Two Buckeyes and Montana autumn

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Not to be overshadowed by the coming yellow shed of cottonwood and aspen trees, our two buckeyes took it upon themselves to leaf out early and dramatically.

Everything else in the immediate area seemed to blur out as if to give the buckeyes proper focus and adoration.

The river quieted, the grasses–tamped down from three horses grazing on it most of August and September–relaxed into a muted Naples yellow.

The Buckeye Show lasts about 4 days before the leaves retreat and die.

This painting will be for sale in the spring, when new green leaves adorn the two trees.

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Walking the West Boulder and Christmas on the West Boulder

Walking the West Boulder

Finally finished this painting last month.

“Walking the West Boulder” Oil on linen. 12×16 2022

With the Absaroka Mountains in the far distance, a storm approaches,5B551801-5546-413A-818E-7DD79F3759F8_1_105_c but not before light illuminates the pasture and Red Angus cattle. I stop to admire the view and put my gear atop a fence post.

Christmas on the West Boulder

“Christmas on the West Boulder”   oil on linen 9×12  2022

My neighbor’s son took a stunning photo of an almost Van Goghesque sky on a bitter cold December night. The Christmas lights, along with the moon, light up the snow and aspen trees that cozy up to the house. I used a Payne’s grey and Prussian blue to paint the sky and mountains behind the home and on the other side of the road.

Very rarely do I use black because it sucks the light out of a painting. The challenge is to mix the right dark so that it seems black.

I had never painted a home before and enjoyed this exercise.

Swingley Road #2

This little painting is the second of my Swingley Road suite. Enormous boulders dropped from the hand of God animate this section of the road.

You can see the shadows from an enormous cloud have darkened the landscape.

The greens are true to the day.

What a contrast with snow on the Absaroka Mountains and lush green grass on the accompanying landscape.

Spring Afternoon on Swingley Road

Swingley Road #15F15E380-63EB-4D76-8D87-A1D9CB0080C9_1_105_c

8×10 oil on linen

Those of us who live in south central Montana are well acquainted with Swingley Road, a winding, rutted, dirt and gravel road which connects the town of Livingston to the Main Boulder Road outside of Big Timber.

It is not for the casual driver, especially in rain or snow. There are no guard rails and in the rain Swingley will wrap your vehicle in a mud facial that only power-washing will remove. In the winter, your car could slip off a cliff. In the summer, the dust is so thick, you have to put your windows up to avoid lung irritation, but in the spring all is perfect on Swingley.

The first place we take our family and guests is on Swingley to Livingston. The vistas of untouched Montana land, mountains, streams, forests, and draws are guaranteed to evoke tears and or awe.

Despite the ruts, the bumps, the dust, and the mud, Swingley Road is a marvelous way to regroup. Any anxiety, angst, or confusion about the beauty or intentions of the world are erased by the trip to Livingston ( or back ).

Locals tell me they still feel the feelings I have written about today.

I am currently working on a suite of small paintings of a Swingley spring when the grass has grown and greened but the mountains steadfastly hold on to their snow, when the clouds and the mountains turn into one white view, when birds and bears, antelope and elk, deer and doves all congregate on Swingley Road as if to say,  ” Not much has changed in Nature.”

Crow Pony’s Reward

Crow Pony’s Reward 2022 28×22 oil on canvas

I’ve been thinking of this painting for several months. Thinking about a painting and how and why I will paint it are part of my process.

We drive back and forth to Montana all year around. Often the scenery across Nevada, Idaho, and Montana is laden with sagebrush. I love the celery green-grey of sagebrush as it reminds me of our olive orchard in California where the foliage shimmers in a silver celery except our product is olives!

In Montana, we live with a stunning view of the Absaroka Mountains. Absaroka means “children of the large-beaked bird” in the Crow Indian dialect, as I understand.

In this painting, the Crazy Mountains anchor the background with three of their snow-covered peaks acting as sentinels and guards for the Crow warriors, who now rest and eat in their tipis.

Crow War Pony has left her two sisters to graze far out in the sagebrush as night begins to descend on the small Crow encampment.

The warriors were so exhausted by their excursion, they left paint on the pony and went inside to sleep.

This painting is impressionistic. I hope the symmetry of the composition appeals to those who view it.

As my friend in Montana, Nancy said, ” It seems spiritual, ” and that is exactly the reaction I was hoping for.

Tom’s Alfalfa Field

Montana Spring Suite 1

Tom's Alfalfa Field 2022

Tom’s Alfalfa Field 9×12 oil on linen 2022

Here in south central Montana, farming abounds. Just now, in April, wheat, barley, and alfalfa are being planted.

I have enjoyed watching the process from planting to cutting to baling.

One of our neighbors, Tom, whom I have never met because he is very private ( I hear ) and a novelist, has lots of acreage that is planted with alfalfa.

Last summer, I took several photos from the road (thus, the looking down angle) with an eye on painting the many greens and yellows and of course, the red tractor.

The dry grassy hills in this region are a challenge for me to paint, so I thought to add texture for effect.

The Superstition Mountains

Although I spend some time in Arizona during the winter, I have never tried my hand at painting any of the gorgeous scenery.

The result of my attempt is this painting, a large one for me (15×30, oil on canvas ) of the Superstition Mountains out in Eastern Arizona.

Superstition Mountains 15x30 oil on canvas 2022

A hike anywhere in Arizona this time of year is a feast for the eyes. Heading up this trail, I pass two Saguaro cacti who remind me of sentries, guarding the entry with their erect postures and dark anchors.

A small jumping cholla tree full of fresh blooms and spiky spears tells me to remain alert and watch for baby snakes and insects just beginning to live in their desert home.

The mountains reflect the sun’s rays which find their ways through a darkening sky, and the mountain in the shadows crouches on the desert tundra like a large purple yawning beast.

Montana autumn suite 1

Montana Autumn 9×12 oil on linen 2022

This little Barbizon-style painting marks the beginning of a series of small paintings I am doing with Montana as the subject.

Autumn in Montana ushers in a dramatic swing in the weather. Fierce hot wind, fierce cold wind, snow, searing sun, pelting rain, dramatic blue skies with enormous puffy clouds, dark grey cloudy skies threatening an early winter—-it’s all there in Montana!

The Dachshund and Portuguese Water Dog

I find that painting dogs I know helps to produce joy in me and in the recipient of the painting.

Take little Oliver here. He is a precocious Dachshund as you can see in his eyes. He belongs to my sister-in-law, Karin, and he is a surprise present for her upcoming birthday this month. This painting was my second attempt at capturing the elongated everything that makes up this comical breed.

Oliver 9x12 oil on linen 2021

I also painted my own puppy, Sugar Pi, who now is a year-old girl. This painting comes from her younger days around 5 mos. old.

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At one-year old, she does not have a beard that wraps her nose in a circle, but she does have her white goatee with matching white breast and dark curly coat.

All such good fun and important during a time when both my husband and I out here in rural Montana have realized that we fit writer Ivan Doig’s definition of a relic–“One who has been left behind by current culture.”