Healing time in the desert

Prickly Pear cactus flowers, Yucca blooms, clouds over red rock buttes and mesas, my chez lounge, a few dear friends, good food, art supplies and camera gear; what else could a woman ask for.

I had hip replacement surgery two weeks ago. And I’m walking with and without a cane these days, waking up pain free.  I have a wonderful home, a warm, comfortable place to heal and take it easy.  I have been fed and taxied by my friends.  Now it’s time for a change of scenery.  Where else? Utah.

Tow vehicle and travel trailer with Buttes and Mesas of Utah in the background

My friend will drive my rig and get us to a sweet location for a few nights of camping. Here’s the recent cover image for RV West Magazine. ©Kit Frost

If clouds like this roll in, I will be in heaven.


Crater Lake National Park Artist in Residence

Map of Crater Lake National Park

Map of Crater Lake National Park

The Application Process

I spent the last two years applying to the National Parks Artist in Residence Programs.  The application processes are thorough and the competition is intense. Most of the residencies last two to six weeks, and are designed to give established artists an opportunity to concentrate on a portfolio of images with little interruptions and a break from daily life, and to “give back” to the Parks through a public event each week.

google image of Oregon's Crater Lake.  Image courtesy of forcechange.com

Google image of Oregon’s Crater Lake. Image courtesy of forcechange.com

The selection as an Artist In Residence at Crater Lake National Park is one of the big thrills of my life. I have photographed along the Umpqua and Rogue Rivers in Oregon, exploring waterfalls and lush forests, but to be given a solid two weeks to work in and around the Park is a real treat.  I will also escort visitors on a walk to demonstrate seeing and recording water, flows and movement. And will present a slide show of my inspiration and techniques.

It’s important to get thick-skinned with when applying for exhibitions and residencies and as an artist, over the years, I certainly have learned not to take a “rejection” personally. There is a lot involved in a jury choosing one artist over another, and since many of us applying are established artists, it’s important to be a good fit, whether at a gallery or residency.

Travel to Oregon

The Crater Lake residency is coming up fast. The application was submitted in February, and I heard from the Education Coordinator in March. I’m scheduled to leave Durango on about April 19, drive west to Lake Powell and the Paria Canyons, and spend a few days in Zion National Park too. I scheduled the Zion Trip before I was offered the Crater Lake Residency so although it is along my route to Oregon, if I feel a “push” I may skip it. I love the drive up Hwy. 395 in California, so I will set up my route to follow the Eastern Sierras and take about 5 days to get from Zion to Oregon. I’m due at Crater Lake on May 1st and will be there for two weeks of a residency followed by a week of play, art, play, photography, play.  I hope to “pick the brains” of the Rangers to get the scoop on their favorite hikes and viewpoints.

It’s the journey, not the destination

In planning for a road trip, one of the first things I do is look at a map and explore some possible routes and see how much mileage I want to drive each day when towing my Saturn travel trailer, versus driving my jeep.  I usually only want to tow about 250 miles a day and so I set up a compass on a map to see how far I can comfortably drive.  It looks like a doable pace for this trip is to take about five days to get to Oregon from Zion.

This journey will take me through some of the most beautiful places in the West from Durango to Lake Powell from Lake Powell to Zion perhaps an overnight at Valley of fire State Park then drive the Eastern Sierras.  I follow Wheeling It blog and Nina and Paul love the Alabama hills and I’d like to spend the night or two there.  This trip is a mix of going with the flow a bit as well as a destination drive.

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I really have a blast when planning my adventures and road trips. I can choose to tow my Sunline travel trailer up to Oregon and I may choose to leave it there. That option gives me a reason to go back to Oregon in the fall to go get it. (Do I really need a reason!)

The thing is that when I leave Crater Lake National Park I have about 15 days to drive East because my next Artist Residency is in Acadia national Park in Maine in June. I don’t treasure towing on the freeways across the country, as I tend to “white knuckle” passing 18 wheelers. I am leaning towards safely storing my trailer.

Ask for help

At this time I’m recruiting some friends to meet me along the way and caravan for a few days or travel for a few days taking turns driving. I had hip replacement surgery on March 25 and gave myself a month to recover, and I’m devoted to the PT involved in being flexible and being able to drive.  But 4,000 miles across the country from Crater Lake to Acadia is a long drive. I think I can do it in about 15 days. I need to be in Acadia by June 5 and, frankly, the road trip from Oregon to someplace beautiful Idaho to an overnight at the Grand Tetons and then on to someplace beautiful South Dakota is pretty enticing to me.

I set up a rough map on Google with ideas for exploration and a bit of pedal to the metal driving too. In some ways I’m tempted to take my camper all the way across the country but I’m really thinking that it’s best for me to just load up my sweet ride (Jeep Grand Cherokee) and go ahead and make some time. My comfortable towing speed is about 58 mph and I can do 75mph in my jeep.

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I’d love to hear about some of your favorite spots to spend the night, especially eastward from Wyoming.

What Inspires Me

I have been planning, dreaming and scheming about this time in my life for many years. In July, I retired from a sweet job working as a graphic artist for a corporation, and I’m a retired teacher.  When I moved out West from New Jersey in 1995, I built a terrific, fun, business, teaching photography and darkroom skills; private and group lessons.  My career spanned the last twenty years and continues to fulfill me.  I take folks on photo adventures all around the Southwest and teach them how to properly use their digital cameras and develop their vision.

I am driven, and at this point I am teaching a few hours a week, privately, and teaching Photo Workshops about 5 times a year (this fall I am leading a group of Road Scholars around the Southwest).  I am learning to paint with oils and love to set up my pochade in the field and have fun.  I find that my life, although very balanced, is sometimes so full that I treasure the Artist Residencies in order to devote long periods of time in beautiful places to make art.  It’s amazing to me that the National Parks’ Service understands the need for art in the Parks and gives artists the gift of time and access.

Next applications: Joshua Tree National Park, Zion National Park, Denali

Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park

Crater Lake National Park

General Information about Artist Residencies in our National Parks

Wheeling It, Great travel RV blog


Today’s Inspiration : Adult Coloring Books

When I was a young artist I often painted by number and played with “kits” of art making. In fact, I’d have to say it was the beginning of my love for art. Today, I like the simplicity of a few hours of “coloring”.  It brings me a meditative, peaceful feeling.  I am not under pressure to “make art”, but to enjoy art making.

I have carried coloring books and a box full of simple art supplies with me for years. Today, although most of my time in spent photographing some of our country’s most awesome landscapes, I enjoy downtime with coloring books.  And at camp, often whip out a set of coloring books, colored pencils and markers to share with friends, some with simple or complex patterns in black and white and some with drawings of our National Parks.

I ran across Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest & Coloring Book by Johanna Basford. Johanna was featured in a recent NPR, All Things Considered segment.  Her coloring books are so popular that her first book sold over 1.5 million copies.

Although temporarily out of stock, due to their popularity, Johanna Basford books, once ordered, will arrive shortly.  Great gifts!

How about a coloring party!

I like this set of cards designed to share, color, and mail (or maybe matte and frame)

Notecards to color.

Notecards to color.

Click here to join the ranks of adults purchasing Enchanted Forest. A beautiful coloring book for adults (and teens too)

Click here to join the ranks of adults enjoying Enchanted Forest. A beautiful coloring book for adults (and teens too)

Click the link to purchase Balance on Amazon.com

Angie Grace’s coloring books are full of intricate, mandala, zen like, patterns. Click on this image to be directed to Amazon.

And for those of you who like to paint outside the lines, here’s another inspirational moment.  Painted stones by Elspeth McLean.

Painted stones by Elspeth McLean

Painted stones by Elspeth McLean

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Some Links to cool, creative, coloring books for Adults and Teens.

Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford

Johanna set up a coloring gallery on her website for folks to share their fun. “Share your colouring! Upload a picture and tell us what pens and pencils you used. Like what you see? Give it a thumbs up! I’ll post the highest rated pictures each week on my Facebook page.”

Color Me Calm, A Zen Coloring Book by Lucy Mucklow

Do you have a favorite coloring book to share.  Enter the link in the comments.  Happy Coloring!


Today’s Inspiration: Painting on Rocks

Elspeth McLean, artist.

Elspeth McLean, hand painted rocks.

Elspeth McLean, hand painted rocks.

Elspeth McLean is an award winning artist born and raised in Gooseberry Hill, a small leafy suburb in the foothills of Western Australia.

I ran into her fabulously painted rocks online.  Surprised at the detail, they remind me of Eastern European Egg paintings. I like the repetition, the color and the detail.

What do you think?


Oil Painting 101

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My interpretation of Ghost Ranch, Butte. 18×24, Oil on Canvas. Palette Knives.

When  I was a young girl, around 8 years old, my parents treated me to weekly painting lessons.  In Bayonne, NJ, the name of the game was Miriam Brown.  She taught children and adults how to paint.  Following the Walter Foster painting books well known in the day, we picked a painting of his to copy.  At the time, that was the best way to begin the journey, get familiar with the paints (and the smell), and work out some details with brushes.

I put painting aside for many years.  I studied art in college, with an emphasis on jewelry, crafts, and then followed up with a masters degree in Art Education and fiber, weaving tapestry for many years. After an amazing career as an Art Teacher at Bayonne High School in NJ, I moved to Colorado to be closer to Navajo and Pueblo art, Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon and a host of muses.

As a sweet, generous, gift, a friend of mine treated me to Oil Painting lessons at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  Georgia Okeeffe country.  A week of immersion in oils jump started my passion for painting once again.  I learned plein-air (outdoor in natural light) painting from  Michelle Chrisman,   Michelle describes herself as a Contemporary Colorist; the reason I want to learn from her.  Colorist’s give me permission to love color.  Purple shadows, pink skies, coral colored red rock.  Michelle’s work can be seen on her website and at the Joe Wade Gallery in Santa Fe.

Here’s an example of Michelle’s painting style.  I love the loose color, and forms.  I am inspired by her quick strokes of palette knives and the shadow and light she captures.

Michelle Chrisman- Ghost Ranch Plein Air

I met up with Michelle at Ghost Ranch once again, over the Thanksgiving weekend. We both set up easels and painted the buttes of Box Canyon at the Ranch. She’s a wild thang.

Michelle teaches the “limited” palette.  Color mixing has become a real joy and I use the palette knife to mix.  A limited palette consists of these colors:

  • White
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Ultramarine Blue

All other colors are mixed by combining those hues.  And we added Res-en-gel to speed up drying of the oils.  I don’t use mediums in the studio as I like to work a bit slower and to have the luxury of the slow drying time of oils.

I’ve added a few other colors to my palette too:

  • Indian Yellow
  • Cobalt Blue

The use of the palette knife and heavy application of paints means that I go through lots of paint.  In some cases I buy Dick Blick brand, but mostly use Winsor Newton or Daniel Smith.  I recently bought a palette box and installed glass in the bottom of it, I love this system and although at times I use a disposable palette, it’s too small for mixing from a limited palette of colors. The larger palette gives me plenty of room for my “puddles” of the mother colors, purple and orange.  A box cutter helps to clean the palette, and I save my piles of color for another session.

Zion Majesty

I call this painting Zion Majesty. It began as a small plein-air painting (sketch) and is close to completion as a studio iteration. 20×24 Oil with Palette Knives.

A pochade box is on my wish list, but for now I’m using a french style easel in the field.  In the studio I have a large easel as I like to paint 20×24 or larger. For plein-air,  Guerrilla painter makes a sweet oil painting drying box and carrying case, so much better than trying to get paintings home in my car…wet.  You can only imagine what my car looked like after two weeks of painting outdoors!  Pizza boxes work for storing wet paintings too! Get the wet painting carrier.  I have the 11×14, and it holds both panels and stretched canvas.  Next purchase, the 12×16 size.

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This is the first iteration of a studio painting inspired by the Bluffs of Utah. I took a digital photo and used photoshop to clone in some trees at the bottom to see how they would work for me.  Some painters use a mirror to look at their in progress works.  

This is the next iteration.  I really love big, bold color.

This is a detail of the latest iteration. I really love big, bold color and the textures of the palette knife.


Inspired by Artists in Zion National Park

In early November of each year, Zion National Park hosts a plein air festival.  This year, 24 invited painters, using watercolor, pastels, acrylics and oils set up their pochade boxes and french easels.  What a treat to see these artists working en plein air to capture the intimate and the grand of Zion.  Here’s a link to the Zion Natural History Association with many examples of artists at work.

This year I scheduled my Chase the Light Photography Workshop in Zion the week before the plein air festival.  This allowed me to hang out, camp, make art and attend the many free demonstrations by the Invitational artists. And I painted a bit too.

I have a list of favorite, inspiring painters.  Here are a few.

Suze Woolf has been drawing all her life. After an undergraduate degree at McGill University, she pursued fifth-year studies in art at the University of Washington.

An early adopter of computer graphics, her professional career included graphic design of printed materials and interface designs for commercial and prototype software.

In the last few years she has devoted herself to the watercolor medium. From traditional landscape sketches –she calls them her love letters to the planet — to large scale industrial subjects and the numbering systems on utility poles; she loves to bring attention to what people don’t usually notice.

She finds intense visual experience to capture everywhere she looks. Much of her subject matter shares a theme of human impact on the environment.

Suze says, “I’ve met my goal when I’ve transported the viewer into the world of the painting but that viewer remains aware my hand wielded the brush. The painting walks a line between invoking reality and a collection of brush strokes.”

More of her work can be seen at http://suzewoolf-fineart.com/

©Suze Woolf

©Suze Woolf

I really enjoy learning about art and artists, their inspiration and thoughts in the field and in the studio.  Here’s a blog entry by Suze Woolf, who was the 2013 Artist in Residence at North Cascades National Park (Stehekin). In the linked blog post she discusses and shows the reference photo and the painting.  It’s often about personal interpretation of the scene.  Not literal. Check it OUT.  And here is a link to Suze’s slide presentation while the Artist in Residence at Zion National Park in September of 2012.

Links to the Artists who participated in the Zion Invitational Plein Air Festival.

Roland Lee

Cody DeLong, also participated in the September 2014 Grand Canyon Plein Air Festival. 

Rachel Pettit, she did an inspiring demonstration of painting on-site in Zion.

Colors of Big Bend 18x24. Winner of a Purchase Award from Zion Lodge.

Colors of Big Bend 18×24. Winner of a Purchase Award from Zion Lodge.

Below the Narrows (Zion) 18x24. Cody DeLong

Below the Narrows (Zion) 18×24. Cody DeLong

Rachel Pettit is a favorite of mine.  She set up her canvas and demonstrated painting at the plein air festival in Zion National Park.

Rachel Pettit is a favorite of mine. She set up her canvas and demonstrated painting at the plein air festival in Zion National Park.

Rachel Pettit paints at Zion, November 2014.

Rachel Pettit paints at Zion, November 2014.

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