So much going on here at Twin Spruce! Along with buttoning up the cabin and putting the garden to bed for the winter, the new studio is coming along nicely and I have been painting like crazy. We are headed down to Northern California to visit with family for the holidays, but when I get back I will update with photos of studio progress and several more new paintings. For now…
Have a whale of a good time this holiday season! And I will see you in the new year!
Although my paintings are inspired by what I see around me, usually nature-inspired, sometimes the subject matter for my paintings is not specifically Alaska-related. This is an example of a piece with a more universal theme.
This painting, titled Atmosphere, is a mixed media piece on a cradled wood panel. Lady Atmosphere is draped with clouds. The draping is actual fabric (coated in a clear acrylic varnish for protection) and highly textural. There are collage elements as well. Each of the spheres represent certain parts of our atmosphere: carbon (black), water molecules (blue), nitrogen (yellow), and sunshine (gold). You cant really tell from the photo (which is a little dark) but the sphere being held in Lady Atmosphere’s hand is shiny metallic gold.
Of course, you can feel free to interpret it any way you wish. That is one of the wonderful things about art. It speaks to each of us in a different way, according to our own senses and experiences.
I have the atmosphere on my mind lately because of all of the smoke from the many wildfires in Alaska right now, some of which are too close for comfort, though not close enough for our immediate concern. I’m hoping Lady Atmosphere will see fit to shed some rain upon us pretty soon. We sure could use it.
Atmosphere is 11×14, mixed media collage on cradled wood panel, and is available for sale for $300. Inquire via email at email@example.com
Thought I’d share my latest work. This one is titled Raven Sings the Salmon Home.
Ravens are such fascinating birds. They are highly intelligent, with complex behaviors and social structures and I love watching them go about their busy lives. But when I was painting this picture I had in my mind not these real-life stories of ravens, but all of the various myths and legends surrounding ravens. There are so many from varied cultures worldwide, but I was mostly thinking of the Native American and Alaska Native versions–Raven as trickster, as creator, as bringer of fire among other things. And I thought, if I were to give Raven credit for something, my own little myth, I’d give him credit for starting the annual salmon migration by calling the fish from the sea back home to their natal streams to mate, die, and begin their life cycle anew. Such a vital task for this iconic bird. So I set about painting a picture to illustrate this “myth”. This painting is the result.
Raven Sings the Salmon Home is available for sale in the gallery. Prints will be available as soon as I can get it properly photographed.
This painting was inspired by all of the tiny fishing villages in coastal Alaska, with their homes all crowded along the narrow shoreline, tucked in between the mountains and the sea, sometimes spilling over into the bays, perched up on stilts. They are lovely to see as you pass them by when sailing along the inside passage or other narrow byways on the Alaska Marine Highway system. For some of these remote villages, the ferry is their main connection to the rest of the state, otherwise isolated except by float plane. I always wonder as I pass them by, who lives here? What are their lives like? What are their stories? And though I have visited some of them, there are so many I know I will never get the chance to experience. It is amazing to me that in a country so crowded, so connected, so busy, that there are still places like these. It certainly is a very different life than that of most Americans, or even most Alaskans. And yet here they sit. Mile after hundreds of miles of them, dotted along the edges of Alaska.
Painting is available for purchase. See details in the Gallery.
One common question visitors or newcomers to Alaska often ask, when spotting marine mammals in coastal waters, is “Is that a seal or a sea lion?”
To answer that, I will describe them both for you and then give you some tips to tell the difference.
These are harbor seals, which are the seals you will most commonly see in the parts of Alaska most folks visit. They are grey-brown and speckled, with large eyes, and tend to hang out alone. You will most likely spot them just sort of hanging out in the water, peeking above the waterline, or moving quietly around, disappearing and re-appearing here and there. They are distinct from Sea Lions in that they have no ear flaps. If you see one out of the water (rare-they spend the majority of their time afloat) they move awkwardly, scooting and flopping along on their bellies because of their short front flippers and their hind flippers that point straight behind. For this reason they avoid going ashore and prefer to stay in the water where they can swim quite gracefully. Harbor seals average around 300 lbs at adulthood, with males slightly larger than females.
Next, Sea Lions:
This is a female Steller Sea Lion (or lioness). Steller sea lions are golden brown in color, with darker brown points (extremities), and can often be seen actively swimming in the large, mixed age and sex social groups in which they live. They have long front flippers they use to propel themselves through the water and small ear flaps. Unlike seals, sea lions can often be spotted hauled out on rocky shorelines, docks, or navigational buoys. They move on land by rotating their hind flippers forward so that they scoot on all fours and can move fairly quickly on land. They can also be quite loud and rowdy, with males reaching up to 1200 pounds and growling or roaring their opinions to the much smaller (around 500 lbs) but equally vocal females.
In my paintings, I have tried to convey the very different impressions one gets of these two often confused marine mammals. I’ve painted calm, soothing icy water gently surrounding the floating seals, and a sea lioness actively hunting as she dives in pursuit of her prey, while turbulent water swirls around her.
I hope this helps you to spot the differences and be able to identify two of Alaska’s beautiful and charismatic marine mammals.
Both paintings are available for purchase. Details in the Gallery.
I just added three new paintings to the Gallery. These are a continuation of the Living Tundra series that began with this larger (16×20) piece:
The three new additions are a series of smaller (8×10) portraits of individual caribou across the seasons:
Caribou never fail to inspire me and I’ve enjoyed painting these three guys with their varied settings. All three are lightly textured and painted on heavy 1.5 inch profile gallery wrapped canvas and are now up for sale in the gallery. I hope you enjoy them.
Happy thaw, everyone! I know it’s officially been spring for a while now, but in my part of Alaska we are just now getting rid of our last bits of sloppy wet snow. Further north, it will take a bit longer still, though with much warmer than usual temperatures throughout Alaska this year things are thawing much earlier than usual.
So, in honor of spring, I painted a picture, of course!
The photo shows it a little dark, but the painting is actually quite bright and cheerful, much like my attitude when spring finally rolls around. I cant wait to start digging in the garden again! I have a bed of native wildflowers that should start showing themselves soon, and its almost time to get Kale, Broccoli and Pak Choy in the ground. Plus, I will be starting seeds of more tender plants in the high tunnel . Fresh basil, here we come!
Of course spring in Alaska means several more exciting things:
The return of the humpback whales following the huge schools of herring as they spawn along the coast The best place to see them in my humble opinion is beautiful Sitka, where you don’t even have to go out in a boat to see them up close and personal. Just stand on the shore and listen to them blow and call as they pass by, and wait for the dramatic moment they all dive deep and then rise as a group and scoop up tons of herring caught up in their clever bubble nets.
Brown bears and black are coming out of hibernation (many mamas with cubs in tow) anxious to fill up on the fresh greens popping up in sunny sites and whatever tasty morsels they can scrounge up along the coastline.
Of course that’s just the prelude to the big feast coming up!
Boats are coming out of their own hibernation as fishermen get them primed and ready for “the season”.
Soon they will be lining the harbors all over Alaska waiting for the first early salmon openings and halibut charters.
Its breakup season here in Alaska, but no need to cry! The tripod at the Nenana Ice Classic on the Tanana topples as the river ice breaks up and someone wins a lot of money. (The breakup happened earlier than ever in the 102 history of the event with the tripod toppling on April 14 this year)
How about you? What has spring got you excited about? Tell me all about it in the comments!