Archive for the Inspiring People Category

Shaun 1952 – 2018

Posted in Family, Friendship, Inspiring People, Personal History on July 19, 2018 by WanderArtist

Born in Plattsburgh, NY on February 13, 1952 Shaun was the seventh child of ItaMary O’Grady Heffernan (an Irish citizen to the day she died) and Thomas True Heffernan (his middle name came from his mother whose was a member of the True family of Saranac and True Brook). He was preceded in death by his parents and four sisters: Marie Johnson, Patricia Nortell, ItaMary Yuncker and Joan Patterson. Shaun is survived by his wife Amanda Palmer; sister Gail Wilson; brother Thomas Heffernan and wife Charlotte; and numerous nieces and nephews. Shaun had a difficult home life and was fortunate to be “adopted” by some local families – most notably the Engelhart, Hartnett, and Russo families. Thank You All.

As a child he was the light in the room for his mother and often recalled his joy in impersonating Elvis for her. This may have influenced his recent purchase of a beautiful pair of blue suede shoes.

Shaun worked many wild jobs over the years including crab fishing in Alaska, oil field ‘swamper’ in Wyoming, bartender, roadie for various friends bands (you know who you are!), and waiter in San Francisco. Throughout those years his passion for photography was a driving force. In 1985 he quit alcohol and drugs, choosing instead a positive life in pursuit of his art. In 1990 he met his soulmate, Amanda Palmer, at San Francisco State University – almost eloping just five days after their first date. In 1994, they moved to his beloved North Country, where they married in 1996. Shaun worked in photography, exhibit design, and ran a thriving card company, Follow Your Bliss cards. For nine years, Shaun and Amanda operated their own gallery and espresso bar, The Oasis in downtown Plattsburgh.

Shaun was an award winning photographer with hundreds of thousands of images spanning five decades in his photographic library. One of his great loves was environmental portraiture. Shaun often said that a portrait was the record of the interaction between photographer and subject – and his images of people reflected the love, compassion and positivity he brought to ALL of his human interactions.

Shaun was a gifted photographer – a master of light. He wove it through his imagery as though with a painted brush. Yet his photography evoked a deeper experience; his photographs were a celebration. He thrust into every image the desire to express joy – to recognize and share the gifts of our planet, the bounty of our surroundings.

Sometimes his images were whimsical to elicit a smile or a chuckle; his portraits provided a glimpse into the inner being. His landscapes captured the vibrancy of a day awakening to a symphony of colors and with the same precision he captured the stillness of a night sky and the mystery of a distant moon.

Shaun was a keen observer. His photographs not only translated the majesty of the landscape but also hidden treasures so often overlooked – the intricate detail of crystals left behind by an evening frost or the delicate petals of a wildflower lifting its face to the warming sun. Shaun was a tremendous lover of music and musicians and had a keen ear for nuance. One of his more remarkable gifts was his uncanny ability to marry music with his images to produce breathtaking and awe-inspiring slide shows whose synergy far exceeded the sum of its parts.

Recognized by National Geographic as a prize winning photographer Shaun’s most recent project was to document birds of our National Parks. Just as his technical skills enabled his capture of fleeting moments, his watchful patience was rewarded with close-up glimpses of those beautiful creatures. But it was his innate desire to express joy that allowed a more intimate portrayal of these rare moments. Birds flutter as flamingo dancers, ponds shimmer with mirrored stately poses and when we look into a hawk’s eye we see our own reflection.

Shaun invites us to stand with him and see what he sees: Wonderment. His magic was not just his technical ability to capture the light: the light within him infused each photograph with inner beauty and revealed a deeper understanding of our world of riches.

Shaun was an inspiration to his fellow photographers and visual artists: his generosity of heart enabled revelatory moments of bliss for a wide world of friends and acquaintances. His legacy will be cherished; we have lost a special voice.

For the last four years Shaun was following his bliss by wandering the United States and taking photographs in many of his most favorite places… along with cultivating new treasured spots. He was overjoyed to have captured photographs of numerous scenes and birds that he had envisioned for years. His plan to “cultivate serendipity” resulted in some lasting and very loving friendships with people met along the way. He knew he was a lucky man, he felt it in his heart and expressed it to those around him frequently.

Shaun loved biking and hiking. A friend named his bike “the green ghost” many years ago and it stuck. Biking was a daily activity for him right up until his last morning when he took a favorite route and rode to a spot he dubbed “the dream spot”. The route stopped at an overpass to the Northway where he and his wife would ride and dream of upcoming travels. He shot a video on his way home and sent it to his wife. (Look for the video below)

Shaun had a devilishly delightful sense of humor, bawdy at times, but always delivered with style, charm, and a twinkle in his eye. Shaun’s positivity, strength, and desire to always be a better human will be sorely missed by his wife and others. He would want to be remembered most for always reaching out to those around him and offering his hugs, love and joy. Hug each other. Into the mystic he goes, leaving the world a much better place for his having passed through it.

Through the end of July some of his work can be seen at the Peru Free Library in Peru, NY. Cremation has been left to Walker Funeral Home and there will be a celebration of his life held in the North Country in 2019.









Beautiful Bighorn Canyon NRA

Posted in Art, Artist Residency, Drawing, flora and fauna, historic sites, Inspiring People, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, National Parks, Personal History, Soul Food, Wanderings, wild creatures, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 23, 2016 by WanderArtist

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.

Ewing-Snell porch

Ewing-Snell porch

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.

JH Guthrie and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Posted in Family, Ideas, Inspiring People, Personal History with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2014 by WanderArtist

We all feel we have interesting characters in our family trees. One friend of mine has a quote on a pillow on their living room couch that states proudly, “My family tree is full of nuts!”. Recently I have been delving into photographs of some of my ancestors sent me by my father. I know very little about most of these characters aside from names, relationships and sometimes pertinent dates. One of the men I would like to know more about is JH Guthrie. Dad sent a few photos and a brief article about Guthrie.


The undeniably distinctive mustache and spectacles made me curious. I am guessing he is my great great grandfather, father to Georgia Alma Guthrie Palmer. This will take further research, but in the meantime, I will introduce you briefly to the relative I have become so curious about.

J.H.Guthrie Business Card

JH Guthrie’s calling card from his carpentry business based out of Raymond, Nebraska. This card screams confidence… He knows how to make anything, or just draw up the plans for you. And JH knew that putting his name diagonally across the card would be eye-catching. And what is his first name? Is he John Henry, James Howard? No, call him JH, everyone does.

J.H.Guthrie_OffFellow Article

Ah, we learn a little more about JH… he was an Odd Fellow… and clearly a skilled one at that!

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is now a worldwide altruistic and benevolent organization. It started in the mid-18th century, in England, and came to the US around 1820. In 1851, the Odd Fellows began accepting women as members, being the first fraternal organization to do so, by forming the Daughters of Rebekah. Brother Schuyler Colfax, (Vice President of the US from 1869-1873), was the force behind the movement to bring women into the organization as full members. According to the IOOF website “The Odd Fellows, also known as The Three Link Fraternity, is one of the oldest and largest non-political and non-sectarian fraternal and service-oriented organizations in the world.”


This photograph intrigues me… did JH Guthrie make the musical instrument he holds so proudly? Was he also a musician? The apron certainly implies that he just walked outside of his workshop to get this new instrument photographed… the shadow, the admiring look down… captures a moment in time so clearly, and generates so many questions.

Along with my (possibly) great great grandfather – Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt and even Jesse James are said to have been Odd Fellows. JH Guthrie was an interesting character, no doubt!


I will add in an interesting document, dated November 1910, I found on the web related to Stonington IOOF and JH Guthrie, it must be the same man…


What a Relief!

Posted in Art, Drawing, Inspiring People, Personal History, Woodblock Printing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2014 by WanderArtist

Since I can remember, I have loved to draw. Although I could sit for hours with a pencil as a kid, it’s even more fun now that I have been practicing for years and have the skills to put on paper what dwells in my imagination, or what is right in front of me. Drawing what you see is much more challenging than from the imagination. The more you draw, the more your skills improve. But, I’ll get back to drawing in a moment.


feather on mahogany

In my last year of high school we lived in Tokyo, Japan – which was an awesome experience on many, many levels. One of the coolest aspects of life in Tokyo was learning about Japanese culture, arts, traditions, foods. Another wonderful experience for me was a particular art teach at The American School in Japan, Ki Nimori. From Mr. Nimori I learned a great deal about making pottery. Although a short school year had me barely scratching the surface on all I had to learn in ceramics, I loved it.

rabbit ruin

Not to get too ‘artsy’ on my dear readers, but I really enjoy the process of creating art. I have often gravitated toward art media that require a lot of steps before the final product… Working in clay requires many steps – and I loved them all. One of the early steps is kneading the clay to remove air bubbles – which is a lot like kneading bread dough. I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and working to create something from seemingly nothing. A great teacher inspires, that is what Ki Nimori was for me.

raven pair

When I returned to San Francisco to go to college I chose an Art major. At first I thought I would concentrate on ceramics after such a wonderful experience learning from Mr. Nimori. I cannot explain how my bubble was burst by the ceramics department (at that time) at San Francisco State University. Unfortunately, it was somewhat overrun with macho teachers who did little to inspire me. And so I gravitated back to an early and lasting love, drawing. Throughout my education at SFSU I continually explored new and untried realms, eventually settling into a groove with printmaking. This media offered lots of process – from untold number of steps required in lithography to create a final print – to the comparatively simple process of making a woodblock or linoleum block print.



With printmaking I could combine my love of drawing with the incredible process needed to make prints. And with the added benefit of the ability to make multiple final images of one exact design. When I graduated college I was deeply into etching, and learning to create photo-etchings. This was wonderful because it meant I could also incorporate another love – photography. The only difficulty I found to hours spent creating etchings and lithographs was the need for a printing press and especially the exposure to caustic and nasty chemicals.

Since my college days I have simplified my process by doing mainly woodblock printing… Partly because I did not wish to bring the intense chemicals required to create etchings into my home… And because I really enjoy the organic nature of cutting into wood to produce a drawing – and the combination of wood grain with drawing in the final print is the icing on the cake. Visits to Japan fed my love of block (or relief) printing through exposure to Japanese woodblock printing, which is incredible and detailed well beyond the prints I create. I may need to write more about Japanese prints later… Until then, I hope you enjoy some of my creations!


cutting the ‘key’ block for raven pair

John’s Fords & Other Toys

Posted in Design, Inspiring People, Local Roaming, Wanderings with tags , , , , , , on May 3, 2014 by WanderArtist

I love cars. Old cars to be more exact… So when I found out that a new friend had a collection of old cars I did all I could to be allowed to come visit and get a look at the goods. John has over thirty in his collection, mostly Fords. If there is one truth I have learned about people who collect old things, it’s this: they never collect only one kind of object – not just cars… you can see that phenomena in this photo series… there are signs, many signs and even more license plates. What I wasn’t able to photograph were the toy cars in the corner of the garage, maybe a later visit. Here is a peek at the things that struck my fancy. There will be later installments and more visits I hope!



Walk the Line

Posted in Family, Inspiring People, Personal History, Wanderings with tags , , , , , on March 27, 2014 by WanderArtist

Thoughts of travel back to the land of my birth (Nebraska) have spurred me once again to study old family photos and written histories. As anyone who studies their genealogy will say… There were some interesting characters in my family line! Relatives have traced my father’s family as far back as the 18th century and the first Palmer to step on American soil. There are as many interesting stories in my mother’s family – including the possibility of Algonquin lineage, and a family connection to the Charles Tufts family who donated the land for Tufts University. Here I will illuminate some of the Palmer line – mainly because I have better written information and many more photographs going back to my great-great-great Grandparents, William Henry Palmer & Permelia Higgs Palmer.

The first Palmer of my family to arrive in the New World was John Palmer, who sailed from England to Virginia in 1764. His son – also John – moved from Virginia to Kentucky. Very little is known about either of them… who they married, what work they did, even their birth and death information is not known to us. John Jr. was father to my great-great-great Grandfather, William Henry. William married Permelia Higgs, whose father came from Scotland, and they moved from Kentucky to Indiana. According to a relative who wrote the genealogy to which I refer, “Having lived in Kentucky before moving to Indiana, the Palmer family was very strongly pro-Southern in their views and opinions. Permelia was once mobbed in Thorntown by an angry crowd who objected to her violent denunciation of Lincoln… Jumping into her buggy… and wielding a big whip, she managed to escape.”

William Henry Palmer & Permelia Higgs Palmer

William Henry Palmer & Permelia Higgs Palmer

My great-great-great Grandparents William and Permelia had nine children, their son Joseph Thomas Palmer (1832-1912) was the first to move to Nebraska – in 1856. Joseph taught school when he first arrived in Nebraska but freighted provisions to miners in Denver in a covered wagon after his marriage – before eventually settling down to farming. Joseph met and married Lydia Ann Brinson from Nebraska City in 1861. They also had a large family of eight children and my great Grandfather Arthur Franklin Palmer, Sr. (1876-1951) was born on a farm west of Raymond, NE.

Joseph Thomas Palmer & Lydia Ann Brinson Palmer 1901

Joseph Thomas Palmer & Lydia Ann Brinson Palmer 1901

Joseph Thomas Palmer & Lydia Ann Brinson Palmer

Joseph Thomas Palmer & Lydia Ann Brinson Palmer

Arthur Franklin Palmer, Sr. married Georgia Alma Guthrie in October, 1901, they had three children. Georgia (1879-1977) is my favorite relative in photographs, for reasons I hope you will see. I remember her as a small but very strong, white-haired old woman at Grandpa’s house when I was a little girl. She was frightening to me because she would sometimes grab us (maybe she did this only once and it has grown in my memory!) hold us tight, and ask “Whose little girl are you?” in an angry voice. It is difficult to reconcile the old woman I remember with the young beautiful and intense woman in the photographs.

Georgia Alma Guthrie Palmer & Arthur Franklin Palmer, Sr.

Georgia Alma Guthrie Palmer & Arthur Franklin Palmer, Sr.

Georgia Alma Guthrie Palmer - fully loaded

Georgia Alma Guthrie Palmer – fully loaded

Georgia Alma Guthrie Palmer

Georgia Alma Guthrie Palmer

Here I will diverge briefly from the Palmer family to show a few photographs and a business card of J.H. Guthrie, who I think was Georgia’s father.

J.H. Guthrie business card

J.H. Guthrie business card

J.H. Guthrie

J.H. Guthrie

J.H. Guthrie

J.H. Guthrie

My Grandfather, Arthur Franklin ‘Frank’ Palmer, Jr. was the oldest child, born in 1907. Grandpa married Abbie Housel and they had eight children. My father, James Lelon Palmer is the second youngest.

Arthur Franklin Palmer, Jr. 1926

Arthur Franklin Palmer, Jr. 1926

Arthur Franklin Palmer, Jr. & Abbie Housel Palmer

Arthur Franklin Palmer, Jr. & Abbie Housel Palmer

Abbie Housel Palmer

Abbie Housel Palmer

James Leland Palmer at work as a Photojournalist for Associated Press, ca. 1989

James Lelon Palmer at work as a Photojournalist & Editor for Associated Press, ca. 1989

I will end with thanks to my relative Bertha Hornung who, in 1954, compiled what was then known of our family history… And my father deserves the biggest ‘thank you’ for taking Bertha’s “Briefly Biographical” and typing it (along with a concise family tree) and sending the document to my siblings and me back in 1989. It is from my father’s collection of family photos I have culled these gems. There are many more fun photographs which may prompt later installments – and make me further ‘Walk the Line’!


Posted in Ideas, Inspiring People, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Soul Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2014 by WanderArtist

Amelia Earhart, 1936

I had heroes as a child… they changed often and had more to do with my interests at the moment than any lifetime guidance. For example, during the few years I played soccer in middle school I really looked up to Brazilian football player Pelé. But, it was in my twenties when I truly discovered Amelia Earhart, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Abbey, Frida Kahlo… people whose lives I could really sink my teeth into! And from whom I could glean some strength, guidance, inspiration.

Frida Kahlo, 1931

Frida Kahlo, 1931

Many of my heroes have been women who were pioneers and leaders during times when they were encouraged by society to sink into the background, discouraged from following their dreams. I have never really sat down to create a list of those who motivate, guide, strengthen me – until now. However, this is an incomplete list of some highlights in my walk of fame! I could go on in many more blog posts about so many others. The abiding truths to me are – do they inspire me? Do their actions and words stretch my thinking, fill my heart, awaken gratitude, creativity, or even conscience? Fame is not a requirement, I find daily inspiration from my friends and family, from unknown and unnamed humans striving to live a meaningful life.

Louisa May Alcott, 1858

Louisa May Alcott, 1858

Louisa May Alcott was a writer and single woman her entire life. She shrugged off the expectations of society and made a living for herself and her family at a time when women were not even allowed to vote. Alcott wrote Little Women to help support her family, and, upon hearing of the death of her brother-in-law, immediately sat down to begin writing Little Men. She knew her sister and family would require extra support, and Alcott turned to the best way she knew to provide such succor. Another aspect of her character that I find especially intriguing and motivating is that she was a runner… yes, in those voluminous 1860s skirts!

Julia Morgan, 1896

Julia Morgan, 1896

A visit to Hearst Castle in California netted me a new hero in Architect Julia Morgan. Julia Morgan was an extraordinary person – one of the first women to graduate from UC Berkeley, and the first to be admitted and earn a degree from the Ecole Nationale et Speciale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She opened her architecture firm in 1904 in San Francisco. Hearst hired Morgan to begin work on his estate in San Simeon in 1919. Morgan was the right person for the job. To me, the detail of workmanship, the sturdy quality of the structures (built on the earthquake prone hills of the California coast), and the aesthetic layout speak for themselves. Hearst Castle is extreme in it’s opulence, but is still very pleasing to the eye, incorporates lovely natural beauty, and an ergonomic design – before the word was even invented.

Vinnie Ream, Sculptress

Lavinia Ellen Ream Hoxie (1847-1914) was born in Wisconsin and moved with her family to Washington, DC in 1861. There she eventually worked as a clerk in the dead letter office – one of the first women to work for the federal government. By her late teens she had created numerous portrait sculptures and even had President Lincoln model for her by the time she was seventeen. In an 1866 vote in Congress she was commissioned to create a full sized marble sculpture of Lincoln, now in the US Capitol rotunda. She also designed the first free-standing sculpture of a Native American. The likeness of Sequoyah is in the Statuary Hall at the Capitol.

Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey

And now I come to Edward Abbey. As soon as I read Desert Solitaire I was hooked on his wonderful love of the west and of wilderness. His poetry of place moves me still and I am continually heartened by his embrace of wilderness and of our wild nature. I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes from Abbey,

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

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