Friday, November 07, 2014

my october: a mink, two moose and a baldy eagle

a pair of wyoming moose. photo by dawn chandler

A mink, two moose and a baldy eagle.

That’s who I spent my October with.

They, and seven of the best creative minds  I could ever hope to meet.
We were living at the mouth of a small valley, where the open range-land ripples as it abuts the nearby mountains, and the valley narrows to a short rocky neck, before opening again to vast hidden fields. A large, wide and mellow trout stream courses along the base of pinon-studded hills, filling our days and nights with river-song, its water seeping into willow marshes, nurturing colonies of cottonwoods and drifts of aspen. Each day for twenty-four days, I meditated along this water, sketched under these golden canopies, explored up these arid draws, and stood in awe of these eery outcrops of rocks.

They climbed through the stony landscape, limestone beds eroded by wind into fantastic furniture, stale gnawed bread crusts, tumbled bones, stacks of dirty folded blankets, bleached crab claws and dog teeth — Annie Proulx, The Half-Skinned Steer

If quiet and still, I might catch a glimmer — and be blessed by — a rare animal spirit. Mink. Moose. Eagle. Hawk.

Other times, I might ramble, or sit and share with new friends; their laughter and tales humoring and inspiring me.

Mostly though, I painted.
And painted.
And painted.

For I was an artist in residence at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts.
Located on the west side of the Medicine Bow mountain range fifty-some miles west of Laramie and sixteen miles southeast of Saratoga, Brush Creek Ranch and the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts sprawls across 30,000 of prime Wyoming range-land and hill country. A working cattle ranch as well as a luxury resort, Brush Creek Ranch established its artist residency program in 2009.

Home to four beautiful fine art studios, two writers studios, and two music studios — plus comfortable accommodations — “Artist Camp” is its own little ranch resort of creativity, with meals, lodging, and studios provided free of charge for its artist residents. Invited to stay for 2-, 4-, or 6-week sessions, we are each encouraged to live and breathe Wyoming; to hike and explore, read, dream and imagine, make new friends, and let our creativity soar.

With a network of trails coursing the ranch, we were welcome to explore by foot or bike. Most times when I did this — which was daily — I saw no one; not a soul. But for the trails and fences, I came to feel as though this place were mine:
My river.
My path.
My cottonwoods.

the mellow brush creek of wyoming. photo by dawn chandler

How to capture it? I spent 24 days trying to do just that, with some 2000 photos, 20 sketches and 30 paintings to show for it. Still, I’m perplexed and moved and haunted by this land of Wyoming. I’ll be sharing much of this in the coming days, but for now, here’s a little slideshow I’ve put together to try to convey a sense of the Wyoming landscape I all too briefly got to call home.
slideshow: a wyoming october — four weeks at the brush creek foundation for the arts. 
click on the image to view the slideshow.

Heartfelt thanks to the staff and founders of Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, who provides all of this for free to select artists.
And special thanks too, to my fellow residents:
Writers Helen Hooper and Ira Sukrungruang
Musicians/Composers Jonathan Kolm and David Dominique
Fine Artists Maren Jensen, Karrie Hovey and Susan Grinels

It’s been — truly — a pleasure.

And a special note to my Blog readers: It's good to be back. Note though that in just a few days I'll be moving my blog away from Blogger, to WordPress. More news about that to come. But I'm pretty darned excited about the change, and hope you will be, too. With deepest appreciation I thank you for reading me here; your attention to my words and thoughts is precious. I hope you'll continue to follow me over on WordPress.

Monday, October 06, 2014

mirrorless paintings of leaves and glass ~ my last post... for a while.

photograph by dawn chandler of dale chihuly glass sculpture at the denver botanic gardens, october 2014.

"Ohhhhhhh.... That hurts. That's so sad," the man at the table next to me said when my camera hit the cement floor of the Santa Fe Baking Company last Sunday.

"It's okay; it's durable," I said, noting that the camera appeared to be totally intact.

But later that afternoon when I went to take another picture, it very definitely wasn't okay: my 7-year old Cannon Powershot was busted.

And, wouldn't you know it, in just few days I was to embark on a journey that, for an artist, is unimaginable without a camera: One month of painting, hiking and — I'd hoped — photography in the heart of a western mountain range. [Details about THAT in a future post!].

I needed a replacement camera N O W.

I started looking up cameras online, and was utterly and completely overwhelmed. Yeah I had this sweet little Cannon, But really? I had grasped little about photography and cameras since my Photography-101 with a Pentax K 1000 continuing education class in Berkeley c.1989 back in my deli-girl days between college and grad school. And I sure as heck didn't have time to start educating myself now about cameras.

I closed my eyes and slowly started to rub my temples, in an attempt to stave off the headache that was about to descend.

And then it occurred to me: Ask my FaceBook Photography peeps for advice. For lucky for me, I'm connected to quite a few gifted photographers.

Jump seven days and I find myself the owner of a Fujifilm X-M1, a whiz-bang of a "mirrorless" digital camera that's — OH. MY. GOSH. — such an upgrade from my little pocket camera.


W O W.

And what better place to give it a real test run than the
Dale Chihuly glass sculpture installation at the Denver Botanic Gardens? I can think of none.

And so.... I part from you for some weeks with this cheerful slide show I've created of a glittering autumn morning. Enjoy!

p.s.: I'll be back in touch in early November with tons of new paintings, photographs, insights, and a whole new website and blog base. See you then!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

10.01.14 ~ four autumn mornings

I can't resist. I've got to be up there among them. To lose myself among the gold coins of leaves — a world's ransom of gold leaf.

My new home in town gives me a fine vantage point from which to observe the mountains and their mood. And so it was one day early last week when I looked up there and saw the first hint of yellow. 

The aspens were turning.

With a stress-inducing "To Do List" on my mind it was all I could do: Just look up there.

..One day.

..Two days.

..Three days.

And then I couldn't take it anymore; I had to get up there.

That night I laid out our gear, my pup's and mine. 

And at sunrise we were making the climb up toward the gold....

One day...

Two days...

Three days....

Four in a row

santa fe aspens, i ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

santa fe aspens, ii ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

santa fe aspens, iii ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

santa fe aspens, iv ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

9.16.14 ~ giving away free art again!

adjective: loco
  1. crazy.
late 19th century: from Spanish, ‘insane.’

Evidently I'm loco, for I'm giving away free art again. Congratulations to Mr. CW Webb of Texas who read my summer edition of my online newsletter "Studio Notes," found and played along with my wee little contest, and — lucky guy! — had his name drawn out of The Venerated Pith Helmet! Bravo, Sir!

Want to play along? Go to my website at , scroll to the bottom of any page to where it says subscribe to dawn chandler's studio notes newsletter, enter your name in the field and hit "subscribe." Then, next time my newsletter comes out (early November) you should receive it. Read it — carefully — and see if you can sleuth the contest details. Then, play along. Kinda fun and — dare I say? — well worth your time. At least I'd like to think so. But just ask Mr. Webb who did all that and won this cool little original painting:

april morning above the arroyo, frenchy's park, santa fe ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel (en plein air) ~ 5" x 7" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Special thanks to all of my current Studio Notes Subscribers. It's always such a bonus to me when I send out a newsletter, and hear back from so many of you. Thanks for keeping me motivated to keep on writing and keep on painting.
And extra special thanks to those of you who not only read my newsletter but sleuth out my contest and play along.
Remember that every time you enter one of my wee little contests, your name gets added to the end-of-year Ultimate Venerated Pith Helmet Drawing for an 8" x 10" original painting.

Okay, back to painting. Cheers and may you enjoy these last few days of summer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

8.27.14 ~ meeting oneself above timberline

walking to the clouds ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

I love being above timberline. My first recollection of being above timberline must stretch back to my childhood, hiking those stunning mountains of Acadia National Park in Maine. And some of those Appalachian ridges of lower New York State. But the memory of timberline that comes back to me most strongly is that of the While Mountains of New Hampshire, up near the Lake of the Clouds Hut. I must have been 13 or 14 when I first hiked those granite peaks — back before I was exposed to the magnetic pull on my soul of New Mexico. The Presidential Range of New Hampshire though was my first love affair with the mountains. And I remember being up there beyond the trees, walking across smooth rock and lacy grass, closer to sky than I ever had before. On Top of the World. 
I remember thinking, "This must be what Greece is like." Something about being exposed up there with nothing much more than Rock. Grass. Sky. It just seemed an ancient environment, a place where heroic deeds were done and battles among gods and goddesses were fought and won. A place where one faced the elements and met oneself.

Pictured here, Walking to the Clouds of Santa Fe Baldy, as my friend Joyce approaches the summit of Santa Fe's highest peak during our July backpacking trip. When I looked over to see her contrasted against the clouds, that sense of Earth falling away from her, my pulse quickened and I knew I had to capture it. 

Below, another scene from that same day, also above timberline: Crossing the Boulder Field ~ Santa Fe Baldy, my friends Tavo and Joyce up ahead as we make our way back to camp after a victorious lunch on the peak.

crossing the boulder field ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

8.19.14 ~ from the summit of santa fe baldy

view from the summit ~ santa fe baldy ~ by dawn chandler ~ oil on panel ~ 12" x 24" ~ copyright dawn chandler 2014

In July two friends and I did a three-day backpacking trip to the summit of Santa Fe Baldy [elevation 12,631']. Though the forecast was literally dreadful, with warnings of "Hazardous Weather" resulting in flooding throughout much of New Mexico and north Texas (some towns in Texas got something like 9 inches of rain in 6 hours one of those days). 

Despite the forecast, we decided to go for it anyway, fully expecting to turn around at any moment.

And in the end? 
In the end we had perfect weather.
When I say we had perfect weather, I mean it: We had perfect weather. 

Sure there were some clouds, but not til the afternoon, and rarely anything that seemed threatening. Not a drop of rain except at night, when we were already curled up in our sleeping bags, and then it cleared well before we got up in the morning. It was as though we had a halo of glorious weather followed us for the full 3 days.
I've never experienced anything quite like that. And because the forecast had been so bad, no one else was up there: We had the trail and the summit to ourselves. Unbelievable!

Here's the first painting from a series of new ones I'm currently working on based on our trip. [With my Outback Series of mixed media paintings now on exhibit in Taos, I'm focusing for a few weeks on traditional landscape painting; feels good!] 

The view here is from the top of Santa Fe Baldy. And yes! thanks to recent rains, the summit grass is indeed that green. (Anyone know which direction I'm looking?)

The challenge with these paintings is the light: When you're on a summit that's barren of trees and made up mainly of grass and rocks, there's not much to cast shadows — which add contrast and visual interest to a painting. But even if there were interestingly shaped things to cast shadows, in the middle of the day — here, literally, around noon or 1:00 — with the sun directly overhead, what little shadow there is is short and limited. The bright sun filtering through thin clouds washes out what little color there is in a mostly grey-green-blue-white landscape, making it a challenge. But heck, it's a pretty good challenge!