Being a child of the ‘50s I have a few things that are sure to make the world feel right again for a bit. Every now and then I really, really need someone to bring me a hamburger and fries on paper in a red plastic basket, perfectly paired with a chocolate milk shake with the extra left on the table in the metal container it was made in. And… as much ketchup as I want without having to rip open horrible little packets. This is the local eatery, Oscar’s. This is where I go. They don’t have a juke box shaped like a ’55 T-Bird or waitstaff on roller skates like a couple of joints in my old home town. But, Oscar’s is just fine by me. Some days I just need to forget about what’s good for me for a few minutes – turn my back on quinoa and arugula, close my eyes and remember when the worst thing that happened in school was when our own personal Fonz got caught chewing gum and had to wear it on his nose. I’ve been wanting to paint this scene for a long time. This fellow reminded me of my dad – a really wonderful man. Nothing dad liked much better than a frosty root beer float loaded with vanilla ice-cream.
Seems most every painting I do leaves me with a little something to ponder – my Yoda moments. Anyone familiar with Taos will likely not recognize this as San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church. The typical view shows the sweeping buttresses, bell towers and imposing entry. Always curious I walked around the side of the church. So… immediately threw my gear on the ground, grabbed my sketchbook and quickly recorded enough of the fleeting moment to complete the painting once I got my easel set up. If I put on the brakes, just for a second or two and take the time to look beyond the obvious – life holds all kinds of awesomeness!
Happy holidays everyone! I got a request from someone to see a bit of the process on the painting of my fox friend that I completed at the gallery this week so here ’tis. Hope you enjoy the peek ‘under the hood’.
A little background. If I do have to paint inside from one of my photos I have two criteria. First, is it something that carries personal memories for me and second, is it something I’ve come to understand through a lot of hours of observation. The fox family has lived under my deck for the past three years and they’ve become something of critter friends – from a polite distance. They’ll look in the window or nap in the sun on occasion a few yards away. One of the babies ended up tottering around under my legs while I had coffee one morning. Mom fox told me what she thought about that – which was not much. I knew I’d just been seriously told off in fox language. Though I secretly wish they’d come inside and hang out on the couch with me I’m careful not to encourage them. Don’t want them to become too comfortable with two-leggeds as sadly, not all are friendly – referring to the two-leggeds, not the foxes .
One Possible Reason Boyer’s Piece Won in Moab
Bob Bahr Reporting
Editor, PleinAir Today
Lyn Boyer’s painting “Juniper at Dead Horse Point” took Best of Show at Plein Air Moab, and she’s happier than usual about it for one big reason.
“I consciously don’t paint to win awards,” says Boyer. “If my mind starts to anticipate what might win or what a judge wants, I erase that from my mind. I paint things that I fall in love with. When I was painting the juniper tree, I didn’t even consider that the painting would be noticed. I’m painting in Moab, and my piece is not a rock, it’s not big, and it’s not red. I thought I was taking myself out of the running. So it meant a lot to me to win. I was true to myself.”
The subject matter itself was no accident. Boyer scoped out the site carefully, even if her final choice was a challenging one. “It was not random. It was very specific. I drove in the dark to get to Dead Horse Point at sunrise, and as I was walking around, the junipers were really wonderful and really captivated me,” Boyer recalls. “When I went back on the second day, that one really struck me. Maybe it was its ability to survive. In order to even get the roots of the tree at eye level, I had to get up on a rock. It was a less comfortable place to paint, but that was the view of the tree I wanted. It’s part of the fun, the difficulty, the challenge. It’s part of the experience. But I had to focus — I couldn’t step back 10 feet from my easel like I’m used to doing.”
It may mark the beginning of an informal series of paintings. “I was so fascinated that I’m probably going to paint a lot more junipers,” says Boyer.
I have a really hard time naming paintings. This one…not so much. I had an errand that went bust and made a command decision to ‘feed the white wolf’ and make the best of the situation. Driving home I realized the ‘errand that didn’t happen’ had dragged me out on a stormy day where I found a great subject for a painting.
The name… “Living on the Light Side”
16×12 – oil on Belgian Linen
I love barns. I love barns so much I bought one. A proper barn. 100 years old – up North Michigan by the Lakes. It was built into the side of a south facing hill the way a barn was meant to be with rocks in the foundation so big it would have taken all the mules in Twenty Mule Team Borax to move them. The huge timbers were scored with adz marks. It was three stories. The lower level where the animals kept warm from the low winter sun. The hay loft complete with ladder. And the main level with a hay mow made of timbers. I had never ‘felt’ thunder until I was sitting on the hay mow to escape a storm and the thunder passed through the ground, into the barn and then rolled through the hay mow and out the other side of the barn. Time stopped. As usually happens there was a house that came with the barn complete with a 2 inch, 20 foot deep hand pounded water well and electrical wires sheathed in brown ‘fur’ suspended from glass insulators. We moved in. My daughter Amanda had a chicken named Peeper and a cucumber named Ed. We heard horse hair plaster give way upstairs one evening and found a good chunk of ceiling on her bed. The place was…wonderful. We no longer have the farm but every barn I pass has to either be photographed, noticed in great detail, or in this case painted. The great old buildings that have been kissed by time and made beautiful are passing away. This one looked to me like a perfect patchwork quilt sewn from timber and tin.
I’ve posted final paintings but thought some of you might enjoy a peek at where the paintings start. Actually they start in my head. I’d had this painting of a simple pastoral scene I wanted to paint stuck in my head for awhile so finally sat down last night to sketch it up. This is an interesting example of our brain’s desperate search for patterns and to interpret things based on other ‘cues’ in a scene. This is simply… three nice cows eating by a group of trees. However when I walked into the studio this morning, the random little shadows in the field to the right had suddenly become tire tracks from a vehicle which then cued my brain to correct the scale of the critters on the left and the cows became three skunks. Three nice skunks eating by a group of trees isn’t exactly what I’m after. So… for me, that’s the value of doing a sketch or two first rather than being impatient and just attacking a canvas. It’s much easier to turn the skunks back into cows at the sketch stage. My jam name when I get together with friends to play a little music has become ‘Poco a Poco’. Things seem to work best when I make that my motto in pretty much every area of life. Little by little.
This is one of the wonderful churro sheep and his magpie friend that live about a mile from me. They are pretty much giant balls of yarn with a nose. I learned to love sheep in New Zealand. The ‘I owe ya one’ kind of love. I needed to cross a VERY large pasture that contained a VERY angry bull. I couldn’t return the way I came or the horrible swamp in the punga jungle would surely suck me to my death the second time. There is really no such thing as a punga jungle. But, in my ‘oh my God I could have died in there’ state of mind it seemed like a jungle. It was a bunch of punga trees that hid a slimy man-eating swamp with a mat of red stuff floating on top that made you think you could walk across it. So, back to the pasture. After three attempts at crossing the expanse and almost getting gored I spotted a nice friendly flock of sheep headed in the direction I needed to go. I slipped in between a couple of the kind beasts, grabbed onto their wool, made myself sheep size and got safely escorted to my destination. Good thing to know. The sheep password, ‘Baa Ram Ewe’.
I participated in an art event in June up at Wolf Creek Pass. “Art for the Endangered Landscape: Honoring Wolf Creek”. I hiked. I photographed. I set up and painted. In the end I realized being ‘in’ the mountains I couldn’t ‘see’ the mountains. I couldn’t feel the vastness of the Great Divide. Feel what it took to labor over Wolf Creek Pass to get from the Front Range to the Western Slope. I wanted to step back and feel what it meant to look at a mountain range and then travel its passes. Up in the mountains I was having a true ‘I couldn’t see the forest for the trees moment’. Or rather, ‘I couldn’t see the mountains for the trees’. I drove back down the pass and looked back. This is what I wanted to paint. I could see the ‘big picture’. Life is like that. Sometimes we just need to step back and take the long view and everything feels right with the world again.
I painted my first longhorn because I find them beautiful. I painted these because I also find them inspiring. The longhorn today are descendants of domestic Iberian cattle that survived the ocean journey in the holds of Spanish ships in the 1500’s. They are one of the few species to have been domesticated twice. The feral animals that were lost or escaped returned to the wild, multiplied and moved north through Mexico and into Texas surviving in the harsh environment for nearly 300 years before we again intervened and nearly drove them to extinction. Their incredible ability to adapt and survive is a lesson. Their history is fascinating. The amazing horn length came about over their centuries in the wild since the cows most able to fight and defend their calves were the ones with the longer horns.
My favorite story is from Frank Dobie’s ‘The Longhorns’. I came across it while reading a bit of history on the Longhorn Alliance website. I’ve edited it to make it a bit more readable. The following episode occurred about 1850 on Noah Smithwick’s property near Bushy Creek in Texas.
“Two of the longhorned bulls took up with Smithwick’s cattle and became quite domesticated. About the same time, wolves began to prey upon the herd. When the milk cows and other gentle stock were attacked, they would try to get to the house. The longhorns, on the other hand, would form a ring around their calves and, presenting a line of horns, would fight the wolves off.”