Wednesday, October 21, 2009


           This is a pencil drawing that I just finished of my grandson Colton. As I worked on this piece, Brent walked in and said, "Oh, is that Dan?" Dan is my second son and Colt's dad - and, yes, Colt is the spittin' image of his pop. In the quiet of my studio, as I worked away on Colton's sweet, serious face, I contemplated all the connections that go into making a unique individual. Colt looks a lot like his Dad, they both have my blue eyes (at least that is my claim - they could be from Grandma Pierce) - my mother had beautiful blue eyes as did her father, who by the way, looks a lot like my son Dan.  It is a beautiful, complex web  - the attachments, influences, love and support of family - quite magnificent.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ancestor's View

Armed with old journals and remembered family stories, my husband Brent and I set out on a quest to find and explore long forgotten settlements, deserted and decaying homesteads of pioneer ancestors. We wanted to stand on the same ground, and seeing the places, imagine what it must have felt like to start a new life in a wild and unsettled land. We knew some of their stories - their dreams. We also know how those dreams continued with us - their great, great grandchildren and our children and grandchildren.

This old, gnarled tree stands sentinel near one of those abandoned homesteads somewhere in Utah. I'am curious - did Mother Nature let it grow there or did hopeful young settlers dig the hole and plant the sapling in that very spot, confident that the tree would bring shade and shelter as time passed. Wouldn't it be fun to sit and converse with a tree like that?

I named this painting "Ancestor's View," and painted it with watercolor on Yupo paper.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cliff Notes

Once a month the Contemporary Watercolorists of Arizona meet. We have a critique and are given a motivation for the coming month. There are about forty artists who share their work and insights, although only about twenty or so show up at the meeting at any one time. This month's motivation was painting your passion in the abstract.

Art, like writing, is a solitary undertaking. We usually create solo and so we yearn to gather and share. (The desire to share is the motivation for this blog.) The valued insights and encouragement from another artist help us to see, to shift perceptions and expand our creative efforts. I believe being part of a caring, insightful critique group cannot be over-valued.

I call this painting "Cliff Notes." It depicts the human desire to leave a mark. This painting reflects my vision of petroglyphs on sandstone cliffs - the revelation of discovering another artist's imprint in a fold of rock; acknowledging and honoring the creative spirit that God embedded into our very souls.

I painted "Cliff Notes" on watercolor paper using acrylic paints and mediums. I designed and carved the stamp used in this painting to symbolize the ancient artist's hand.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Magpie's Haven

Have you ever known a magpie? My Aunt Ruthie was one; a wiry little lady with bright eyes who loved to collect things, specially things of little use or value. She really didn't chatter all that much, however she was quite opinionated. I loved her.

The magpies were calling and fluttering - white markings flashing in the sunlight as we set up for the last attempt of the day. I am not sure if they were scolding us for invading their space or just announcing the strange appearance of two middle aged persons in funny hats settling down to roost on their road. As I unfolded my pastel box, I saw one bold gal swoop low to eye the bright colors nesting in my palette. The vivid turquoise would look nice against the glossy black feathers. She retreated into the shaded recesses of the decrepit old barn and then swooped back for another look. I knew if I abandoned my set-up that my favorite color would go missing.

This was our third stop of the day, the sun was getting lower in the sky and I was hoping to capture the colored aging wood of the magpie's haven. I used 300# paper with a watercolor under-painting, and finished it off with pastel.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Second paint-out morning and the intrepid plein air artists (Miri and me) scout out a hidden corner of a lovely valley. Acres of sunlit sage overlooking green pastures nestled in the arms of surrounding hills. It was still early when we stopped on a dirt road; sunlight was brushing the tops of the sagebrush turning them into whimsical, dancing candelabras. 

I pulled out my sanded board, slapped it on the easel and started to lay down color in hopes of capturing that nimbus of back-lit sage – my heart was captured by the early morning show and my head despaired as those beams shifted, the angle of light changed, the magic dissipated. The breeze tugged at my board, a truck rattled by raising a dust cloud that drifted, swirled and settled.  I sighed and worked on, hoping to capture those swaying, glowing branches. They don’t make a color labeled ‘sunshine on sage.’

My pastel board was taped to a thin masonite support, and when finished I laid a sheet of glassine paper over the painting to protect the fragile surface from smearing (remember the little glassine envelops we used to collect stamps in?). I carefully replaced my powdery pastels into the padded slots of their box, broke down my easel and loaded gear into the car. The day had warmed considerably; we were sweaty, dusty and ready for shade and nourishment.

About five minutes down the road Miri stopped the car and in a horrified voice said, “Oh Carol, I left your painting on the hood of the car!” It was clearly gone, so we turned around and about a half mile back, found it face down in the dirt and gravel. I jumped out, there were tire tracks decorating the masonite!  I lifted it up expecting to see a poor, mutilated image, but other than a few divots of gravel imparting an interesting textural effect to the surface, the painting was undamaged. I framed it later that evening and it sold at the exhibition on Saturday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

en plein air 'in the open air'

            Plein air painting is standing in the sunshine, hat snugged down to ears, sunscreen liberally applied to freckled face, and painting like crazy before the light changes. You can do this on still, beautifully sunlit mornings or windy, hot afternoons; trying your best to capture the play of light and shadow on red rocks, crumbling old barns or cactus strewn desert. Artist and nature – it can be a love-hate relationship. The light shifts, a cloud drifts and covers what moments before was a spectacular display of backlit sagebrush – oh, and ants have just marched up your socks. Add wind and weather and you can see the appeal of painting plein air.
It is a challenge for the stout hearted and valiant! (Chal•lenge - The quality of requiring full use of one’s abilities, energy, or resources.) It is especially great if you have a good painting buddy like I did last week when my friend Miri Weible and I traveled to Utah for the Spring City Arts Plein Air Competition. Spring City is a rural farming town in Sanpete County next to towns like Ephraim and Manti. Beautiful skies, pastoral landscapes, historic pioneer homes, old barns and the beautiful Manti Temple. 

Here is my pastel painting from the first day. Miri and I set up across the road from the little weathered barn and a venerable, humongous tree - a great, great grand daddy tree, full of color, movement and lively personality. This painting sold during the exhibition and won a merit award.  I named it Morning Melody. 

My plein air set up - all the comforts!
Below a view of the beautiful Manti Temple

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Art Bin Blog

I am excited and a little nervous to start a blog about my art, and other loves. I think of it as a bin to dump ideas, images and attempts at writing: a gathering point. I have been a spastic journal keeper and tattered bits of my life and work lay unrevealed between the covers of water and paint splattered sketchbooks, leather bound journals with gold edging with only a few lonely entries marring pristine pages. Small black sketchbooks that fit nicely into my purse are filled with drawings, attempted poetry and notes from church meetings, lists and mind maps, phone numbers, reminders. Aquabee sketchbooks are my favorite because they can take watercolor paint, the paper is heavier and doesn't buckle. I have boxes of them in my studio.
I get nervous when people start leafing through my sketchbooks, a little shy and vexed - what will be revealed? It is a lot like going to the beach - just how much do you dare to uncover and are you the only one who cares? What makes me think anyone is even looking? Good grief!
Maybe at this season of my life it is time to gather in the journal entries, drawings and painting - the people - gather together all the odd bits and beloved pieces of my life and take a look.