One artist's journey: Trying to live a creative life with grace, grit, gratitude...and a border collie.
(or perhaps I should say: greys, grit and gratitude)

13 June 2016

Choose to Love

Last night I stood on the deck of dreams listening to the chorus of birds singing the day into night.  My mind was turning over the tragedy in Orlando.  Then I caught a shimmer of setting sun through the aspens by the deck.  

When I processed the image, I discovered that bumping the saturation a little revealed the innate rainbow of color in the “green” leaves.  

“White” light is actually a combination of all colors.  We see our world only because of the light that falls on it.  “Color” is determined by the type of light that is reflected back to our eye from the surfaces we see.  When we see “black”, it is because that surface is absorbing the light rather than reflecting it.

As an artist, I constantly look for the color and light that isn’t immediately apparent.  I am captivated by the way surfaces reflect not only the light that strikes them from a source, but also the light that is reflected off the surfaces that surround them.  Everything is connected by the light.  The more I choose to look, the more colors I see in the world around me.  

The aspen leaves filtered and reflected sunlight and were impacted by the color of the sky and other leaves that reflected off them.  A black bear isn’t simply “black”, it reflects the light that bounces off its habitat…the blues of the sky, the browns of rock, greens of the grass and the myriad colors of the light as it finds its way from sun through filters of atmosphere to strike black bear fur.

On countless levels, I have found there to be a profound connection between art and life.  Light connects the elements of a painting and, on a grander scale, represents the interconnectedness of all life.  

Love is like white light…it is made of all colors.  Choosing to live with compassion means choosing to see, and actively look for, the less obvious “colors” of those around us. The more I open my mind, the more depth and beauty I see in the people around me.  

We’ve all met people so dark that they seem to suck the light right out of us.  We’ve also all met people whose light is so strong they lighten us just by being close.  Some of the brightest lights I have met have come from the darkest of places…yet they have chosen to shine.  

We all have within us the capacity for light and dark.  We can choose to draw everything into our own darkness or to reflect back the light the falls on us and is reflected from those around us.  

Choose to share the light, choose to love.

06 May 2016

Come on Baby, Light My Fire

The Road to Thomasville: Chapter 2

This morning I woke to a hazy view that reminded me of the Southern mornings of my youth.  It seems the smoke from Canada’s tragic fires has found its way into Montana.  It is wrong to think that arbitrary lines on maps can separate us…the wind always reminds us that we are one.

The smoke also reminded me that I needed to share the second chapter in my “Road to Thomasville” series.  

In March, I’d just wrapped up my “Encore Artist” year at Natureworks in Tulsa and decided, rather than work my way home to Montana, I’d head home to Tennessee and then make a little detour.  I arrived at Mom’s in Nashville late in the evening on Tuesday and, with Mom joining me, headed toward Thomasville on Wednesday morning.  Toward the end of the day, as we rolled through Southern Georgia in the dark, I was fading.  The weeks of long painting days, nights of sporadic sleeping in sight of the easel, then days of driving, the show and more driving were catching up.  Then I saw the fire.

Like a moth drawn, I pulled off the highway onto a red clay road and parked next to the burn.  The flames licked at the bases of the tall pines and cut winding, jagged lines through the forest.  My camera came out and I tried to capture what I was seeing.  The headlights of a four-wheeler came toward us and I thought the driver would send us on our way…but it turned into the fire and vanished.  I kept taking pictures and watching…burning the experience into my memory.

Another four-wheeler headed for us and this one kept coming.  The driver rolled up and stopped.  I expected him to ask us to leave…but I was wrong.  With a wide hospitable grin, the driver said “if I had known y’all would be here taking pictures, I’d have built a better fire!”.  
“Oh my”, I thought happily, “I am in the South!”

The gentleman, whose name I was too tired to remember, went on to explain that he would have made straight fire lines if he’d have known we would be watching.  Since the winding arcs of flame had appealed to my artist side, I asked “are crooked lines bad?”.  “Oh no”, he laughed “I just like ‘em to look like the seven dwarves, all lined up straight”.  

I thanked him and asked if it was okay to keep taking photos.  He said “sure, and you’re welcome to drive or walk in there if you want”.  He told us how to get to another burn that was going nearby…and invited us to come back the next day, since they’d still be burning.  

My hosts were waiting for us in Thomasville and I was tired, so I took some more photos and stared into the flames a little longer…then headed on.  Thinking that we’d be seeing more burns, I did not go back the next day.  Wish I had, if only to get his name.

Despite the best efforts of some great folks, we never did find ourselves in the midst of a good daytime burn.  Perhaps that was as it should be…I’ve seen artists paint burning in the daylight…but I did not remember many, if any, paintings of night burns.

For me, painting is not so simple as seeing something and painting it.  I want to experience my subjects, to soak them in and discover what fires up my muse.  No matter what the subject, photos are not enough…it is the being there that fuels my work.  The time spent discovering, trying to understand and, even, falling in love with my subjects is, hopefully, what lights up my work.

I’ve always had a serious crush on Thomasville, this trip was about tipping the scale into something more…and there’s nothing like a good fire in the night to spark some passion.

07 April 2016

The Road to Thomasville: Chapter 1

Nearly ten years ago, I attended an art show in Thomasville, Georgia for the first time.  My first year at the Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival wasn’t spectacular sales-wise (typical of most first appearances at a show)…but there was something very special about the people involved.

PWAF 2008
A year later, I would be back…just a couple of weeks after my cancer diagnosis.  It was no surprise that my artist friends embraced me with support, sympathy and priceless good humor.  What was a surprise was how many of the folks in Thomasville rallied around…
Then again, after getting to know them, that is no surprise either.

A few weeks ago, I was in Yellowstone looking for wildlife when, remarkably, the phone rang.  
It was remarkable because I was passing through one small spot where reception was occasionally possible.  The caller was Gates Kirkham, the PWAF show director.  He was calling to invite me to be the Featured Artist for the 2016 Plantation Wildlife Art Festival.

Over the years, I have been the featured artist at several shows…the most recent being Natureworks (Tulsa) in 2015.  It is always an incredible honor…but even more so in the case of the Thomasville invite.

With my Encore Artist appearance at the Natureworks show coming up, I decided to hold off announcing the good news until after my trip to Tulsa.  

As I headed East after Tulsa to see my Mom, a light bulb turned on.  I decided to make an impromptu trip to Thomasville to research some paintings for the show.  A couple days would turn into nearly a week and I would fill a pile of memory cards…but more about that a little later.

First things first…I would like to thank some of the people who made my little research trip so much fun (and so inspiring).  My Mom, Betty Horton, joined the adventure and was incredibly patient with my long days, early mornings and, often, slow drives as I looked for inspiration.  Debbie and Mike Gaskins were kind enough to offer their wonderful hospitality for our stay as well as great conversation, some good connections and the opportunity to see a fabulous cellist perform at Pebble Hill.  Marty and Daphne Wood once again allowed me access to their gorgeous Live Oak Plantation and Marty hauled us around with him on the last hunt of the season.  Gates Kirkham showed me some bird dogs, dolled up his mules, offered access to his Sinkola Plantation and then tried to get me on a fire.  Warren Bicknell was kind enough to allow us to watch some burning on Warbick Farm.  Steve Parrish gave us a wonderfully inspiring and informative tour of the Merrily Plantation.  Wallace Goodman set us up with a grounds pass for the pebble Hill Plantation.  Jim and Ann Lattay invited us to dinner with some delightful guests at their lovely home (and I found some inspiration right in Ann’s gorgeous yard).  When I stopped by Kevin’s to try to shoot reference for a painting idea, Kevin Kelly invited me into the *vault*. Kathy Barnett shared a pass to visit the red Hills Horse Trial.  Louise Dunlap offered access and Ellen Shine gave us a wild ride of a tour in search of active burning on the Woodfield Springs Plantation. 
PWAF 2015

Last, but not least...
Thank you to the PWAF crew for the honor of being named the 
Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival 2016 FEATURED ARTIST!

Between now and November, I will be writing about the journey, the inspiration and the art...on the road to Thomasville.