On the road for inspiration

After my crush of spring and summer art shows, I was very grateful to have some time away from my home, studio and art tent.  We are lucky to have family in western Montana and like to visit them during the two months of “high season” in July and August.

Rather than flying, my family loads our trusty van and treks west across some tremendously beautiful topography.  My favorite area has always been North Dakota, where undulating yellow-green fields of rapeseed surround glacial lakes of amazingly dark blue water.  Somehow driving gives me a different sense of the land than flying over it.

I have always aspired to be one of those people who takes a sketchbook and watercolors, expertly rendering meaningful moments of their travels.  Unfortunately my fellow travelers do not proceed at this speed, so I resort to a quicker technique — the camera.  None of my photographs are well-composed, for this is not my intent.  I simply want to capture the exact moment and I experienced it.   Here are two examples of what I saw in western Montana:

View of the upper Flathead Valley, 2011.

The snow line in Montana was very low this year, so we were forced to hike at lower elevations.  In this picture we have hiked for an hour in the snow to reach a bare peak where we can view the upper Flathead Valley.  Below are those patchwork fields I love, plus smaller azure lakes and the larger Flathead Lake in the distance.  I find the combination of glacially formed topography and people-made landscape irresistible.  We were fortunate that it was very wet this year.  The burned trunks in the foreground remind us of other years when this area was on fire.

Pine Pollen swirls in Flathead Lake, 2011.

I am also fascinated by patterns, and Flathead Lake always provides.   Here the surrounding pine trees have given off a thick waxy pollen that has collected at the shore line.  Between the natural waves and my rock-tossing nephews, the patterns continued to ebb and flow.  Squint your eyes, and maybe you can see upper atmosphere turbulence or delicate Venetian lace.

We took a different route back to the Midwest via Boulder, Colorado.  And wouldn’t you know it, there was an art fair there.  The Open Arts Fest was in its inaugural year, and I was delighted to discover two printmakers with very different styles.  Diana Stetson‘s work combined delicate monoprints with chine colle of brilliantly colored Asian papers.  Each work encouraged the viewer to discover the story hidden within.  CC Barton‘s etchings combined with watercolor feature intimate still lifes of animals, flowers, and fruits and vegetables.  She achieves a level of gradation to which I aspire.  The fair was notable because it featured street performers — a woman eating fire, and a guy trying to rescue a twenty-dollar bill from a loaded bear trap — using only his teeth.  They made the aspirations of a relief printmaker seem incredibly safe and sensible.

Back in the studio, I am putting the final touches on a print that will be part of my show at City Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.  Entitled “Force of Nature…Wellspring of Life,” my prints will be focussing on the complicated relationship between humans and water.  It will open August 1st, with a reception from 5 to 7pm on Friday, August 5th.  It is hot here in the Midwest, so be sure to stop by for some refreshing ice water.


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