The creation of a Tree Hugging Cowgirl.

My “Tree Hugging Cowgirl” series explores the impact of fracking and other damaging events on the environment. Earlier this year, I saw that more parcels were up for oil and gas extraction near where I live and I wanted to do something about it. I did the usual letter and email sending but wanted to do something that I was good at. I saw the BLM map (at my town’s July Fourth celebration called Cherry Days) of the parcels up for lease sale at the Western Slope Conservation Center booth. I decided right then and there to go out to as many of them as I could and paint what I saw. I am familiar with the areas as I have ridden horseback through a lot of it and other areas I’ve gone into to do search and rescue. I wanted to do this Tree Hugging Cowgirl series to inform people of the places that will be affected if gas and oil production is allowed to occur and expand. I was also inspired and influenced to paint the smoke-filled West I experienced on a vacation this summer.

Chipko movement in India in the 1970’s following a tradition since 1730.

According to Earth Island Journal, “The first tree huggers were 294 men and 69 women belonging to the Bishnois branch of Hinduism, who, in 1730, died while trying to protect the trees in their village from being turned into the raw material for building a palace. They literally clung to the trees, while being slaughtered by the royal foresters. But their action led to a royal decree prohibiting the cutting of trees in any Bishnoi village. And now those villages are virtual wooded oases amidst an otherwise desert landscape. Not only that, the Bishnois inspired the Chipko movement (chipko means “to cling” in Hindi) that started in the 1970s, when a group of peasant women in the Himalayan hills of northern India threw their arms around trees designated to be cut down. Within a few years, this tactic, also known as tree satyagraha, had spread across India, ultimately forcing reforms in forestry and a moratorium on tree felling in Himalayan regions.”

I’m not that brave, but I did decide to go out to areas where there would be gas and oil production workers. They are not usually know for their delicate ways or polite manners.

I’ve been making art since I was small. When I was about 5 years old I remember being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”I said, “A cowboy and an artist”. I later learned I was a cowgirl. And I have always loved trees! They are some of my best models and I love painting them.

I went out and created sketches, plein air (French for outdoors or outside) paintings and photographed the scenes. Many of the plein air paintings are here tonight. Some were used as sketches to form the inspiration for many of my studio pieces. I also collaborated with WSCC and they helped me with advice and technical support. I am donating 50% of the profits from the sale of the paintings in the Tree Hugging Cowgirl series during the 2 exhibits to the WSCC.

I went out and painted places on BLM land, in the National Forest and looking over fences onto private lands. Some of the landscapes were beautiful. Some were not, as the gas production was already occurring there and marred the natural beauty of the area as well as affected its health. I am not sure how many people have gone out to areas already being extracted. Gas and oil production tears up Mother Earth. There are sets of pipelines bringing water in and taking gas out. I wondered who sold their water rights to the gas and oil companies? I wondered how safe are the pipelines going out? They are everywhere if you drive out Colbran Road off of Hwy 133 just outside of Paoina, CO. So are green tanks on their sterile graveled rectangles. Do they spray Round Up on those gravel pads to keep the plants from growing? There are also green gates with welded pipe fences connected to them. No rancher I know would spend that kind of money on gates and fences. Barbed wire is just fine. Who put those up and did they have permission?

I noticed a sign in this heavily extracted area put up by the Forest Service saying that shooting cattle was a crime. I wondered when that went up as I hadn’t seen it before. I used to ride horses and mules in these areas in the past 8 years. I figured all the new roads into the area was bringing in a surly sort that shot at cow calf pairs for some cruel reason.

When I was out painting by myself, with my dog and some bear spray for protection, I thought about my safety but not a lot. I can’t say anything exciting or dramatic happened while I was outside doing my plein air painting for Tree Hugging Cowgirl. I spent a lot of time looking at the landscapes.

Why did I create Tree Hugging Cowgirl? I want to have people become aware of the areas that are up for fracking. Most people worry that some abstract concept of Nature is going to be destroyed. Some people go out on hikes or back country skiing or hunting in the forest. But most people look at the images of these places on a screen or magazine page. I went out and looked for hours at a time. I want to share my experience with others. I believe that looking at a painting will raise peoples’ awareness in a positive way. I want people to feel good about helping. I am hoping people will be inspired to do good for Mother Earth after looking at these paintings. I want people to advocate for Nature and be moved to do healthful action.

I am a Tree Hugging Cowgirl. I always have been.


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Sketches are the bones of painting

Sketches are the structure on which I base almost all of my paintings.

Wild Horse Crossing Campground

Wild Horse Crossing Campground

I love to do sketches, even if they are tiny small thumbnail ones, of a painting before I begin.

Moses Lake baseball field, WA

Moses Lake baseball field, WA

So I sketch a lot.

Big Southern Butte, from Crators of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

Big Southern Butte, from Crators of the Moon National Monument, Idaho

I’ve included some sketches I did while on our trip through 5 states earlier this month.

Firehold Canyon Campground view, Flaming Gorge, WY

Firehold Canyon Campground view, Flaming Gorge, WY

Painting gets in a show: San Xavier in Tubac

St Xavier, en Plein Air Oil, 8" x 10"

St Xavier, en Plein Air Oil, 8″ x 10″

San Xavier (A-Vear) is a mission south of Tucson, AZ.  Ansel Adams made it famous in his photos he did mid 20th century. I painted it en Plein Air when I was at the Plein Air conference in April 2016. It has been accepted to the exhibition: “Wish You Were Here”. It is a national juried exhibit of art that focuses on Southwestern Arizona. The show opens July 29 through August 28, 2016.

 

Working on getting it down….

Cedar painting  in the snow in Cerrillos

Cedar painting in the snow in Cerrillos

I’m working on painting where ever I go. I went camping at Palo Duro canyon in texas. Not my favorite spot but I did attempt to paint there. I am also in Cerrillos, New Mexico visiting for a while and have been painting here a lot.

I am resolved to paint cholla cacti and have them look alright. The paintings have been turning out pretty lousy. I was really disappointed about that. But I’ve been keeping at it and finally I’ve had a break through. Today I did a cholla cactus painting that I don’t want to set on fire in the wood stove. Practice makes perfect, or at least tolerable. So I plan to work at it until I am really comfortable painting those spiny plants.

Early Morning Cholla

Early Morning Cholla, Oil, 9″ x12″, plein air

Outside Painting this summer!

Grand Mesa Visitor Center

“Grand Mesa Visitor Center”, Oil, 9″ x 12″

I’ve been doing a lot of plein air painting  this summer.  Despite the rain and mosquitoes in my surrounding areas, I have gotten out a lot. I also took a couple great workshops this summer.

Here is our instructor, Dave Santillanes, helping a student. We took an exciting drive up Mt. Evans and painted for a good part of the day. Later, back at the Evergreen Fine Arts Gallery, we had critiques and a demo by Dave. I recommend his workshops as he was super helpful, instructive and also a real down to earth kinda guy.

Dave Santillanes & Student

Dave teaching us up on Mt. Evans

Yellow Rock

“Yellow Rock”, Oil, 11″ x 14″

I did this one in Dave’s workshop. We were standing on the edge of a cliff about 1000+ feet high. Dave commented “Wow Cedar, that is a really yellow rock” I mentioned he told us not to use white. He started laughing and said he never told us that. All around from the woods lots of voices piped up saying “yes you did!” Well, he did say that if we used white, to warm it up with yellow. I guess I wasn’t paying that close attention but I did get a yellow rock painting and its not half bad.

So now its fall and the Super Blood Lunar Eclipse Moon. Stay tuned for more paintings as I am about to go into a retreat and paint, paint, paint!

 

Trees in a desert environment

I love trees, there is no doubt about it. I am a tree hug-er, literally! I must admit I do get a lot of sap and needles on me but that goes well with the oil paint, horse snot and dog fur already on my clothes. I am always impressed when I see trees growing in the desert. Its a tough environment and the trees are equally tough to live there. Their adaptations are laudable.

Utah piñon tree

Utah piñon tree

When I was camping in Utah last weekend, there were lots of trees around us. Piñon and Juniper were the main species. Juniper are one of my favorite trees with Piñon coming in second, so I was content. I painted a couple of really informative plein air paintings of one juniper. The first one I did in an hour, the second one I did in 20 minutes. The short times were to get me to glean the important information I wanted and put it on the canvas fast. I didn’t think about any side details or worry about minutia. Just getting the impression of the moment was the goal of these paintings.

Piñon at 10 a.m. plein air oil painting, 8" x 6"

Piñon at 10 a.m. plein air oil painting, 8″ x 6″

Pinon At Noon, plein air oil painting, 8" x 6"

Pinon At Noon, plein air oil painting, 8″ x 6″

With the information I got outside, I came home this week and painted another tree. I did it from a photo and in the studio but I still felt like I was out on the flats. I referred to the 2 tree paintings to get information I included in the bigger studio painting. I believe it worked. I call it McKay Flats Juniper.

McKay Flats Juniper, 14" x 18" oil painting

McKay Flats Juniper, 14″ x 18″ oil painting

You can view and bid on these 3 paintings on my Daily Paintworks gallery. More work is at my FASO website, cedarkeshet.com.

Are Drawing & Painting Related?

Are drawing and painting related? What does drawing have to do with painting? After all one is in color and one is not, right? And painting is using a brush and not something pointy, right?

My answers are: Yes, Everything, wrong and wrong.

Drawing has everything to do with painting. It helps artists work out the shapes, sizes and values of the color of paint we daub on canvas, paper or where ever we paint. Using black and white helps define and commit to the values of our composition as well as lay it out in a pleasing manner. Artists can use lines the same way we use brush strokes.

I recently got some gray markers for sketching in values in a drawing before I started painting. I took them to the life drawing sessions that meet weekly at the local art center and planned to try them out. They are great! I really enjoyed working with them.

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Next I used them to do a value drawing of a little study I wanted to do.IMG_0009

Here is the photo I used:

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I think it really helped me to see the shapes of the horse, trees and ground and the values I wanted to use. I also used it to set up my composition.

Here is the little 6″ x 6″ oil painting so far:

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Its part of a few I plan to do as studies for a larger composition. I like it so far and think its working well for me.

Drawing and painting are related the same way as toast and jam or cornbread and beans! One without the other is just plain lonely.

 

Hazards of Plein Air Painting: Horses

These horses are curious about what is happening.

These horses are curious about what is happening.

Today I went over to my friend’s hay and horse farm to do a little plein air painting. I thought I would set up my easel in the dry lot with the horses. They all know me and are not afraid of me. You can see in the above photo they are looking at me but not running away. In fact, they were really happy to see me. They wouldn’t leave me alone.

Cookie, the black horse with a white blaze came over to me and stuck her nose on my nose for a sniff while Silkie, the bay horse with the white star, was behind me nibbling on my pony tail while I was fooling with my camera. Pretty soon I had 6 horses and a mini-mule around me, close, way too close. Not the safest place to be so I shooed them away and decided to set up outside the dry lot.

This horse is too close!

This horse is too close!

I am also a horse trainer and I know and ride most of these horses. Silkie is my lesson horse and listens to my verbal commands very well. My advice is not to go into a horse pen and paint with nothing separating you and the horse. They could step on you, kick or bite you or otherwise harm you. And they would want to sniff and play with your easel and otherwise get in your stuff. They are worse than dogs when they get curious. In my case, they would kill me with kindness as pretty soon one of them would decide to chase the rest away to monopolize the attention. That results in biting and kicking and a lot of running around by the herd. So stay on the other side of the fence and paint. Much safer and more productive, too.

Changing is not easy

I know my style of painting is changing because my way of feeling and thinking about painting is changing. Its not easy. I’ve been painting a lot but nothing that feels good is showing up on the many newly painted canvases in the studio. I’m trying not to get discouraged or stuck. Here is what I like to do when that happens: Invent!

Invention #1

Recycled materials plein air brush holder

Recycled materials plein air brush holder

I sewed a flat holder for my brushes to travel in but it was more like a sail once I got it clipped on my plein air set-up. So I’ve been thinking about what I could use to make a sleek one like the other PAAC plein air friends have. I didn’t want to shell out a lot of $$ and also want to use stuff I save and have around the studio and garage. Voila! Old mailing tubes and some construction adhesive plus a cord = brush holder. I painted it and added a Velcro and webbing strap to keep it closed inside the backpack.

Invention #2

Recycled cardboard canvas holder

Recycled cardboard canvas holder

This is a canvas holder for wet boards. I had a couple spacers laying around from a RayMar holder I have. But it only holds up to 8″ x 10″ boards. So I used the spacers and put them inside a fruit box I cut down and patched the front together with more cardboard. (Can you guess where I get my dog’s food?) A bit of packing tape and some industrial strength Velcro were all the supplies I used. I can put 6 – 11″ x 14″ canvas boards in it and carry it. I didn’t put on a strap handle as I thought that was overkill.

I felt like I was doing something to improve my craft, yet not putting paint on canvas. I also was thinking and processing what is going on inside myself while working. I spent a couple hours total on these two inventions and ended my day in the studio. I feel better today and have a clear head, ready to get painting!