Today I went back to Sawhill Ponds near Gunbarrel. After being tossed out of it's sister wildlife area yesterday, I was eager to walk back into it to explore the ponds. These were all gravel pits at one time, now reclaimed as wildlife habitat. Since I've lived here, they have not been full of water, but are this year. And it's a real treat to be able to explore, observe and paint them. The ponds there are full to the brim and the reeds, weeds, trees and brush are all looking wonderfully wild and like perfect nesting habitat for the many species of waterfowl that are already there pairing up. Of course that means that hawks (evidence of a duck kill, a plucked duck, by a raptor greeted me first thing on the trail this morning), owls and other fur bearers, like the beavers, are having a nice life right now too.
I'm a BIG fan of wetlands, marshes, swamps and that kind of habitat. This area of Colorado is not overflowing with that kind of habitat. My favorite memories of fishing, hunting, exploring, and painting, during my years in Minnesota, are of plying my way around areas like the river bottoms between Wabasha, MN and Nelson, WI, on the lower Mississippi River in my canoe, or fishing boat. This is where the cradle of so much of the marvelous bird life we have to see is nurtured and raised. Everything, but a desert tortoise, loves wet, marshy lands. I'm no exception.
Knowing the complexity of all of that vegetation is, I decided to make it a pastel day. Reason is that with pastels I can really dive into all of the calligraphy, detail and textural qualities that is there. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning, no wind, some clouds, sun. The best laid plans...
About 3/4th's of the way through my first painting "Habitat 1", out of no where the freight train wind that barrels down the eastern slope of the foothills, hit me square in the back, sending my 'working' pastel palette and a pastel pencil container... flying! It almost took my entire pastel easel and set up over the edge of the bank I was painting near. The working palette, for those who don't know, is a separate palette that we use to put the pastels in that we are using on the painting of the moment. Mine this morning had about 25 or 30 small pieces of pastel in it. When the wind took it, it went into the weeds, where the pastels are perfectly camouflaged. I found about half of them, but many were lost. That's not as bad as having the entire pastel box blow over, but I was still pretty peeved. I finished up that painting and fought the wind for dominance while packing up my gear, then hiked back to the van.
Big No No... never take your oil painting gear out of your vehicle just because you're not using it... or think you won't! I left mine at home. Whew...! Drove back, picked it up, and went back to Sawhill for the rest of the day. The wind had died down by now, could have used the pastels. Murphy's Law firmly in place. It was still windy some, so I was glad not to have to worry about dumping pastels again.
I decided that I was going to stand in the same spot for the rest of the day, and paint portions of the wetland habitat that was in front of me. It's so beautiful this time of year, but SO complex... it's almost scary. Instead of trying to explain it all, that would be nearly impossible, and instead of taking the other approach and generically rendering it with big blobs of color, I really tried hard to pay attention to my 'impression' of what was in front of me, and to let my need to explain, leave me. I had a ball painting this way. Maybe, finally, on the final day, I have discovered something about myself and my painting that is going to make the entire month worthwhile! It's worthwhile for many more reasons than just that. But I feel like I had an epiphany today. I have to think more about that before I try to really write it out, but will.
I want to thank everyone who has been following me along this month. I know that there are many who I have not communicated with who are reading and looking in... Thank You! And to all of you who've commented, purchased the paintings, and been wonderfully supportive... Thank You! I'm not going to write much more right now, but will in the near future, about what I found out, what I learned, and more.
For now, it's been a fun way to spend February. I'm going to miss it... but am looking forward to a more relaxed March, like you wouldn't believe!
Thank you again for looking in... Enjoy!
2-28-1 "Habitat 1"
Pastel - 8x10
2-28-2 "Habitat 2"
Oil - 8x10
2-28-3 "Habitat 3"
Oil - 8x10
2-28-4 "Habitat 4"
Oil - 8x10