York founded by Alice T. Miner in 1924. These days I travel – drawing, photographing, running, biking and hiking in some of the most inspiring places in the country, and I am currently creating a series of woodblock prints celebrating our national parks as part of my Find Your Park Through Art campaign.
For many years I have made a living as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator. Although I once owned my own gallery and studio, and may again in the future, for now I have chosen to prioritize working with people through teaching, creating art, and studying/re-creating my current surroundings in favor of pursuing my art in the more traditional sense of creating pieces for sale in the “art world”. I believe this direction will bring me closer to the essence of the creative process. Mine has become a literal and figurative journey, exciting and fulfilling through it’s components of travel and direct connection to the things in this world that inspire me, and with the by-product of confirming that gallery shows and exhibits needn’t necessarily be the primary means to define an artist’s work. For the near future, as our national parks commemorate their 100 year anniversary, my theme has become Find Your Park Through Art. To help draw attention to the Find Your Park initiative I will be creating artwork in numerous national parks. Through Artist-in-Residence programs, I hope to partner with other artists to help emphasize this theme by holding public events at which we will draw, paint, photograph and create artwork in the parks themselves.
Throughout my life I have cherished our national parks. From long trips as a child traveling with my family in a VW bus to my current open-ended journey, I have wandered the parks – committing them to memory and re-creating them on paper. When I am able to take the time to more fully comprehend each place and the significance of its past-present-and future, I then begin to interpret many of its gems in my artwork. Indeed much of this new awareness occurs through the very creative process itself. As an artist I hope to “translate” park resources into images that enhance others’ enjoyment and deepen their understanding of public lands, and in the process perhaps even stimulate more interactive and protective practices among the millions of visitors to our fantastic natural and historical wonders.
“It’s just flashes that we own, little snapshots made of breath and of bone… And out on the darkling plain alone, they light up the sky”…
During residencies in the national parks I make sketches in preparation for creating woodblock prints, interacting with visitors as I work. My public presentations include demonstrating the printing of a woodblock, or visually explaining the process of creating woodblock prints through lectures/multimedia presentations. I also hope to have others join me for a day of Find Your Park Through Art – during these events we will draw, photograph, create environmental sculpture and/or paint in the park together. A large component of this time will be offering tips and tricks, helping younger artists, and sharing different facets of our love of the park, and of art in general. Later we will gather again to share and discuss what we have created and explore how public lands can inform and inspire our art. I make my living as an artist while maintaining a more humanistic approach to my public. Teaching art and inspiring others has long been a goal and a passion for me. My primary inspiration is to live within the art itself, and to help others do the same.
The opportunity to pass time with my sole occupation as artist-in-residence has been an invaluable experience and inspiration for my art – it allows me long stretches of time within the parks to work on creating drawings, environmental sculptures and prints. Deadlines also push me to focus more fully on my surroundings and on drawing and printmaking. I hope to learn the flora and fauna of many of our national parks, and by slowing my pace and observing the daily and weekly changes from the broad scope of the landscape to the tiny details of things, I will find what most inspires me and create drawings from those ‘snapshots’ in my mind and in my camera.
For many years I have worked to interpret a museum collection for visitors of all ages and backgrounds – always managing to find common ground from which to foster enthusiasm and closer examination/interest in what they are seeing and learning. My experience and love of interpretation lend themselves well to being an artist-in-residence – I am able to connect and converse with whomever I meet as I draw or create prints in the parks.
Art can open people’s eyes to new and exciting perspectives on the places they visit. It is my hope that artwork, created during residencies, will act as a two-dimensional ambassador for the parks and waterways I interpret. There is power in the connection artwork can help to create between visitors and nature – and this further connection will be a boon to any park or open space. Through art I believe we can reach whole segments of the population of visitors who may not connect as intrinsically to their surroundings and who may find their own niche through combining art and time out-of-doors. Take the teenaged boy who has his nose buried in a video game… I guarantee he will look up to see what I am working on – he will look around – he will take it to heart. There is something magical to young people when they see someone working on art in a public setting… It spurs their imagination! That experience in turn allows them to observe their surroundings on a deeper level to discern what might be so special… And it makes them wonder if this could be part of their future.
My Find Your Park Through Art campaign will be repeated at other national parks and I will spread the word through my public presentations and posts to my blog wanderartist.com. I have already helped to inspire others to take up this campaign and will be presenting a weekend with two other artists at Bighorn Canyon in the autumn with the title ‘Find Your Park Through Art’. We will work in the park together for two days with other artists from the public who choose to join us. It is my hope that this idea will catch on and will help others to embrace the Find Your Park campaign and to visit their national parks. Upon completion of each park residency I will donate one print to each park – offering them each a unique artist’s view of the park and it’s resources.
My residencies have included:
Homestead National Monument of America (spring 2015)
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (autumn 2015)
Guadalupe Mountains National Park (spring 2016)
For a few weeks earlier this year I was awarded the opportunity to be Artist-in-Residence at Homestead National Monument of America. This wonderful National Park commemorates the Homestead Act of 1862, signed by President Abraham Lincoln. It is located in southeastern Nebraska (about an hour south of Lincoln) on the site of the first homestead awarded under the act. That 160 acres was homesteaded by Daniel Freeman and his family.
Homestead boasts the oldest restored tall grass prairie in the US – restoration began in 1939 and takes up 60 acres of the park. The scenery, even in early spring, is stunning. One of the things I enjoyed most was walking along the path and listening to the wind move through the tall grass. I also had the pleasure of spooking some white tailed deer one morning, I could just see their ears over the grass.
The bird life was in full spring mating mode – glorious, rambunctious and plentiful! We saw wood ducks, red-winged black birds, larks (the Nebraska State bird), red-bellied woodpeckers, blue birds and various raptors. Another great pleasure was the sound of coyotes after dark.
My time was spent drawing and creating a woodblock print of the log cabin on the grounds. The Palmer-Epard cabin is visually and historically inspiring. (By the way, I could find no connection in my family to the Palmer family who built this cabin.) I worked quickly on my drawing in order to have enough time to, in turn, cut the woodblock and then run a small edition of prints in order to have them on hand at my lecture, which was to be held at the end of my two week residency.
some scenes from Homestead National Monument
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Creating a drawing was about a ten hour process. Once I had the image where I wanted it I traced it, flipped the tracing over, and traced the back of it onto the block using carbon paper between. The image has to be flipped in order to print in the proper orientation. This step is not as necessary if it’s an abstract image, or something loose – but for a building or words, one generally does not want to print them backwards ~
Once the image was transferred to the wood block the process of cutting out what I want to remain white on the final print began – this process took approximately eight hours for the Homestead block. The next step was to make a print or two in order to decide if I wanted to cut more away… I usually do this step before I feel the cutting is final in order to see how the various components of the image are working together as a print, and to get a better visual on my cutting progress. I often want to cut more away, and that was indeed the case with the Homestead block. The rule of thumb however, is to always cut less than I think I want since I cannot go back!
I prefer to use oil-based ink even though it requires mineral spirits for cleaning up. The quality of print is much better in my opinion – yeilding finer lines without the ink ‘blocking up’ in the board cuts – and the wood grain tends to show through in a subtle but alluring way that I have not seen with water based inks.
thanks to Photopia for the photographs
After a few printing sessions – with more block cutting between – I started to get prints that more closely matched my vision for a final print of the Palmer-Epard cabin. Another session or two netted me a small edition of woodblock prints. One of the final prints was donated to Homestead National Monument of America, and several went to buyers. One of my goals with these residencies is to eventually create a large series of woodblock images of some of my favorite National Parks. This summer I will be working on a quartet of different prints of Zion National Park scenes. I recently received the good news that I have been awarded another residency for this autumn in Bighorn Canyon National Park in Montana. Stay tuned for more imagery!
The Beatrice Daily Sun published a nice article that helped to net a good audience for my public presentation at Homestead. Thanks to everyone who visited with me at Homestead, and to all the staff and volunteers who helped to make my stay a very pleasant one!