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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Tree Hugging Cowgirl, 2

FrackMap

This is a map of the BLM land up for lease sale December 2018. I live very near here. In fact my home is just off the bottom left of the map.

I want to document what the areas are like before they are forever altered by fracking. As the map shows, much of the area is already under production or will be. It really makes me sad and keeps me from sleeping at night when I think about the environmental damage done to many of these beautiful areas. I am doing what I can to raise people’s awareness through this series of paintings and my posts on Instagram. Follow me at Plein Air Cedar to see the latest place I have been plein air painting.

I am also going to go into the studio with the plein air studies and create larger pieces. Both plein air and studio pieces will be in my December 2018 exhibits in Paonia at the Cirque and in Crested Butte at the Piper gallery in the Crested Butte Center for the Arts. I also plan to include the Western Slope Conservation Center at the Cirque. I am still waiting for some one from Crested Butte to get back to me regarding the ranchland conservation plein air paintings I want to do there.

Do what you can to make our world a cleaner, safer and kinder place. Take some form of positive action, how ever you can. I paint and then blog and post on Instagram. I am hoping you will do what you can.

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.

Wild areas help me recharge my battery.

I just returned from a long weekend of camping in Utah with dogs and friends. My mountain rescue team I belong to held a training in the slot canyons of the San Rafael Swell. I opted to paint and hike rather than rappel and squeeze.

The break was great, I enjoyed the relaxed pace. The plein air sketches and exercises I did are going to provide ideas and inspiration for studio paintings for a long time.  Little road trips like this to wild areas are a balm for my spirit. My internal battery needed the recharge.

Looking north from the campsite.

Looking north from the campsite.

It was a fun drive (translation = rough) on 4WD roads to our meeting point, but the Tacoma was a champ. Our training leader provided us with a highway map pdf, some directions off a website and GPS coordinates. The destination was about 5 hours from home.

The road into our campsite. The left side road is behind and the right side road is in front.

The road into our campsite. The left side road is behind and the right side road is in front.

We had a view of an area called Sinbad country from out campsite.

UTView1

The view from the campsite.

It was very remote but that was fine with us! We are a hardy group.

I hiked with my friend and our dogs before she set out on an explore of the canyons, with all the required gear and knowledge. I painted all day. She returned mid afternoon and joined the plein air fun with her watercolors.

Shade is at a premium in the San Rafael Swell, McKay Flat, UT.

Shade is at a premium in the San Rafael Swell, McKay Flat, UT.

The wind was pretty strong and even with extra tent stakes and lots of big rocks, the umbrella was not an option, so standing in the meager shade of a juniper was my plan. Seems like the dogs had the same idea. The rest of the team returned early evening after 18 miles or so of canyoneering and hiking.

Just a small portion of the pictoglyphs in San Rafael Swell, UT

Just a small portion of the pictoglyphs in San Rafael Swell, UT

The next day we drove around in the swell, which is an ancient reef and uplifted seabed, and caught some glyphs and hiked around Goblin Valley State park. We then traveled to Erby canyon and started a hike up it but the weather with rain clouds threatening a flash flood changed our minds for us. We drove out of the very sketchy road just in time for the downpour.

Me & my climbing dog at Goblin Valley State Park, UT

Me & my climbing dog at Goblin Valley State Park, UT

We ended our weekend at a whitewater rafters’ hang out in Green River UT for burgers and fries and headed back to cooler Colorado.