Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’

Painting a day 2016-Day 13 Mulie Study #2

March 19, 2016

5″x7″ oil on canvas



“I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path and I will leave a trail.”Muriel Strode


Painting a day 2016-Day 12-Sunlight and Sage-study

March 15, 2016
Day 12 painting a day

Sunlight and Sage study 7″x5″

I decided to continue working with the mule deer reference photos because; a.)I have so much of it and haven’t really painted much from it yet, and b.)the doe paintings seem to be really flowing.  It is good to be challenged but it is also good to have a balance between the process and progress and feel like you come out on top once in awhile.

While camping, we usually leave camp before daylight so that we can be out and about right at daybreak.  There are two huge reasons for that, the light is great at that time and that’s when the wildlife really get to moving.  Plus, the crowds and traffic are low at that time–so, there you go, there are three reasons!  That saying, “the early bird gets the worm”….very true.  When camping and hiking at a well visited park like Rocky, the best shots are those that take you away from the crowds.  Those that take you off of the beaten path and out of the tent and on the trail bright and early.  Sometimes it is those unexpected shots that you’re just blessed with being at the right place at the right time.  Sometimes it’s when weather is moving in and everyone else gets out of the rain, mist, wind or snow but you stick it out just a little bit longer.  And then sometimes it happens when you just set up in the woods, sit quietly, wait and watch.

This little painting was based on some reference material gathered in a big stand of pine that was beautifully lit by warm, filtered light.  We weren’t sure where we were headed that morning and just decided to head towards the Bear Lake area and stop when we’d decided the light was right and where wildlife movement seemed promising.  As we were headed down the road, I spotted a couple of does and several little ones moving through the forest, just off the road.  We pulled up to the next vehicle pull off and parked.  We decided to hike back down the mountain a bit, down into the pines on the opposite side of the road, find a quiet, spot on some boulders with tree trunks somewhat breaking up our silhouettes and just wait.  We figured if we just waited patiently–we might get some good shots once they crossed the road and moved into the sunlit gaps within the forest–and if not, hey, it was a beautiful morning, the air was just warming up, and the smell of pine and fresh air was strong–it just didn’t get any better than this.

Well, that’s what we thought….  Except that the icing on the cake was that our gamble paid off and I snapped several beautifully lit shots of the does and little ones as they browsed on the grasses and shrubs growing in the openings.  We sat there and just watched them wander about, until they finally moved on through the valley.  We got up and quietly walked back to the road, moving on, in search of our next peaceful moment.

Painting a day 2016-Day 11-Mulie Study 1

March 14, 2016

Mulie+Study+1For today’s painting, I started out with the intent of painting a mulie buck that we’d spotted, lying in the tall grass while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I was excited about the subject and have thought about eventually doing a larger painting of it, so, now’s the time to do a little study and practice, right?  Right.  Well, no matter what I did, the painting was just not coming along.  I wiped parts of it out twice and finally wiped the whole canvas down and decided to move on to another subject.  This doe, on the other hand, almost painted herself.

So, today was a lesson in knowing when to persevere and when to save that subject for another day–it’s all learning!

“Every struggle arises for a reason for experience or a lesson. A great journey is never easy, and no dose of adversity along the way is ever a waste of time if you learn and grow from it.”  ~M. Lim



For the love of the “fight”

June 4, 2015

“Rain, falling snow, wind…all of these things to contend with only make the open air painter love the fight”  ~Walter Elmer Schofield



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We are in, what I would consider some of the most prime plein air weather here.  Temperatures have been mild and absolutely beautiful.  We have some beautiful color created by flowers and trees blooming and then the grass and leaves have gone from drab to green almost overnight.  Birds and peep frogs serenade you as you paint and the wildlife can sometimes appear out of nowhere to keep you company.  Yes, you can paint outside any time of the year or day—just that you quickly learn there are certain times of the season and even certain times of the day that are more pleasant and appealing.

I’ve read blog posts and articles about several of the die-hard plein air painters and the more adventuresome painters.  There are those painters that have trekked up mountains and roughed it, just to catch a backcountry scene in the morning light.  Those painters that have toughed it out in extreme temperatures on both ends of the thermometer, braved the snow, sleet, rain, and wind, not only for the painting being produced but for the thrill and adventure of it.  I love reading these stories—some of these artists are not only talented painters but entertaining writers as well.  If you’d like to read some of these posts and see the art created from these adventures, I suggest you check out the work of Josh Been , R. Gregory Summers , or Shawn Cornell  and hey, for kicks and grins, check out my adventure page…it’s not all about painting but my wanderings too

As I read about some of these artist adventures, I wondered what would drive someone to paint in the less than ideal conditions.  Painting en plein air can be challenging enough.  I’m somewhat of an adventuresome type but wasn’t sure if I loved the “fight” as Mr. Schofield mentioned, enough to actually try to paint during the wind, snow, rain, or sleet.  Then I tried it.  The first time, I painted in the wind and my clunky French easel blew over and cracked “…..awesome…..just awesome”, I thought.  That easel and I had a love/hate relationship.  It used to randomly collapse one or more of it’s legs on me while painting….but that’s a different “fight”.  I tell you this, I didn’t give up.  I started taking a few workshops in an attempt to improve my plein air skill.  These workshops are scheduled and they happen, rain or shine.  Well, at another workshop, I ended up painting in a rainy mist….ok, not so bad….it was light and I don’t melt.  My hair likes to curl and frizz, but hey, just avoid any mirrors or the public en mass and it’s all good.  Then I braved the winds of the Kansas Flint hills….again, not so bad because I weighted my easel down.  Oh, and did I mention, I finally saved up and sprung for an Easy L easel and tripod.  World of difference!!!  I could adjust the tripod legs to lower the center of gravity and then hang things from the middle of the tripod to weight it down.  OK, I conquered the wind.  Next, I set up and painted during one of our snows this past winter.  I wanted to study the color and values of snow.  I got snow alright.  Half way through my first painting, I started getting snowed on….”eh, no big deal, it was actually pretty and peaceful”.  Next up, it changed to sleet, “great….who ordered this???”  It ended in a very cold, wet, rain……..OK, I’m done with this painting….and packed it up.  I have painted in a mild weather rain as well and produced a couple of my favorite plein air paintings.  I’ve learned that the key is get paint on the canvas and learn to deal with slick, oily paint.  Next up…..hiking more than a couple of miles to paint…..  I hope to conquer that this fall!

OK, I get it, I see what some of the “fight” is all about.  It’s another challenge to add to the mix.  It separates some painters from others.  It is a learning and growing experience that can have the potential for rewards (and some fails), both in the finished painting and in the satisfaction of winning a “fight”.  I get it and I’m in!  Let’s do this!

Cattle turning into bears!! What???

April 20, 2012

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Cattle turning into bears….Oh My!

Back in 2008, I enrolled in an art workshop in Montana.  We decided to turn it into a family vacation as well.  Road trip!!  We decided to allow a few days to drive to Montana so we could see the sites along.  We rented a vehicle since we knew we were going to be traveling a fair amount of miles (over 5300 in two weeks to be exact!)  We packed up the kids (who were both teenagers at the time), packed up the car and away we went.  We felt like the Griswolds on family vacation!  This little trip proved to be a string of adventures for the Brown family!

Our ultimate destination was to be a guard station cabin in the Tally Lakes/Star Meadows area of Montana.  We found the cabin located off of a rural road, miles from town.  It was such a peaceful scene, surrounded by some level, bottom, ground sprinkled with pine trees and scrub brush with a creek/river running through it.  There were mountains on the backside of the creek and mountains to the front of the cabin……mountains everywhere—perfect!   A rail fence enclosed the “yard” with pine trees towering above the parking area and hiding view of the road from the cab

in.  Upon exploring a bit more, we learned that the field was the temporary home to a herd of cattle.

There was electricity to the cabin but no running water or indoor plumbing.  There was however, a new water hand-pump located outside for potable water and a new vaulted toilet with a concrete floor and a “stall” where a solar shower could be hung.  I’m not sure my children realized what a vaulted toilet was until we got there and they realized they were going to have to go outside and walk about 30 yards to use the facilities.  We kept a flashlight in the stall as well as one in the cabin for just such occasions, however, my daughter resolved that she would not be going out there unless it was daylight!  She proceeded to tell us that knew there was a possibility of seeing bears—she saw the sign and brochure about bear safety in the cabin.  Even during daylight, when she had to walk out there by herself, she hustled!  I tried to reassure her that the cattle in the backyard would more than likely alert her if anything was around.  She still didn’t find that too comforting.  Maybe it was partially because they all kept joking that “bear safety” meant that they just had to outrun the slowest person in the family and then they all laughed and looked at me.  And thanks to all of the teasing I received, I told her I would not be escorting her to the “facilities”.  Chels did luck out however, we were far enough north that the days seemed to be pretty long and there was an abundance of daylight.

It seemed like it was never completely dark until about 11PM and then daylight seemed to hit around 6AM.  Between the light and the very loud serenade sung by the coyote choir every night, and the chill in the cabin, it took a few nights to actually get some quality sleep.  Not that I was complaining—it was beautiful there….just that with the combination of me giving up caffeine before we left and the lack of sleep, I had regular headaches for days.  We did eventually figure out that one of the windows had been left open in the cabin…..causing the chill and our blankets to never be enough!  That seemed to cut down on the volume of the nightly coyote choir as well.  The lack of sleep did finally catch up with me and with the new found warmth and quiet, I slept in one morning.  The hub didn’t—he awoke early to see some cowboys driving the cattle out of our “backyard” and down the road to their next home.  I was a little upset that he didn’t wake me to watch but understood why he didn’t.

Since the cattle were now gone, we decided that evening that we would explore more of the backyard.  We found the remains of a couple of whitetail fawns that had apparently been dinner for some of the “choir” a few nights ago.  We also discovered that what we called a “creek” was rather deep and very cold and that it was a little further from the cabin that we’d thought.  We walked a bit further and found a whitetail doe, dead, in the creek.  We’re not exactly sure what her cause of death was but it was definitely evident that there was predator activity around.  Given that fact, the whole time we explored, I tried to keep an eye out for said predators—I love to explore the wilderness but I’m a bit paranoid about something that could potentially make a meal outta me, catching me by surprise and gnawing a limb off before I knew what hit me.  I know, call me crazy, but my imagination runs wild sometimes and I knew we were in bear and mountain lion country….something we really do not have to worry about back home.  My hub seemed to find my paranoia entertaining and took every chance he got to slip out of my sight and make noises, break sticks and watch me jump.  Not funny, not funny at all!

The next morning, Chels woke up and had to use the facilities but it wasn’t light enough yet, so, she danced around the cabin until there was enough light.  As soon as she felt it was light enough to make a clean break for the toilet, she darted out of the cabin, running fast enough to reach the toilet before anything could possible get her.  As she was coming out she noticed something black, furry, and rather large moving through some of the brush off to the backside of the toilet.  She watched for a bit and then decided to make a run for it.  She came barreling in the cabin, eyes wide, breathing hard, and obviously scared.  We started questioning her and she proceeded to tell us she’d just seen a bear.  With that news, the hub and I walked outside armed with the binoculars to check it out.  After a bit of investigation, we did find Chels’ bear…… happened to be a black angus cow and calf that had apparently missed the earlier roundup and were left behind.  There were coming up to the cabin in an effort to find the rest of the herd.  The owners did come back later and gather the stragglers….turned out there were a few more than just that pair.  In Chels’ defense, it was fogging in the bottom that morning, foggy enough to turn cattle into bears!


“Curious Coyote”

March 15, 2012
oil painting by Veronica Brown

Curious Coyote

“Curious Coyote”

10”x10” oil on gallery wrapped canvas.

This piece will be offered at the Faith and Outdoors event in Sullivan, MO on March 24.  Come out and show your support and possibly take home a piece of my artwork.

Coyotes are naturally very curious animals.  They’ve been known to “stare down” humans.  I don’t think this is meant to be a sign of aggression or intimidation, I think it is simply a moment of trying to figure you out.  They want to know what you are and what you’re doing.  As I travel and study wildlife more while gathering photographic reference material for my artwork, I notice more and more, wild animals that simply “watch you back”.  I have tons of photos of this behavior…..mule deer, elk, various birds, whitetail deer, coyotes….and even a black bear, sitting around watching traffic.

I feel I’m very blessed to have the opportunity to get outdoors and wander and to view the wildlife in their natural area.  I instantly feel at peace and relaxed when out there.  As John Muir said, “Wilderness is not only a haven for native plants and animals but it is also a refuge from society. It’s a place to go to hear the wind and little else, see the stars and the galaxies, smell the pine trees, feel the cold water, touch the sky and the ground at the same time, listen to coyotes, eat the fresh snow, walk across the desert sands, and realize why it’s good to go outside of the city and the suburbs. Fortunately, there is wilderness just outside the limits of the cities and the suburbs in most of the United States, especially in the West.”

Oh how right John was…..wilderness can be found just outside the limits of the cities or burbs….but it can also sometimes be found within the limits.  As we encroach upon the wildlife habitats, they have to adapt to smaller areas or move into ours.  It seems like there are constant news stories about wild animals being a “nuisance” in cities.  Coyotes prowling through back yards looking for table scraps or trash and in some cases preying on small, house dogs and cats.  Towns paying money to try and relocate or curb whitetail deer populations that are getting out of hand and causing property damage and vehicle accidents.  And then there are the more recent spottings of larger game moving through such as the recent sightings of black bears throughout Missouri and the confirmed sightings of mountain lions in populated areas such as Chesterfield just a year ago.  What can we expect as the wilderness areas dwindle?  We do have parks and preserves set up but these animals do not know of boundaries.


Feb. 28, 2012 “Colorado Rain”

March 7, 2012
Day 28

Colorado Rain

“Colorado Rain”

Painting a Day Project

Day 28

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.”

~Stella Adler

I’m a creative brain, I must create.  It is my enjoyment, my challenge, my therapy.  ……and I need a lot of that last one lately!

I find that I’m most inspired when I’m outside wandering the fields, mountains, or woods.  I find myself staring at the trees, sky, wildlife, rocks, etc. and imagining how I would paint it….seeing the shapes, seeing the colors, ultimately–seeing my brush strokes.  I think getting outside and doing research is as important as developing your drawing skills, learning to use your tools, or learning stroke work.  Doing this type of research helps you to learn color, value, and shape from THE ultimate artist–God.  I think getting outdoors not only helps you to truly see but helps to refresh the mind, body, and soul—and who doesn’t need that from time to time??

Feb. 27, 2012 “Wiley”

March 3, 2012
Day 27


Painting a Day Project – Day 27


“Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and numbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me – I am happy.”  –Hamlin Garland

Our last trip to RMNP proved to be a great time to see coyotes.  We’ve always been lucky enough to see one or two while there and always heard them of an evening while camped in Moraine Park, however the sightings were usually quick and a fair distance away.  This last trip, however, we were blessed to see 3 or 4 different “dogs” and had the opportunity to see how they behave in their natural environment without knowing we were watching.

We saw a mother and young one yip and howl to each other from across the valley and finally run across Sheep Meadows to reunite.  They jumped around and played before heading back across the meadow.

We were also lucky enough to come upon a young one hunting one morning.  We watched, photographed, and recorded it for over an hour in one of the meadows.  We had him all to ourselves—a couple of people came by while we were watching him, but they didn’t see what we saw.  A coyote’s fur blends so well with the grasses and brush most people (and probably most prey) never know they were there.  We watched him stick his nose in the grasses then raise his head and listen, then next thing you’d know, he’d hunker down and leap through the air, pouncing on whatever he was after….if he was lucky.  If he wasn’t, he’d stick his nose back in the grasses, with his butt up in the air, tail up and wagging until he’d catch the scent of another possibility.  So much fun to watch!  We did finally see him become successful.  Not sure what he caught, all we could see was him taking a break, with his head up and crunching on something.  The winds finally changed and he caught our scent.  He looked straight up at us and then turned and started walking away.  Every so often he would turn and look at us again, I guess to make sure we weren’t following.  Maybe he had a “honey hole” of a hunting spot he was headed to and didn’t want us to find it!

There was also one particular night when the coyotes were very active in Moraine Park.  The moon was almost full, the wind was still, and we’d just settled down to bed in our tent when the first one started to howl.  It was soon joined by others and soon, it was a coyote concert.  They seemed to be moving closer and closer and then they kind of quieted down.  Just as I was dozing off, the encore performance started.  I jerked awake, just as a car alarm started going off…..yes, a car alarm.  They were so close and loud that they startled someone else in the campground and caused them to hit their car alarm button on their keychain or the coyotes themselves actually set the alarm off, not sure which.  Regardless, the car alarm started going off and the hub and I just rolled over and started laughing.  What else can you do??  Whoever owned the car finally got the alarm shut off and the coyotes moved along.  We rolled over and stared at the stars through the tent roof for a while and finally dozed off again.


Feb 26, 2012 “Clouds and Wildflowers”

March 3, 2012
Day 26

Clouds and Wildflowers

Painting a Day

Day 26

“Clouds and Wildflowers”

“The flower that follows the sun does so even in cloudy days.”  ~Robert Leighton

A few years ago, I traveled to Montana to take a painting/drawing workshop with an artist whom I greatly admire.  The workshop was to last 4 days, so, I decided to schedule two weeks of vacation and turn the trip into a family road trip/vacation.  What an adventure…..good with the bad.  Amazing views, grumpy kids, stunning wildlife, long periods in a cramped vehicle…and I wouldn’t have traded any of it!

We rented a guard station cabin in the Tally Lakes/Star Meadows area and traveled back and forth each day to class or to Glacier National Park.  That area was absolutely amazing and a few days was not near enough time to explore however, I’m one of those that tries to make the most out of any travel opportunity—I LOVE to travel and see new places!  I probably drive my family crazy because I want to see it all and do it all while there because you never know when or if you’ll get to come back.  I’m that flower following the sun even on cloudy days….well, not sure I’d go that far…ha ha….anyway…..

The last day we were going to be able to spend in Glacier, we decided to get up early and travel the extra distance to enter the park at the St. Mary’s entrance.  We had to travel quite a ways because the Going to the Sun Road was not open yet.  It was the latest that they’d ever opened the road.  They were having trouble keeping it clear and drivable because of late snows and avalanches.  The morning was overcast with low altitude clouds moving across the valleys, obscuring some of our views, however, what we could see of the country we traveled through was absolutely amazing.  I was almost as fascinated by the scenery and the journey to the park as I was the park itself. It was interesting to see the “free range” grazing areas and crossing cattle guards as we got on and off the “highways”….along with the Native American prayer bundles tied in some of the aspen groves along the roads.  All things we definitely do not see at home, things that remind you that you are in the west.  We saw views of snow-capped mountains clothed in clouds with wildflowers starting to bloom in the valleys below, absolutely breathtaking and definitely an area I long to visit again.