This was a commission from my brother, who was just made bishop (leader of his local congregation at church). He wanted something special to gift to the outgoing bishop to thank him for his service. And since that outgoing bishop had recently sold their lovely home, in anticipation of an overseas move, Cort thought that a "house portrait" would be the perfect gift. I love creating these house portraits, because of the lovely sense of place they inspire. Whether it's an old ancestral home, or a more recent dwelling, these places are important receptacles of our memories, even sacred spaces.
Just as the focal point of a face is the eyes—often referred to as the windows to our soul, the focal point of a house portrait is the entrance itself. The front door and porch, along with any walkway leading up, make us feel welcome and make the home feel more approachable. I love the way the sidewalk leads to the porch and the door, and even the "Logan Ave" stamped into the concrete give a beautiful sense of time and place.
July 24 is a day when, here in Utah, we celebrate those who walked a thousand miles or more, braving hardships of weather, disease and famine to settle this place. There leader, the great colonizer Brigham Young, upon entering the Salt Lake Valley, declared, "This is the right place." I have felt that same sense of certainty in every home where we have lived, sensing that this is the right place for us at this time.
Lyon, France -- Another commission, where my friend's father-in-law lived and served for three years.
Final ink drawing followed by finished painting (Vignette).
St. Phillips of the Highlands — beautiful old churchyard and cemetery in the Hudson River Valley
Question: What places give you a sense of identity, connection and purpose?
We spent most of our adult life in Southern California, starting when I ventured off to Otis Art Institute, later as missionaries, and finally as young newlyweds we spent our honeymoon making the trek down I-15 to become permanent residents in Los Angeles County...or so we thought. All of our children are California natives. We owned two homes there, and two businesses. We also buried one baby there -- something no parent should ever have to do.
At the end of May we returned for a brief visit. Our kids invited us to spend a few days with them in L. A., and the clincher was when our son-in-law asked us to "show me the Los Angeles you guys love." That journey begins and ends with the people, of course. We have so many wonderful friends there, friends who feel more like family. We also love the surprisingly great hiking in SoCal, and because we ministered to la gente hispana while we served there as missionaries, we also love the strong Latino component of the culture. Each of these paintings captured a moment from that brief trip where we returned to our California roots. And there are so many more! Next Stop: Downtown Los Angeles.
QUESTION: What do you love about Southern California? What faraway place might you still think of as home?
"Sunrise Over Bear Lake," (June 30) 11 x 14 and "Fireworks on the Ridge Trail," (July 4) 12 x 16
Nearly every summer I spend 3-5 days at a cabin in Bear Lake with a group of dear friends for a Writing Retreat. It is the safest of havens and they are the most refreshing people. Early mornings and late evenings we often go for long walks on the gravel trails. This particular morning, right at dawn, completely took my breath away. Something about the sun rising behind the distant mountains, reflecting off the lake and blurring the edge of the mountains in front just begged to be captured.
Another favorite tradition (spring, summer, and fall, but especially during July) is hiking the Ridge Trail at the summit between Provo Canyon and American Fork Canyon. This trail boasts amazing vistas, reaching clear into the Heber Valley, way up to the tip of Timpanogos, and deep in the recesses of American Fork Canyon. This particular July 4 morning waist-high wildflowers flanked both sides of the trail in spots. I couldn't help but notice that the Delphinium leaves were shaped like fireworks, a little celebration of their own!
The Utah Watercolor Society's Cache Valley chapter is hosting a show called "Midsummer Moments." I love participating in these shows because the people are wonderful and the drive up there is refreshing. I chose two very specific moments with particularly vivid memories to enter in this show. (I think they make a handsome pair, so I matted and framed them identically, just in case some lucky person wants to take them both home as a matched set!)
2018 UWS-CVC Exhibition
July 13-August 3
Fuhrimans Framing and Fine Art
75 South Main Street
Logan, UT 84321
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite midsummer moments?
UPDATE: "Sunrise Over Bear Lake" received an Honorable Mention award in this show.
Jewelry, puppies, macarons. I told you the best things come in small packages! Paintings do too! Both of these paintings are in the Utah Watercolor Society "Small Works" show, on display at Red Butte Gardens, June 22 through July 15th.
One unique aspect of this show is every painting has to be 12" or small in both directions, including the mat and frame! It's like seeing the sparkling gems of the Crown Jewels, only without the hefty pricetag and the long lines. These smaller paintings are priced affordably.
The other unique aspect is that this show is supporting the mission of the gardens, which is "to cultivate the human connection with the beauty of living landscapes." That's an invitation not just to view the show, but to experience how the artists connect with nature, and how you connect with the beauty portrayed in the artwork! You have to come see these in person!
LEFT: This is my third in a series of Hydrangea paintings. I am so in love with these flowers! I'm calling this one "Hydrangea Fireworks," because don't those big, bright blossoms resemble fireworks exploding in the sky? They never fail to take my breath away!
RIGHT: This is possibly the eighth in a series of small tulip paintings, and my favorite so far. I love the serenity of these particular tulips as they all lean in harmony, and I imagine a faint breeze nudging them ever-so-gently in that direction. We could all take a lesson in rhythm and harmony from tulips.
UWS "Small Works" Show
June 22–July 15, 2018
Red Butte Gardens
300 Wakara Way
Salt Lake City, UT 84108
Open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
QUESTION: What is your favorite thing that comes in a small package?
"In the Distance, A Castle Looms..." 14 x 20, watercolor. SOLD.
I ended May and started June in the best possible way: painting on location at Capitol Reef National Park, surrounded by beauty and grandeur and magnificence at every turn. Painting there is such a powerful experience, and sharing the magic with lovely artist friends just adds whipped cream and a cherry to the already-decadent dessert. This time it was especially beneficial, as it pulled me out of a little bit of a funk and motivated me to keep painting, and keep painting, and keep painting.... I didn't want to stop! I completed six paintings in the two-and-a-half days I was there.
Snow Canyon Sonnet, 12 x 16, original watercolor, unframed.
Snow Canyon is one of the most beautiful and amazing places in Utah, although lesser-known than its cousin up the highway, Zion National Park. At Snow you can find every combination of lighting, every range of color from cool to warm, muted to saturated, and every texture, from smooth sand dunes to rippled ridges to craggy cliffs to scrubby sage. Like much of the desert, there is striking contrast everywhere you look. There is also a surprising amount of water, if you know where to look for it—especially for a desert. And it feels like you can see forever.
This scene may look a little familiar if you've been following my work. This is from the the same view as "Snow Right After Rain," that was so popular at my last show. A couple of people requested a horizontal version of that landscape, so this is an attempt at the horizontal format. I may eventually develop it into a larger piece. But for now I'm happy with it as is.
Sometimes I think I could be perfectly content painting nothing but Southern Utah. But I have to confess, I love the vast variety of landscape here. The mountains, lakes, canyons and forests of Northern Utah are just as captivating as the red rocks and arches of the southern half.
One thing that adds an extra degree of integrity to my Southern Utah landscapes is the Primatek mineral pigments made by Daniel Smith. I own almost a complete set, and I find they render the colors and textures of this region better than anything else I've seen or used. Part of the reason is they're ground directly from actual minerals, some from this very area. I also love the way they separate and granulate, and even sparkle—not like fake glitter, but with a natural luminescence coming from the minerals themselves.
QUESTION: What is your favorite area to explore in Southern Utah? or near you?
Paris is legendary as a city of romance, and to me this images captures that sense. We were strolling on the banks of the Seine at dusk, having just taken an evening boat ride and watched couples dancing to music under the lights outside a cafe. The weather was warm, the sky was dramatic, and while the shadows deepened and stretched before us, the moonlight gave the river a beautiful glow. Everything looked soft and romantic. This is Paris at her best.
This painting sold before I even had a chance to post it to the website. But I thought I'd share it here on the blog.
"Moonlight on the Seine" 15 x 22
Collection of James and Margaret Leight
Bridal Veil Falls, October 2017. Top: completed painting. Bottom: Value Study and color painting side by side for comparison. This was painted on location at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. We had one perfect fall day (65 degrees and sunny), one freezing cold day (44 degrees, with a light rain that cause us to stop early) and one windy day where the gusts whipped my painting right off my easel and up into the air. (A student found it trapped between a tree and a boulder and rescued it for me.)
Fall is my favorite time to paint outdoors. The vibrant colors are a constant source of inspiration, and the temperature usually feels just right. (Such a relief after the blazing hot days of summer!)
But working outdoors presents its own set of challenges. The light changes. The weather changes. The paint dries faster...or slower, if it's extra humid outside. And then there's the whole daunting idea of facing a giant panorama of scenery. How to decide what to paint, what to leave out, and what to simplify.
Following are some tips that have served me well when I venture outdoors to get my fill of gorgeous scenery and fall color:
1. Start with a sketch. In a sketchbook you can solve problems in advance that will save you regret down the road, helping to ensure success. I use the Aquabee Super Deluxe All-Media Sketchbook, in a variety of shapes and sizes. True to its name, it accepts a wide variety of media, including ink, charcoal, pencil, markers, and of course watercolor.
2. Simplify. Don't try to paint the whole landscape, or every little detail. Less is more. Decide what drew your attention most to the scene, and zoom in on that. Use your hands to crop in on an area. Squint to simplify shapes and values more easily. (I think I have permanent crow's feet now from squinting all the time!)
3. Do a value study. Lots of artists skip this step. Let's face it, the fun part is the color, right? But I'll let you in on a little secret: Value does all the work; Color takes all the credit. If you solve the problems of value and composition in a value study, you then have a map for the color portion of your painting, with so many decisions worked out in advance. When I skip this step the paintings are never as successful, so value studies are an always for me now.
4. Match your value study wash for wash. I don't always do this. Sometimes it's faster and easier to work out the values first and then proceed to the finished painting. But matching your values wash for wash really helps keep you focused on the shape at hand and not get distracted or pulled away by non-essential details. It also gives you the advantage of allowing for a little drying time between washes while you're working on the other side.
5. Combine objects into clusters. For example, a grove of pine trees is a single shape with pine-tree-esque texture on the edges—NOT seventeen (or however many) individual trees! The same goes for foliage. Look for overall shapes with interesting edges, rather than trying to capture leaf after leaf after leaf, or even shrub after shrub.
6. Be fresh and free with your color. It turns out Mother Nature is a master at this. Color variation is her middle name. (Or it should be!) Don't get stuck in the trap of making colors too literal. Believe it or not, they'll actually be MORE realistic if you imitate nature herself and include a variety of color in every shape. Tree trunks are not brown...they're a range of colors, including purple. Rocks are not grey. They are a variety of colors, including combinations of warm/cool complements: blue and russet, purple and gold, etc.
Allow these colors to mix on the paper rather than stirring them into a muddy soup on your palette. Your painting will thank you.
7. Organize colors into larger shapes for stronger impact. One of my students looked at the hills dotted with fall colors and said, "The canyon looks like a bowl of fruit loops!" I like that description. But focusing on dots of color can get you into trouble.
Here you need to understand broken color: Small dots of two or three colors combine visually to make a third color which is a combination of the dots. For example, Blue dots plus yellow dots = green dots. So painting lots of little dots of green and orange and red (the trees we see covering a hillside with bits of fall color) will combine visually to create...brown. Ugh. The opposite of what you're trying to achieve.
Instead, take sections of foliage and assign them a color...make bunches of neighboring shrubbery in a single shape of red, or orange or green. Now these colors are large enough to stand on their own, with the impact you were after.
Okay, those are my secrets for successful painting outdoors on location. Venture out with confidence!
QUESTION: What are your best tips for painting on location?
Eser Balci: My Muslim Neighbor, with his son Turk.
Eser used to play professional soccer in Turkey. But after a bad knee injury he was unable to continue. He didn’t get the surgeries required to heal properly, so he had to change careers. He and his family have recently returned to Turkey, but while they were here he was teaching Turkish language classes at BYU and studying mathematics there.
I first met Eser at a neighborhood barbecue we held in our back yard the week after they moved in. Later that summer we had a huge project in our front yard. The city had diverted the water that flowed through our yard in the springtime, offering to provide the necessary dirt to fill in the resulting empty ditch in our front yard. What we didn’t know was that meant they dumped a huge mountain of dirt at the top of the driveway and we had to fill the ditch ourselves, a shovelful at a time. As soon as Eser saw us out there working, he came out with a shovel and joined in. Every day, out there in the hot sun, Eser was digging alongside my husband and our son. If we were working, he was working. That was our first REAL introduction to Eser. He is a wonderful neighbor.
Eser liked being in Provo. He loved our quiet cul-de-sac, and thought this was a great place to raise a family. He and his wife Leanna, who is from the U. S. and met Eser while she was a grad student in Turkey, have three adorable little boys: Turk, Tek, and Ike.
Despite loving the atmosphere in Provo, Eser also said he missed Turkey. He especially missed his family there, and the food, and his friends—just like any of us might feel if we were living abroad. And just like any of us, they worry about everyday things like whether their lawn is mowed, juggling busy schedules with raising a family, and the boys messing up the house.
There are also many things we share in terms of our faith. Muslims believe in one God, and not even allowing the existence of any other deity. They have a strict set of guidelines they follow, including dietary restrictions. Eser pointed out that—different from what you might see on the news—Islam is a peaceful religion. Eser said many people misunderstand the term “jihad” or holy war. He said it doesn’t mean to go out and kill non-believers. It’s about defending and protecting your home and your faith when attacked, not unlike the Standard of Liberty. He said there is a line in the Quran about killing non-believers that is frequently taken out of context, but they are a peaceful people.
Much of that peacefulness is grounded in respect, which is a very important principle to Muslims. They don’t believe in putting themselves above any other person, but rather in treating others with complete respect. The prophet Muhammud taught that all people are equal, no matter the color of their skin or any other distinction. (Again, not unlike the utopian society in 4th Nephi, where there is “no contention, and no manner of -ites").
There is an idiom in Turkey, “Before you buy a house, buy a neighbor.” Well, Eser has bought us. We loved having him and his family here, and we hope we are as good to him as he is to us. We look forward to their return in a year or so.
This was my third trip to the Lake District, one of the loveliest places on earth. The first time I went, I was a college student, and I honestly felt like I'd died and gone to heaven. I could not suppress the joy.
The Lake District hearkens back to a time when everything was kinder, simpler, quieter, and nothing competed with the natural world it revered. Stacked stone walls divide pastures of sheep, and everything feels just right, the way each stone is carefully selected to fit perfectly with the stones above and beneath. A metaphor for our thoughts and our lives, which yearn to find order in chaos.
The climate is a rich, humid invitation for growth, and oh, how the flowers respond! I caught this view as I was leaving Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's beloved home in Grasmere. His words are far better than mine at describing life in the Lake District, and its conduit to the heavens:
"How does the Meadow flower its bloom unfold
Because the lovely little flower is free
Down to its root, and in that freedom bold.
"a sound and healthy friendship is the growth of time and circumstance,
it will spring up and thrive like a wildflower when these favour"
"'Be thankful, thou; for, if unholy deeds
Ravage the world, tranquillity is here!'"
Oh, how the world needs that tranquility today! I'm so grateful this timeless place has been preserved for all to experience.
Question: Where do you go to find freedom, growth, and tranquility?
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.