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. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May thunderstorm, from the ridge behind my house

The coolest, loveliest, least windy spring in at least three decades is still gracing us with its presence.  I was out running the ridge behind my house when a thunderstorm moved in and then to the West.  The Jemez Mountains are barely visible through the rain.



 I rounded the back of the ridge, and saw snow falling at our ski basin, 10-12 miles north as the crow flies.
 And little signs of spring everywhere.

I would not have seen these tiny piñon jays if their mother had not flown in and out a couple of times with food.  What a good mom, to have raised five of them to this age, and all looking healthy and content.  I'll be doing a painting of them soon.  I'm now working on a steller's jay and blocking out a portrait of a gorgeous little buck I've known for a couple of years, who lives on this ridge.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Running at 10,000 feet

I'm lucky to live where I live!  Especially in this, the loveliest spring I've experienced in 37 years in NM.   Although we have not enjoyed much rain this spring, it has been unusally cool, with mild winds; rather than the usual "hair dryer" weather of spring in the Southwest.  Even with little rain, flora are budding out and blooming long.  I ran at 10,000 feet yesterday, along a nameless stream, and took these photographs.   There were elk nearby, but they did not consent to be photographed. 



   

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why I Paint

 Grass Mountain Pikas, oil on panel, 12 x 16 inches
Mountain Lion at Rio Pueblo Gorge, Taos / oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches

You're all invited to Botanica, a group exhibition at Arroyo, 200 Canyon Road, Santa Fe (505.988.1002), Friday, 13 April, 5:00-7:00 p.m. I'll be there. So will the pikas.


The water dakinis are being kind to us here in Santa Fe. We've actually had a few drops of rain. And the snow melt continues to feed the mountain streams. It's been worse here. Way worse. Living through the most severe drought in recorded history, we're hanging in there.

I was out running by one of those little snow-fed streams this morning, thinking about why I paint. Maybe thinking is an exaggeration. It's pretty simple. I can't not. It's a cliché and it's true. Why I paint wildlife is a bit more complicated, but the essence of it is that I believe they'll all be gone in 100 years. I'm a visual griot, a recorder of the soon-to-be-lost.

If that sounds too doomsday for you, I hope it is. I hope I'm way wrong. I spend considerable time tracking, observing, and photographing wildlife. Painting is an excuse that enables me to do that. I also study wildlife in a nonexperiential way. I read a lot of books and research, watch films, and study other people's photos and narratives of wildlife. All of this leads me to conclude that humans have been hell bent on eradicating every living thing on the planet, ourselves included, for about as long as we have been around. And we've gotten progressively better at it. If it sounds crazy to say that there will be no mule deer in 100 years, consider that that is what people said about the carrier pigeon before it went from plentiful to extinct in less than a decade.

Cheery as thinking about an Earth without wildlife isn't, it lends an urgency to my work.  I do what I can to make mine an unfulfilled prophecy.