Sunday, August 9, 2015

First Iceland painting completed

Lambhagi--click on image to see the whole painting.
oil, aspen bark, and paper on panel
36 x 80 inches
New painting, inspired by my travels in Iceland. A lambhagi is a pen where newborn lambs were isolated from their mothers before the practice went out of fashion. It's also the name of a place on the trail to Skaftafell waterfall in Vatnajokull National Park that left an impression on me.
Icelanders cut down almost all of their trees centuries ago and are now trying to reforest. The hike to Skaftafell wound through a beautiful forest. In a small lambhagi in that birch and willow forest stood the biggest birch tree I'd seen in Iceland. An amazing beauty. A closer look revealed that it had been newly girdled by some axe-wielding lunatic and was dying. It broke my heart; such a beautiful place and such depths of human ignorance.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Icelandic Saga: Part 1

I was lucky enough to enjoy a late spring trip to Iceland with my family.  Midnight sun, whales, puffins, hot springs, glaciers, and waterfalls; oh my!  It's going to take several blog entries just to report the highlights.  I'll be processing the imagery for months in my dreams and through painting. 

Many tourists zip around the entire "Ring Road" encircling the country, but we opted to spend a week based in Reykjavk, taking day trips, and a week on the South Coast. The population of the whole country is about 330,000, and 119,000 live in Rekjavik.  The rest of Iceland is rural, with tiny towns of only a few farms, and villages with a grocery store, church, clinic, and gas station.  My teenager told me that if I said pastoral or bucolic one more time she was going to slap me. 

We stayed in a refurbished loft apartment in the heart of Reykjavik.  Our landlord was still refurbishing when we got there.  Because a few minor details we did not even notice remained undone, he gave my teenager her own adjacent loft apartment, rent free, to everyone's delight. 

There is swell street art everywhere in Reykjavik, some of it legal. 

Cats own the town. 

People told us the cats were strays, but they were mostly fat and wearing collars.  

We found our way on foot through shoulder-to-haunch cats to a swimming beach.  Yes, a swimming beach, in Iceland.  A brilliant local designed it in 2008, walling off a nano-bit of the bay with lava rocks (deposited  everywhere from erupting volcanoes), and intermingling natural geothermal hot water with the sea water.  The city imported a few tons of Moroccan sand to complete the scene. There are also hot pots there, so that one can cook oneself in preparation for a brisk dip.  It was a chilly spring, even by local standards, and folks were out in their parkas with the whole family in tow, grilling ubiquitous Icelandic hot dogs at the beach.      

Reykjavik is a great coffee town--not a bad cup to be had--but not a vegan paradise.  

Minke whale, reindeer, formerly adorable puffins & baby sheep are what's on the menu.  Iceland stopped hunting whales and then started again, reportedly to serve it up in tourist restaurants.  If you go, enjoy the whales from a kayak, not on your plate, and let them know that eating whale is not an integral part of the tourist experience.  

There is a great contemporary art museum in Reykjavik.  More about that in a later entry.

Our first foray out of Reykjavik in our trusty rent-a-wreck was a tour through nearby Þingvellir National Park . . .

and the Golden Circle, featuring Europe's largest waterfall, Gulfoss, which is something like the Taos Box + Niagara, and the original Geyser, which gave the word to the English language.  

We enjoyed the isolated expansive beauty mostly from inside the rent-a-wreck with 30 mph winds raging.  A light breeze by local standards. 

The hot pools in a small geothermal town on our way back to Reykjavik were perhaps the best sensory part of the tour.  The locals there were growing cherries in geothermal greenhouses & selling them to tourists for a buck a piece.  And big honking raspberries.

Many little towns have naturally hot swimming pool complexes.  Some have hot pots of varying temperatures for bathing.  Reykjavik has one with a monumental internally LED lit water slide, volleyball courts, steam rooms, and a massage therapist.  Locals hang out in these pools in the long summer evenings, and probably for much of the winter.  It's a great social scene, with no phones or devices isolating people.  No wonder they pulled off a 27-union national workers' movement whose demands were met while we were there.  They are all hanging out actually talking to each other in the hot pools.

They cut down all of the trees in Iceland a long time ago, but now they realize the error of their axes and have launched a national tree-planting love fest.  Hardy little birch and evergreens are braving the wind along every roadside.  The government hands out plaques to tree planters. The US Forest Service should be sent to Iceland to learn the value of trees.
Because I never miss an opportunity to see whales, we donned full body parkas that double as flotation suits and set out on the Atlantic, whale watching.  
Above: the Harpa (Reykjavik) Concert Hall & Cultural Center, from the harbor.

It was actually the warmest sunniest day of our trip (not very).  And winds at only 10-15 mph.  We were rewarded with a visit from 2 minke whales calmly hanging out, diving, and feeding.   
Later, on the way home from fabulous hot pools, we caught a brilliant sunset over the bay,  the 1st real sunset we saw in Iceland.  
It never gets dark--except for the entire winter.  The summer sun fades into twilight, and five minutes later, around 3:30 a.m., the sun rises again.  But when there is a fabulous sunset, it lasts for hours.  It morphed and reflected off the still bay from 10:00  until after midnight.  
Oh, did I mention that I'm changing my name to Halldor?   I love the Icelandic language even as I daily butcher it.  Better butcher a language than a whale, I always say.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Maybelle--Queen of our yard.   Ahem . . . I mean her yard.  I'm spending a lot of time Maybelle-watching, and most enjoyable time it is.  I'm painting wolves right now, but I will definitely be doing a painting of Maybelle the Magnificent.  

She follows the cats around, always within a few feet, screaming at them, pecking menacingly at tree branches, and dive bombing. They come running for the door like they've been fired from a cannon, with her swooping right on their butts. As soon as they are safely in, they give me that stink-eye "whaaat?" look and proclaim that they were coming in anyway just then & the bird had nothing to do with it. 

Last night Ron lay in the sill of an open window, inside the house, and Maybelle perched on plant pots stacked outside the window, screaming at him for a good half hour. I love her! Cats are safely indoors most of the time now & rodent and bird death in the yard is down about 90%. Watch out for that bobcat, Maybelle.  Not a kitty to mess with.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Deer Sonograms

And now for something completely different: deer sonograms. My thoughts about my pregnant daughter and my ruminations on the life cycle of deer seem to have found common ground. Watercolor, 5 x 7 inches.

I've observed the same big doe and her family in the wild for years now.  This year, for the first time I know of, she had triplets instead of twins.  She was so big and uncomfortable in July that I was concerned for her safety.  She looked like a cow.  Her front legs were wide apart and facing outward with the heavy load of what I knew had to be three fawns. I was relieved when all were delivered healthy.  All three look robust going into their first winter.  They have the benefit of a steady water supply and quality food, near a river.  That and great mothering mean everything. 

I've been doing a lot of watercolors in the wee hours when I cannot sleep.  Painting is so much more fun than lying in bed fixating on things that would never enter my consciousness in the day time.  The down side, if there is one, is that four hours slip by while I'm in the creative space, and I toddle back to bed near dawn.    

Friday, January 25, 2013

Lucky's Reach, oil, enamel, shot targets, and gel transfer on canvas, wood frame, 
60 x 50 inches (click on image to enlarge)

Lucky is a fawn born last June.  I've been following his family (quite literally) for several years now.  This painting continues my Horizontal Brothers (John Muir's words for nonhuman animals) series.  It's part of a new group of paintings celebrating the Santa Fe River, a reach of which is Lucky's home turf.  The Santa Fe City Council committed to keeping water running in Lucky's Reach of this endangered river.  It's been a tremendous support to the neighborhood wildlife, including a group of three wild turkey hens I've been seeing there regularly.  
  Coming soon: a turkey painting.  Meanwhile, long may they all run.  Special thanks to the Santa Fe Watershed Association.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Drowned Sparrow

Drowned Sparrow / oil on panel / 8 x 8 x 2 inches

In my last post, I wrote about finding a drowning sparrow in the Santa Fe River and rescuing her.  When I went back to check on her in the warm nest I had made, she had passed away, still standing upright.  She remained that way for several days.    

The little bird haunted me.  All I could do was give her new life in a painting.  In addition to a memorial, the painting is also an homage to the German expressionist painter Franz Marc, one of my favorite masters.   If you can tell me which of Marc's paintings inspired my stylistic treatment of the sparrow, I'll buy you a cup of coffee.

My painting is on exhibit in Arroyo Gallery in Telluride, Colorado. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Two Ecosystems, One Morning

This morning's run covered a stretch of the Santa Fe River along Upper Canyon Road, beginning at Alameda.  
If you live in Santa Fe and have not been down to see this year's snowmelt and the resulting
(high desert version of a) jungle, do like Bruce Springsteen said and go Down to the River.
I'm drawn to the intersection of nature and the industrial/antique. These gates divert water into the Acequia Madre.

I found a juvenile bird floating downriver, gasping for breath.  I picked him up, cradled him in my hands, and made him a warm nest in a quiet place.  When I returned later, hehad died.  I took these photos after his passing.   His mother had built a nest over the acequia, when no water was running .  The nest is now empty.   I hope its siblings did not meet similar fates.  I've been thinking about this little being ever since.  I've no doubt I will make a painting to memorialize it.

A little further upstream, I came upon a raptor's nest, about three feet in diameter.  No visible occupants.

A favorite children's spot, quiet now.

I left the river, wild sweet peas, willows, and tangle of vines behind, and crossed Upper Canyon Road into a very different ecosystem; the high alpine desert. . .
. . . and made my way home across a dry, piñon-dotted ridge, not without ornaments of its own.