Thursday, January 30, 2014

One of my absolute favorites...

Anders Zorn is one of my favorite painters – ever. So when a major retrospective exhibit of his work featuring 100 rarely seen pieces was showing at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, I knew I had to go.

We just returned – and it was absolutely amazing! Jaw dropping would be a good adjective here.
Anders Zorn (1860-1920) was a Swedish painter known for his watercolors and oils, etchings and some sculpture too. About 100 years ago, he was one of the most famous artists in the world, rivaling John Singer Sargent.

(As a member of the California Art Club, I receive the newsletter and this fall there was a wonderful article on Anders Zorn. If you'd like to learn a lot more than I can fit in this post... Click here to read the article. )

He was accepted into the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm at the age of 15. A fellow art student (and also a painter I regard highly) Bruno Liljefors was quoted as saying…

When I was nineteen years old, I came to the Stockholm Art Academy. In the middle of a new world among a host of young artists…I perpetually heard the name Zorn mentioned, and it was enveloped in an aura of wonder and admiration…If anyone asked what it was that caught us in the work, whether it was a trick of coloring, something original or modern, we could only answer: “It is so damned good.”
Seeing such a large body of Zorn's work in person – I would have to agree. An absolutely amazing artist!

Photography was not allowed, but I found some references to some of my favorite paintings in the show that I’ll set up as links below. It should give you a feel for his work…
Impressions de Londres 1890 - watercolor - gorgeous greys, love the composition
Fish Market in Saint Ives, 1888 - watercolor - an incredible painting, again with gorgeous greys
Emma Zorn Reading, 1887 - oil - one of his early oil paintings (he worked in watercolor first)
Margit, 1891 - oil - he can say so much with so little detail
Self-portrait in Red, 1915 - oil - what a strong painting that gives you a feel for the man  himself
Oh, and to add to the wonderment of his work... he was known for using a limited palette... for most of his painting he used only ochre, vermillion, ivory black and white. WOW.
The Legion of Honor also has a wonderful permanent collection with some great sculpture by Rodin...
The Thinker - is right out front.... 

This was one of my favorites inside by Rodin....
We visited the Cantor Art Center on the Stanford campus for even more Rodin....
The Gates of Hell by Rodin -
Detail of the Gates of Hell 
- notice the smaller version of The Thinker near the top in the center - 

The weather couldn't have been any better, so we did some hiking too - and I had my camera along to try some 'artistic shots'...
On the beach -
 In the Redwoods -
It was a fabulous trip - short but sweet! If you want to make the Zorn show, you'll have to hurry - it's ending February 2, 2014. But the book from the Show could be the next best thing....
Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our property -
Eagles have been the visitors of the day - around all morning flying back and forth down the river.
One caught a fish and ate it...

 With a drink afterwards to wash it down...
And by a lucky coincidence I sketched an eagle yesterday -
so we can end the post with art...
Eagle sketch in graphite and charcoal  24" x 16"
by Shirl Ireland


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Winter Wonderland

Most people have never seen the beauty of a Yellowstone winter. And maybe I should keep it quiet, since a big part of the magical quality is experiencing the solitude of the season in Yellowstone. But here we go...
This weekend, we cross country skied one of the more popular ski trails in Yellowstone (that’s relative!) to Tower Falls. - You'll see the crowds in the photos below :) -
An easily accessible trail with a FABULOUS destination...with options to take it further. So it can work for both beginning to advanced skiers. And when conditions are this great, who couldn't have a wonderful ski outing?


John skiing in front of me on the Tower Falls trail.

A snowy view with Cutoff Mountain in the distance.

The views in this area of the ski trail are incredible - near Tower Falls.
(That's the ski trail beyond. In the summer, it's the road.)
We just went for a quick ski - but you can certainly turn it into a long one from here...with more incredible scenery to be had.
By far – we saw many more animals than people….  Pretty typical of Yellowstone and Gardiner in the winter.
Lots of bison...
We followed a bison herd in our car for a bit, too.
 (Glad we were in our car and not on skis here!)
Big horn sheep in the snow near Tower Falls.
More big horn sheep grazing - a couple big rams are in this photo.
(The photo was taken close to Gardiner.)
And speaking of big horn sheep -
At the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center, there is an amazing big horn sheep skull. (I painted it several years ago.) I thought it would make a great pencil drawing....
 I finished the drawing today - I think. (I’ll let it sit and then see if I consider it ‘done'.) The curve and texture of the horns were really a lot of fun to draw!
Big Horn Sheep skull in pencil 22" x 28" by Shirl Ireland
(I made the drawing about life size.)
This is the skull at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center.
(The photo is at a slight different angle than I did the drawing from, but you can see those interesting horns.) 
Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our property -

Pronghorn antelope - another interesting creature with horns in Yellowstone.

Pronghorn antelope as seen from our windows yesterday.
A small herd of pronghorn wandering by...
We're lucky enough, to not only have amazing wildlife wandering by, but we get to watch the sunrise on Electric Peak (one of the highest peaks in Yellowstone National Park) - right from our windows...
When the moon is setting, on a clear morning, as the sun comes up...WOW....

The colors in there are amazing!

Winter Wonderland seems to be a fitting title.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Art at the front door

It’s a bit before 4 AM as I begin to write. You’re now in on one of my ‘tricks’ for fitting it all in to a very full life as an artist entrepreneur with young children. The night shift can be an important time for some tasks. It’s quiet with no interruptions – something that’s hard to come by when your business is on the same property that you live on.
But what a treat tonight – the full moon reflecting off the Yellowstone River outside is absolutely gorgeous. Wish I could add a photo of what I see out my window, but a photo could never do it justice. Some things are meant to experience in person.
Tonight, it's the smallest full moon of the year - "the mini moon"....12.2% smaller than the largest of the year that will occur on August 10.
And with it's name derived from Native American tradition - "Full Wolf Moon" - it's the perfect night to preview John's latest piece....
A wolf sconce - a commissioned piece by a client to be installed beside their front entry. There’s something I will always appreciate about functional art – so nice to incorporate art into our lives. To see beauty at your front door everyday. I really like that concept.


John’s working in clay here, but the final piece will be bronze. He's still working out some of the final details, but here the piece is getting close to completion.

At this stage, you do have to have ‘the vision’. Some areas at the top will be cut out later and he’ll make translucent panels – probably out of mica –  giving the piece a lighter feeling than you see here in clay. There will be some other slight adjustments and details added yet too. (Luckily, we’ve done this before…a few times!... that experience helps with ‘the vision’.)

Our Yellowstone Zoo    
- photos from our windows -

The beaver have become regular visitors to our property this year.  So I’ve had lots of opportunities for photos….


And our first sighting of the year of bison out our windows - that's always exciting!

Now, off to my next task on my list - web update - while it’s still quiet around here…..

Friday, January 3, 2014

Living the Dream in 2014

As I sit here at my desk going through a stack of bills and mail that have accumulated for a week or so, I opened an advertisement for an art magazine subscription...
The title was “Living the Dream of an Artist’s Life” with a bucolic scene depicted on the cover.

I guess I don’t need that subscription, because I already am – in all it’s glory. But the reminder that it truly is a dream, I certainly appreciate.

You see the stack of mail accumulated because I and both my kids have been ‘under the weather’ – FAR under the weather. The Holiday germs hit hard here and we are still trying to recover. At times, especially with the pace over the Holidays, the life of an entrepreneur  artist mother with 2 young children can be dizzying. I have a schedule - and sickness can really get in the way.

Oh, and did I mention that the kids have been out of school since mid-December? Yes, family time is good, but working at home with kids is particularly challenging.  And my ‘vacation time’ (what is that, right?) does not coincide with the school schedule. So I have to be VERY creative and a bit of an insomniac to get all my work done. (Probably how these germs took hold in the first place!)

Anyway, as a thinker and a planner, I like to take time out at the start of the year and re-group. Reflect on what worked over the past year and plan for new ventures in the new year. Take a temperature check on the kids to be sure we’re all headed in the right direction, let out a big sigh and move forward. But the beginning of this year has been moving a lot slower, since I’m REALLY taking temperature checks!

But my recovery time has given me a good while to stew about the upcoming year. No, we don’t count how many paychecks are headed our way in 2014 and plan our budget accordingly. Self – employed means you look to the horizon of a new year,  determine a route, make your best plan, cross your fingers… and jump!
So this time of year has an added air of anticipation, hope and of course that quiet underlying sense of panic that we have grown to love after so many years of free fall artistic self-employment.

Somehow, we do manage to be part of a very small percentage of self-employed artist couples - with kids yet! even a smaller percentage – who are doing okay. Phew.

Good to be reminded I am “living the dream".
With gratitude….Happy 2014…Shirl
 When I’m old and dying, I plan to look back on my life and say
“Wow, that was an adventure,” not “Wow, I sure felt safe.”        
- Tom Preston-Werner
Our Yellowstone Zoo
- photos from our windows -

Luckily, while I was “livin’ the dream on the couch” I had my camera close by for shots out the window – barely even had to lift my head off the pillow…. I know, it REALLY IS like living the dream here….
Our first visitors of the New Year were beaver!

 New Year's morning as the sun came up we watched 3 beaver munching away at the edge of the Yellowstone River. I'm taking that as a sign and getting ready - it's going to be a busy year!

Eagles have been frequent visitors lately, but these are some of my best shots of late....

Wax wing flocks - always a beautiful sighting to behold.
This is a very small section of a large flock,
but I liked the composition with the one bird in flight.


 Once I get this stack of mail conquered, I’ll post the photos of John’s new sculpture. After all, with the rest of the family down and out, he had some time to sculpt in peace over the Holidays. I’ll post his latest soon.