Friday, July 29, 2011

Yellowstone Waterfalls

So many waterfalls in Yellowstone, so little time. But I'm picking away at them....
Undine Falls   6" x 6"  plein air   oil  by Shirl Ireland
Easy access - I painted from the overlook. I started out when it was just getting light and the moon was out. When I finished up, the sun had come up and the scene was completely different. Time to go. 
P.S. - The wildflowers are still going...


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eyes on the sky....

'Big Sky Country' they call it. And it really is. The skies here can be glorious. And, lately they have been. I've had my 'eyes on the sky'. Even last night - shooting stars were overhead.

So I've been focused on the sky for my plein air paintings in Yellowstone over the last couple days. From a painting instructor years ago I was told - "you don't paint clouds, you paint cloud like things". The gist - clouds move WAY too fast to actually paint one plein air. You go for the overall feel.

Each day had a very different 'feel' to the sky.  I hope that comes across in my paintings...

Madison River  6" x 6"  plein air  oil  by Shirl Ireland
The view from my easel over the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park.
Slough Creek Clouds 6" x 6"  plein air  oil  by Shirl Ireland
The view from my easel over Slough Creek in Yellowstone National Park.

A mule deer and fawn this morning in Yellowstone National Park
Sad news... We're down to one sandhill crane colt on Floating Island Lake. So far, I've heard no one knows the cause.
Floating Island Lake in Yellowstone National Park -
sandhill crane pair at nest, now with one colt.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Speaking of something you need to experience first hand...

Here's one to put on your list - Right now there are thousands of bison in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park for the start of the bison rut (breeding season). It's a VAST valley - hard to comprehend it all and definitely not something you can capture in a photo. Again, it's one of those things you must see (and hear!) first hand.

If you can make it to Yellowstone in the next couple weeks, your timing will be perfect. Rut is just getting started and it lasts about a month - with a couple weeks shoulder season on either side. These 'breeding congregations' are the largest herds you'll see together for the entire year. This is when cow-calf herds and bachelor bands unite.

Once breeding season is over, they will split up again into smaller herds. The older bulls will leave the summer range in search of a place to winter. And smaller groups will form of adult cows, their calves, and female yearlings, with some younger bulls mixed in, but few older than three years old.

Living at the edge of Yellowstone, we live with bison. In the winter and spring, many leave the Park in search of food and often wander into Gardiner and through our yard. How many people in the world can say that? We consider it to be an immense privilege to live among them. As artists, how can you not want to capture them in oils and bronze?

A new sculpture of John's depicts a bison herd guarding a calf from a grizzly.
Ancient Dance - Bronze  by John Stacy
side view
Ancient Dance - Bronze  by John Stacy
top view

This painting was inspired by a quick view of a mother with a brand new calf - as they walked by the gallery, their backlit images caught my eye....

6" x 6"  oil  by Shirl Ireland
part of Yellowstone Squared
To learn a few more facts about bison, click here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seeing is believing...

Midway Geyser Basin over the Firehole River  6" x 6"  oil  by Shirl Ireland
If you haven't been to Yellowstone, this probably looks like an abstract painting.

I first visited Yellowstone when I was 4 years old and was utterly fascinated by it all. I remember telling people, "if you haven't ever seen Yellowstone, you have to go - It's like the moon. A place like you've never imagined." You need to experience it all for yourself - first hand - to "get it". Personally, I can't get enough. Always different, always changing, always fascinating.

The magnitude is beyond pictures... and this painting is a good example. I think if you've been to Yellowstone you'd know this spot - where Midway Geyser Basin dumps into the Firehole River. But if you haven't been here, it probably looks a bit like an abstract painting. But it's for real - really.

I've been painting the Firehole River for the last couple mornings. It's been chilly in the Park, so the fog has been beautiful! This morning, I got behind a 'traffic jam' on the way to the Firehole.

back side of a bison herd

 Yesterday, I painted at the edge of the Firehole River too - just a very different spot... in the Firehole Canyon. It's a short loop off the main road - and WELL worth the detour.
Firehole Canyon   6" x 6"   oil   by Shirl Ireland

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Drawing with paint

I've always loved to draw, for as long as I can remember. That's why I enjoy painting architecture and 'interesting' still life objects so much. The drawing component becomes key.

Often, I've heard - "since I can't draw, maybe I should try painting". Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Drawing is a building block. If you can't draw, painting will be even more difficult. With painting, not only do you have to put the paint in the right place (the 'drawing' part), but you have to hit the right color while you're at it. Double complications.

So I look for any opportunities to hone my drawing skills. Today, at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center there sat an intriguing subject - for both drawing AND color mixing skills. How could I pass it up?

A slide projector from the 1920's.... for glass slides. There is even a similar version that is non-electric, I'm told. Very different technology from what we have today!

The glass slide is of Grand Prismatic Spring. Located in Midway Geyser Basin, it's Yellowstone National Parks largest hot spring. It measures approximately 370 ft. in diameter and is approximately 121 ft. deep. A 'must see' in the Park.

So I set about drawing and color mixing with NO black paint on my palette. All you have to do it put the right color in the right place....
Projector & Prismatic 10" x 16"  oil  by Shirl Ireland

the projector and slide from the archives of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It's a full moon

Did you expect anything else? A full moon in Yellowstone is a sight to behold...and to paint! And I knew exactly where I wanted to go to capture that fleeting moment of a summer full moon in Yellowstone. Where else, but Yellowstone Lake - at a calm bay where you could see the reflection in the still water.

July 15 was the night of the full moon - July 2011's only full moon, named "Full Thunder Moon".

Some moon rising and setting photos from the last couple days...

The current Yellowstone wildflower show...
Our Yellowstone Zoo...

Salmon flies have arrived! 
if you fish, that's BIG news...

To the fish, salmon flies are a rare treat, and there can be splash after splash of fish jumping for them. For an avid fisherman (or woman), fishing during a salmon fly hatch out is an almost magical time.

Many people might think that having thousands of large insects flying around the water would cause the fish to be so engorged that they will no longer bite a hook. However, fish are opportunistic feeders. Much of the year, getting an adequate meal is hard for the fish to do. When the salmon fly hatch out occurs, the fish will often eat far more than they ordinarily would if they could.

In part, this is because the main hatch out doesn't last very long, so the fish must take advantage of it while they can. How does this help the fisherman?

It helps by triggering a feeding instinct so powerful that often the fish will strike at almost anything that even comes close to looking like a salmon fly. Large trout have been observed swirling time and again after a floating twig that approximates the size and wing coloration of a salmon fly, during a hatch out.

So if you fish...come quick and enjoy!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wondrous Strange...

That's the title of a Wyeth family painting book I have. This morning had a similar feel - you'll know what I mean if you're familiar with N.C, Andrew and James Wyeth's work. Together, it does have a 'wondrous strange' feel - like this morning.

We'll start with the strange part first....So I'm driving into Yellowstone this morning before dawn and what do I see on the road about 5:15 am?? Mules - on their own, loose, wandering.... You don't often see THAT in Yellowstone!

Maybe it was the full moon?...

But as I continued, it became the wondrous part - Remember the sandhill crane nest I've been posting random photos of at Floating Island Lake? They hatched!! And 'boy are they cute'!
(The fog on the lake kept the surreal feel of the morning.)

The colts are here!...
(the correct name for sandhill crane young)
Sandhill Crane facts... The scientific name for Sandhill Cranes is Grus canadensis. Grus refers to the crane family and possibly to the guttural call that cranes make. Sandhill refers to the sandhills of Nebraska, the heart of prairie country and a fabulous area for migrating cranes. Their diet is diverse. It consists of small insects, amphibians, rodents, grain, seeds and roots. They feed while bending over and pecking at the ground.

Many of the adult cranes in Yellowstone appear to have a reddish-brown plumage. Just a cosmetic appearance, caused by the cranes spreading reddish (iron oxide) soil on their plumage when they're preening.

The chicks are known as colts in recognition of their well developed legs. They can leave the nest and run within a day of hatching.  Their first flight is about 10 weeks after hatching.

So after all that 'pre-dawn' excitement --
On to plein air painting on Dunraven Pass.... 

Cut Off Mountain from Dunraven Pass  6" x 6"  oil
part of Yellowstone Squared
by Shirl Ireland
The wildflowers were in bloom and the morning was calm and warm. 
A wondrous end after a strange start.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Blast From The Past

I've been 'blasting' a lot of photos lately. With digital photography - why not? Taking photography classes as part of my art curriculum in college was very different than photography today. Aperture, depth of field, dark rooms, etc. - all replaced by "auto-everything" digital photography.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the early cameras in the collection of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center. Here are 2 cameras from the 1890's. Technology has certainly changed in 120 years...

Early cameras - from the archive of the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center
12" x12"   oil   by Shirl Ireland

my painting subjects

I took some close-ups of the cameras from different angles - so you can see if you can figure out how they were used.... There's not even a place to put the rechargeable battery!...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How lucky I am...

My plan for painting this morning was to head into Yellowstone Lake. (A favorite spot -- I know, I have many of those!) So I was up and out early - well before 5 AM. I was looking forward to my dawn drive over Dunraven Pass - the light in the early morning or late evening can be beautiful up there.

Then, I drove by this...
Yes, Blacktail Ponds in Yellowstone National Park. It can grab me.

I love the mysterious quality of fog. And from experience, I know sunrise over Blacktail Ponds can be absolutely glorious. The fog would only add to the interesting color dimension of the scene. And between the fog shifting and the sun rising - there would be lots to challenge a plein air painter to capture such a fleeting 'moment in time'. How could I drive by?

So my best laid plans would have to wait - there was fog to paint!

For the other hours of my life, I usually 'stick with the plan'. But this is MY time - I can be spontaneous when I want to. And I wanted to this morning. So Yellowstone Lake will be another day.

I was setting up to start painting and was surprised by an elk in velvet trotting through. He seemed startled to see me standing there. I watched for a moment, and then he took off....with a stride that gave me a hint that wolves may be near.

Elk have a certain stance about them - head up, chest out, rhythmic trot - when they're showing wolves how 'formidable' they are. I scanned the distance, but in the low light I saw nothing. So back to my painting.

Shortly after, a pack of wolves on the hill beside me began to howl. The perfect sound to add to the aura of a foggy Blacktail scene. Standing in the middle of  this 'paradise', with the subtle color shifts, the close value ranges and the warm and cool transitions - I was thoroughly 'in the zone'.

Fog over Blacktail Ponds   6" x 6"  plein air  oil 
by Shirl Ireland
This morning, I thought about painting another canvas. I didn't want it to end. I was looking for a reason to just stand in that field at the edge of the water and take it all in - just a little bit longer. 

But everything must come to and end. So I packed up and headed home. When a favorite saying came to mind - "It's a beautiful little universe and we are fortunate to live here". It's nice to start the day being reminded of it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I love Montana!

Have I mentioned... I love Montana? I've found a new favorite spot - but I'm very fickle with that. Every new spot becomes my 'favorite of the moment'.

We live surrounded by glorious landscapes - it's hard to choose! On one side of us is Yellowstone National Park, the other side is Gallatin National Forest. There's a lot of ground to cover in our hiking boots! Now, we have one more trail under our belt...

It was an absolutely gorgeous hike - one of those perfect evenings. I couldn't count how many times my son said "I love this place". I'd have to agree.
Our destination was the OTO Ranch in the Gallatin National Forest - the first dude ranch in Montana. It's listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The main lodge was completed in 1917.
There are many other cabins and outbuildings on the property. Here are just a few...
It was a beautiful sunset on the way out - which made for a great end to a wonderful hike.
Ahhh, Montana.....