Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lost in Montana

Well not really - but it does seem to be a good theme for this post...

 I just got back from wandering, and painting, the back roads of Montana.  I had a great 'back roads guide' - a good friend and fellow painter. So luckily we weren't ever completely lost. Just poking around in Montana on our way to Cody WY.

A photo I took along the way...
We hit the road for some painting - along with delivering paintings. Both my artist friend and her husband are represented at the Simpson Gallagher Gallery in Cody WY.

It's a great gallery run by fantastic people. Definitely a gallery you need to know about.....follow the link to see more.... Simpson Gallagher Gallery . The Gallery is opening tomorrow, May 1st, for the summer season - with a lot of new paintings. And they have some good ones...particularly the ones we dropped off!

When I returned, the Montana Office of Tourism was coming to our Gallery for a visit. Their slogan is "Get lost in Montana", as you can see from their vehicle here in front of our Gallery today.....

They were here to promote Montana and did some facebook and twitter posts of the Gallery in real time, right during their visit.

So lost in Montana seemed like a fitting title for my adventures from the last several days.
Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our property -

Osprey are common these days around here. Some recent shots out our windows...


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Our latest chandelier

 A very unique project - This one was particularly creative....

The clients had seen another chandelier we had created using antiques and liked the concept for their living room. But of course it needed to fit their unique needs and style of the space. They had a color scheme it needed to fit in, it needed to be sized for the space and they wanted antiques but "not too rustic".

Particularly with lighting....Form follows function. So we had a lot to bring together... A challenge we enjoy!

The brainstorming began - along with the searching for the perfect antiques to fit the bill.

The inspiration for the design started with antique wooden sleds.... We liked the shape they created when we masses 4 together. For this clients space, they were wanting to 'soften' the hard lines of the room. We were looking to add some slight curves within the piece and the sleds were a good take off point.

We presented the idea to the clients with some rough sketches of our thoughts and they loved it. So we were off and running....

The process is a bit 'sculptural' from here. And finding just the right antiques is a challenge. But we did! We incorporated some antique skis, horse harnesses, an antique wheel and drain along with some antique pulleys.

It softened the space and adding a lot of intrigue. Definitely a statement piece!

The clients were thrilled with the final results. And they said we could quote them...

"It's even better than we could have ever imagined it could be."

The chandelier installed
View from below
Detail -
an antique pulley hung from a ski tip that suspends the pendant

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Is this cheating?

The road to Old Faithful just opened this weekend, so I took my paints (and my son) and headed in.

We caught Old Faithful erupting...

We had the place pretty much to ourselves, except for this fellow spectator...
The light wasn't great in the Upper Geyser Basin, so we decided to head back and find a good painting spot along the way.

We saw a lot of wildlife - including a brand new bison calf!...

A sandhill crane pair...
Pronghorn herd....

A swan on the Firehole River...

And many ravens along the way....
When we got to Willow Flats the colors caught my eye, but now it was snowing sideways. The snow doesn't bother me, but the wind can make it just about impossible to paint in.

Sooooo...   I painted from the shelter of my car. That's my pochade box against the steering wheel. I stayed toasty warm and the wind didn't bother me a bit!

My finished study of Willow Flats - against the steering wheel!...

Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our property -
Before we left for Old Faithful we had an otter here on the river shore. Always fun to watch.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

For the third year running...

Spring Loaded  - Cougar and rabbit in bronze  by John Stacy

Gaze - mule deer  oil  by Shirl Ireland

Both John and I were invited to participate in the Clymer Museum's Auction & Celebration on it's inception in 2011. This year will be their 3rd Annual...and our third year participating. These are the pieces that we just shipped to be included in their event this year in Ellensburg Washington.

To learn more about the event and the Clymer Museum, click here.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our property -

LOTS of bird action today....Spring has arrived in Yellowstone. It's hard to get any painting done around here!

A great blue heron stopped by...

And an osprey was fishing this stretch of the Yellowstone River....



And out with a fish!

Dining in the tree

Now, I've GOT to get this camera out of my hand and pick up my paint brush!
-- But I'll keep it nearby, just in case :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wildlife mecca

Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our property -

I was thinking of calling it "Lazy Woman's Photography" today, since I took most of these photos from the comfort of my 'arm chair' this morning - (all within about an hour or so!) - right out the window....

common merganser taking off from the Yellowstone River

Bison with a dusting of snow

Mule deer

Canadian Geese squabbling over territory

mule deer close up

elk swimming across the Yellowstone River

even a "Yellowstone" robin

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Daily painting studies

Like scales to a musician, daily painting studies can be a great practice where you'll see BIG results.

I touched on the idea of "trying to paint everyday" in my last post and wanted to explain the concept a little further....

No, I'm not talking about walking into the studio and working on a large piece everyday...Yes, that helps too, of course.

But what I'm getting at here are small studies from life...they don't need to be any bigger than 6"x8". If you're a painter looking to improve your work, you may want to try it.  Make yourself 'whip out' one from life everyday. Sometimes it helps when the pressure it on!

Keep them small and don't get TOO concerned about the subject matter. Just make it happen. Think composition with what you have to work with. FIND a painting. They could be everywhere if you really LOOK.

Plan to sacrifice some canvas - remember this is for LEARNING. They certainly won't all deserve a frame. Pay attention to what you're learning from the process. When you look up, you might notice you've made some leaps and bounds!
Yesterday I had on the "chauffeur mom" hat and found myself with an hour to spare on a gray day....

Horse Trailer study  by Shirl Ireland
5" x 7"  Oil
No, not my 'normal' subject matter - but anything can be an option. Anything that catches your eye when the available moment strikes.

Don't be too choosy. It's better to 'just try it' than to reason yourself out of it! You may be amazed at how quickly you can get into the painting and enjoy the process. Even if it's not your first choice on subject matter. There's always something to learn by covering that canvas - drawing skills, color relationships, tonal scale, etc. etc.

by Shirl Ireland
by Shirl Ireland
 Like rusty buckets and silverware - ANYTHING can be painted. Remember, if you're an artist - BE CREATIVE.

Get your portable painting gear packed and stocked so it's ready at a moments notice - loosen up and get started!

Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our windows -
Today it was a busy morning at the Zoo...
We live where the deer and the antelope roam...and the bison and elk too!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Time Management for Artist Mothers

In my March art class, the question was raised…How do I fit art in with motherhood, along with everything else we have going here?

Good question.  With this being Spring Break week at our school, I’m reminded how creative I need to be with my time management as a ‘work at home’ artist mother.

A post on the subject seemed warranted, since others are also pondering this one as well.

There was a time when I had 2 very small children, that I wondered how it was all possible, too. That’s when the original shock of how much time kids take really kicked in. There wasn’t enough time in the day anymore. Through my sleep deprived stupor, I pondered the question over and over.

I definitely knew that sleep as I had known it was gone. I needed to ‘find more time’ and sleep certainly seemed to be one area where I could pull from! My motto became sleep is for sissies”.
I found that I needed to keep a good attitude about it (attitude is everything, right?!) and I could survive on less sleep than I ever imagined. There was a purpose to my madness and I kept that in mind. I wanted it ALL – to be a ‘good mom’ AND to be an artist. What’s a little less sleep to have it ALL??

I decided that as an artist, I was a creative person, so I would get ‘creative’ with how to fit it all in.  I did – and still do. I keep my art supply 'stash' in the car for those opportune moments. I don't think of my work day as an 8 hour block anymore. There are stops and starts throughout it all - it's a full 24 hour block that I pull from. Balance is key.  

An example – My daughter takes horse riding lessons…I drive her there… with my plein air set up ready to go. She goes riding and I get my paints out as quick as I can and get busy. Perfect amount of time for a small study of horses, scenery, shadows, whatever is in front of me.

The main thought I keep in the forefront of my mind…Am I spending my time on the right things? This one takes flexibility and continual adjustments to be sure I’m always headed in the right direction. But overall, I try to be sure I spend my time in the direction I want my life to go.

So I pare down and cut out where the ‘fat is’. No, I don’t watch TV at all and shopping is not my chosen past time. A professional manicure or pedicure?  Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha,ha……. don't miss em'.

Here’s my Spring Break example: It’s hard to concentrate and paint with kids under your feet wanting your attention. At least, that’s true for me. But during Spring Break, I don’t have a moment ‘sans kids’.
Since I’m trying to paint everyday to keep up my ‘brush mileage’ – what’s a “work at home’ mom to do with kids here all week on Spring Break?

Here’s where creativity plays a part…

Well, my kids LOVE being around water and will be mesmerized at the shoreline with rocks and sticks and sand.

Right!... Use this week to paint water studies!!

One of my water studies this week - at the edge of the Lamar River.

(And get up EARLY to write blogs!)

And I couldn’t live without my ‘day planner’. I have a list and schedule for absolutely everything. Keeping it all organized in one place, makes our lives run smoother and helps to make sure I fit it all in. I schedule in painting time, bills, game night with kids, etc. Everything. Yes, I’ve even been known to have "shower" on my schedule during those particularly lean times of time deprivation.

And I always try to remember…Time is the most precious gift. I DO NOT want to waste it. I want to take FULL advantage of the time I’ve been given. To me, that means spending it wisely, doing the things I want to do in this lifetime….BOTH enjoying my kids and working at my art.
Time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think.
 -Randy Pausch