Artistic Inspiration

Saguaro National Park

I love taking walks on nature trails in the woods, parks, or desert scrublands. I recently was in Tucson, Arizona and had the good fortune to explore some of Sabino Canyon, an arid natural area on the northeast side of the city replete with trails for walking, biking, and hiking. I was visiting with friends who likewise enjoy getting out in nature, though they aren’t looking for artistic inspiration. I love the fresh air, the trees, the play of clouds across the sky. I love being out in all of it strolling along looking for whatever new or exciting thing awaits me. I’m not looking for big vistas. I’m looking for the details, the color changes, the unusual. I’m trying to find what others might have missed, or if not, at least provide a different perspective on the ordinary.

Sabino Canyon Waterway

It was a beautiful sunny day as we meandered along the dry walkway through the canyon. Cactuses were just beginning to bloom and the snow melt from the Santa Catalinas were providing a torrent of water through the arroyo, cascading over a spillway that usually formed a trickle. The air was fresh and warm. My mind was half tuned to the conversation while trying to explore the images in front of me. The Palo Verde trees cast shadows on themselves from a rising sun, thin elegant branches shaded onto their smooth olive green bark. Saguaro pointed skyward and outward, people in disguise. I wasn’t used to their playfulness so I kept smiling at their poses. My friends caught the mood and we posed in front of several to become saguaros ourselves.

A Massive Saguaro Reaching Skyward

Being creative doesn’t have to be serious.

The cactuses seemed like natural subjects. Beyond the saguaros there was so much variety – a host of chollas, prickly pear, bunny ears, teddy bears, Arizona fishhook. Their colors and shapes dotted the otherwise barren earth, providing food and shelter to a whole cast of characters, mostly unseen, there in the desert. We saw unidentified birds flitting about in the Mesquite and Palo Verde, and others like the common Road Runner scuttling about the underbrush. But there was a lot in hiding, like the mountain lions and bobcats we’d been warned about. And rattlesnakes. Low lying signs at the edges of the paths cautioned us to beware. I kept watching but I never saw one. I’m sure they knew better than to show themselves with all the daytime hikers and bicyclists about. But a girl can dream.

Cactuses of various types

Before we left I heard an insistent cascading call from a clump of trees. Sitting on a high branch at the top of the mesquite was a thin shiny black bird with a pronounced crest and skinny long ebony tail. He kept up his calls and seemed unfazed by my slow movement in his direction. He looked nonchalantly upward and side to side in apparent disinterest at my close proximity. A quick search on my phone told me he was a Phainopepla, a northern representative of the mostly tropical silky flycatcher family. They feed mainly on mistletoe berries, which we had seen in abundance. I lacked the right kind of camera and lens to get a good close up of this fascinating little bird, but I noted his name, delighted to have added him to my list.

These are the kinds of experiences I long for to feed my creativity. Even if I don’t get a lot of pictures, as happened this day, I feel renewed by the presence of so much wonder and beauty around me. Especially in those places we least expect it.

In Dedication

I work two sides of my brain and sometimes it feels like neither functions very well. At this certain age I suppose that’s to be expected. They say doing complex activities keeps the dimentia at bay, and if that’s the case I should never have to worry. To help feed my creative side, at least until I’m “discovered,” I work as a nurse a couple days a week. In spite of the work being extremely stressful and sometimes down right impossible, I love what I do.

Nurses don’t always get a lot of credit. Doctors are canonized and are portrayed in heroic parts in movies and TV shows. But those of us in the trenches know it’s absolutely true that you better have a good, smart, savvy nurse when your body starts sending signals it’s trying to check out early. So this Spring I thought it might be nice to do something a little special for my fellow comrades-in-arms. Something more than a carnation (one hospital I worked for in the past gave all its nurses a carnation on Nurses’ Day) or the hospital-wide activities that aren’t specific enough to let each of those I work with know how special they are.

Four Seasons

So I did what I do best with the side of my brain that “relaxes” when I’m at work as a nurse. I painted a picture that could be turned into a banner with each of their names on it. It didn’t take a lot to sell the idea to my manager, and I’m happy to say that if you come to my unit, one of the first things you’ll see when you step off the elevator is my banner. People notice and I like to think it’s made a difference.

Nurse for all seasons, which is exactly what we are.

I love my job because I love the people I work with. They’re an incredible group of people who care desperately about the patients who find themselves on our unit.

I hope you’re never “lucky” enough to meet us there.

“Four Seasons”

Watercolor on paper

15″ X 22″

$650

A Mighty Sun God

"Golden One"
Golden One

What do we know about creating gods? The ancient Egyptians marveled at the little curiosity of a dung beetle, rolling its portion of what it considered wealth into a perfect sphere to traverse the landscape and be placed in a more opportune local, and were reminded of the sun. They fashioned their Sun god Khepera after this lowly beetle, believing that the sun was pushed across the sky in a similar manner.

From dung sculptor to god is a mighty leap indeed. Maybe it’s no wonder since it can pull over 1,100 times it own body weight, making it the strongest insect on earth. Perhaps that should be “push” since the dung beetle pushes its ball of poo around with its hind feet, periodically stopping and clambering atop to get its bearings. I guess I can see where the Egyptians’ logic might have led them to believe that there must be something fantastically strong to move the sun from one side of the sky to the other.

I’ve taken a mighty leap myself this time around in using acrylic metalic paint to give this little guy some extra glow and invoke the sun. He’s out there searching for his life source unaware of the great import we mere mortals have bestowed upon him.

Title: Golden One

Size: 10.5″ X 14.5″

Media: watercolor and acrylic

Price: $250 unframed

A New Day, A New Year and A New Series

Detail of Cows in Heaven

I’ve managed to fall behind in this blog as usual. But Dave and I put our heads together today and decided to cast off with the old habits of sloth and take charge of our art once more. Nothing like a new year to bring out the resolution-making in all of us, though I’ve never put much stock in that.

In this case it makes a good deal of sense as looking back at this year just come to a close I find I have not nearly the accomplishments I would have liked. No one to blame but myself.

So, off we go. Page turned and heading down a new road.

This little painting was actually completed in the Fall but I’ve been so dilatory that it never got posted. A-hem. This must stop! But however belatedly, it is the first in a new series I got the idea for from a book I read some years ago, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. It made a very scant reference to a belief in Botswana that the first thing one sees upon entering heaven is white cows. The idea struck a cord such that I knew I had to paint it. And then later this past year it dawned on me from another reading reference about animals and myths that this could be a painting series.

Right cow detail

I’m still feeling my way as to what the series is all about and what to include. For this initial painting I believe it speaks to me of a curiosity of my search for God. How do others define God and what do they see when they speak of heaven and the divine? White cows immediately brought to mind the Brahmans that we see in Mexico with their soulful eyes and graceful gate. Much larger than the Jersey or Herefords I’m used to from here in the States, they command a presence that I find quite singular and mystical. So I have painted them as my vision of those Botswanian cattle from on high.

I can think of so much worse to find awaiting me on the other side.

"Cows In Heaven"

Cows In Heaven”

Image size: 14″ x 10″

Price: $250 unframed