Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Into Lamar - A New Studio Painting

Into Lamar by Shirl Ireland 24" x 24" Oil

Lamar Valley is one of my favorite spots in Yellowstone National Park. It was the inspiration for this studio painting. One autumn day, when I went out specifically to plein air paint in that area, the Valley was particularly ‘socked in’. NOT what I had in my mind to paint. But that’s something plein air painting teaches you – flexibility. So I set up my easel and started really looking at the scene. The autumn colors had been transformed. What a calm, quiet, mysterious feeling the fog had created as it settled onto the landscape. No towering mountains, bright fall colors or blue sky to be seen. But then again, I’m not necessarily a ‘blue sky’ painter. I enjoy being out there in the messiness and capturing the subtle colors I find so beautiful on days like this. So I thoroughly enjoyed my day. I wanted to develop the study into a studio painting, playing on the shape of the Lamar River that I find so appealing, winding through the Valley. The feeling of the painting echoed the feeling I have of the elk during their autumn rut – mysterious, primeval. It seemed appropriate to intertwine the river bend with the curving shape of the elk being herded along, into the fog.

Summer ends and autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have a high tide always and a full moon every night.
Hal Borland ‘Sundial of the Seasons’

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fresh off the easel - a new studio painting

Dawn Of A New Day by Shirl Ireland 30"x60" Oil

This is a painting that has taken a long time to complete. The story follows.....

The wolf pups were a spectacle, playing along with their mother in Otter Creek and drawing a crowd. I took my paints and arrived before dawn. The first morning light created great colors and shapes—just what attracts me to a scene. So I had high hopes for the study and put it in my ‘mental percolator’ to someday become a large studio painting of a wolf family. Then, on my last fall painting excursion to Fishing Bridge for the season, I saw her again. The alpha female of the Hayden Pack (mother of the pups playing at Otter Creek in the summer). But this time, she was laying by the road, I could see some blood on her fur. Her demeanor told me something was terribly wrong. She was close to the road… had she been hit by a car? Although, she was lying down, her head was up. She caught my gaze. I stopped for a moment. But I had the feeling I shouldn't be there. I couldn't help and it was not my place. I could do nothing but allow her peace. I went on, not wanting to disturb her—but wondering, my thoughts with her.

As I set up to paint at Fishing Bridge, a snow storm hit. I painted furiously as snow piled up on the easel. On my return trip home, she was gone. So still I wondered. Later, I heard she died that day. The Hayden Pack, as we knew it, was no longer. Only 3 pups remained after an attack from a neighboring rival pack. The pups had dispersed, leaving many to wonder if they would survive.

And survive they did. I heard many accounts of them being spotted looking quite healthy and large for pups of that age. So the painting evolved as well. Now I felt it would be symbolic to have 3 of the pups wondering away from the family group. And I knew I wanted to have the alpha female facing the viewer, reminiscent of her gaze on her last day here.

Finally, the studio painting is completed. It seems appropriate timing - February is mating season for wolves. So we've all come full circle and now it's time to look ahead to a new beginning.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

View from the gallery of sunrise on Electric Peak in Yellowstone National Park.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Friends are good! We especially need ones that are a bad influence on us. You see, we have a tendency to work a lot - and forget that time away from the studio is needed every now and then. Friends help to lure us out. The carrot they put in front of our nose yesterday... how about taking the snow coach into Yellowstone to Indian Creek and ski the trails. It was a beautiful day. There's a warming hut and some groomed trails, so it's quite 'cushy' back country skiing. How could we say no? BUT, since I know that area and like it a lot for painting - I also brought my painting gear. So I got to ski AND paint a quick sketch. A good day was had by all. I highly recommend the trip. And with the warming hut, even if the weather is bad, it can be a great day out.
Our 'postcard' from the day......

Warming Hut 8"x10" plein air oil on linen panel

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The official news on #6 - He was 15+ years old, when he died of a freak accident. He tripped over a fence and wedged himself into some rocks and suffocated. He didn't look as big as he had the past couple years, but still weighed 725 pounds. (Normal life span is between 13 and 18 years.) There was an "Ode to Number 6" in our Gardiner newsletter. They said it well -
He was feared and admired,
Loved and awed,
But most of all,
He was a legend in his own time.
A King of ungulates.
And he will be missed by all...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sad news... Number 6 died. To people in Yellowstone / Gardiner, that's all you need to say. Number 6 was a famous bull elk around these parts. You could pick him out a mile away, just from his sheer size. He was massive. His antlers were amazing. During rut in the fall, he could get 'irritable'. There are many stories about his antics in Mammoth. He 'wintered' in Gardiner, so we saw him often this time of year. I remember watching him through our kitchen window! Many would speculate on where and when he'd drop his antlers. Last year, it was in a Gardiner residents yard. And he dropped both at the same time. That was a lucky find!

A Painting Class participant spread the news last night in class. He actually died in her yard the previous evening. Another class participant said she had seen him earlier in the day walking down the road and he wasn't looking well. Tests are being done to learn the cause of death. I'll post it when I hear.

When we first moved here, the person we bought this property from said - in Gardiner we don't talk about our neighbors, we talk about elk #6, wolf #402, etc. etc. It's true. The death of #6 is sad news in our little town.

Monday, February 9, 2009

To Old Faithful By Snowcoach

What a wonderful weekend - and I'm not just talking about the weather. We went into Old Faithful via snowcoach. I painted the sunrise on Old Faithful erupting. My early bird tendencies were rewarded by getting the place to ourselves! The frost and fog around the geyser area was gorgeous - making the whole scene surreal. Later in the day, as the temperatures warmed up, the skiing wasn't bad either. What could be better??

Plein air painting at dawn as Old Faithful erupts. A private showing....
Quite a different scene from the summer crowds!

A close up of my painting in progress (and my 'well-traveled' and 'well-used' box).

The bridge over the Firehole River - into another world!
Giant Geyser - aptly named.

Sunset over Antler Peak, taken from the snowcoach on our way home.
The end of a great weekend.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The elk are back.... As winter settles into the higher elevations, the wildlife begin their descent to milder areas - like here in the town of Gardiner. This morning we had a few photographers in front of our place taking pictures of 3 bull elk sparing. (One was missing an antler. Maybe a little TOO much sparing!) On the other side of our property, across the Yellowstone River, there's a herd of about 20 elk grazing and resting right now. It's definitely an interesting feeling. Here we live AMONG the wildlife - We are not separate from them. It's a very unique town, where elk, bison and deer roam about. Even big horn sheep and bears pass through. In the winter, not a day goes by that we don't see wildlife either on our property or out the windows. Wildlife references abound!! For wildlife artists, this is heaven.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Charissa, a painter taking my Monday night painting class, fellow Gardiner business owner, Yellowstone Park Oral Historian and very busy Mom managed to find the time to do a nice write up on us! Check out the link -
AND if you're planning a trip to Gardiner, check out their great B&B too. It would be a wonderful spot to stay while you're in the area.