New Paintings and Equipment Review

I’m just finishing a second productive week in the studio after my return and, boy, does it feel good. As did getting out yesterday afternoon and planting some new roses and spring bulbs.

HEAVY LIES THE HEAD

I’ve got a number of pieces in progress, but wanted to share this one that was completed before I left. It was in the Wild Visions 2 show and I hadn’t had a chance to photograph it until a couple of days ago. I’ve never done a three-panel piece and I’m thrilled with the framing. Unfortunately, the framer has gone out of business and there isn’t anyone else around here who can do this kind of custom work. Drat.

Heavy Lies the Head   oil   20"x 46"
Heavy Lies the Head oil 20"x 46"

The animals, bighorn sheep,  were photographed at the Denver Zoo. It was a warm morning and the ram couldn’t keep his eyes open. His head kept, drooping, drooping, until it sank onto the back of the ewe, who never even blinked. The pose was irresistible, but I did check with Laney, a nationally known artist who specializes in bighorns, to ensure that this behavior could have happened in the wild.

Of course they needed a more interesting setting, so I found some nice rock formations that I had shot up on Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, where bighorn sheep are often seen. Laney suggested adding the bits of snow so that the presence of the ram and ewe together would be consistent with the season.

Besides the great pose, I wanted to try to capture the feeling of the environment bighorns live in and how casual they are about heights that would make a lot of people faint with vertigo.

CHEETAH HEAD STUDY

Some animal’s heads are more challenging than others. There are subtleties to the forms that, if they are missed, leave the viewer who knows better feeling that the painting was “close, but no banana”. Cheetahs seem to be one of the difficult ones. I think I’ve seen more badly drawn and painted heads of cheetahs than maybe any other animal, so I’ll hang it out there and offer for your perusal this new head study.

Cheetah Head Study
Cheetah Head Study oil 9"x 12"

EQUIPMENT REVIEWS

All in all, everything worked as it was supposed to.

My husband was very happy with his LL Bean Katahdin 20F sleeping bag. He liked the larger size and the fact that it was rectangular. The Climashield fill kept him comfortable. The only down side was that it didn’t pack down as small as my down bag.

My Katahdin 20F down bag was great, as usual. One of the nice things about the rectangle is that it can double as a comforter. This is handy in a ger, which has regular beds with sheets and blankets. It can get cold at night though, but unzipping the bag and throwing it over the bed worked well. And if the mattress was too hard, as is sometimes the case, I used the bedding as a “pad” and just slept on top of it in the bag.

The LL Bean ripstop cotton pants were absolute winners. We wore ours day after day and they seemed to shed dirt and never felt icky. My husband likes them so much, he now wears them for his everyday pants.

Loved having the New Balance walking shoes for around town and camp as a change from the hiking boots. Hadn’t made space for that before. The LL Bean Cresta Hikers were, once again, comfortable and functional. David bought a pair of Keen hiking boots, which he really likes for their comfort and breathability. What we found, however, during the deluge at Ikh Nart, when we had to walk around 40 yards to the toilet, was that his boots wetted through pretty quickly. Now, he hadn’t waterproofed them, because we hadn’t anticipated such hard, out-of-season rain, but my boots kept my feet dry throughout. They are leather, which I probably wouldn’t buy now unless I could source them to humanely raised cattle, but they really performed.

The Smartwool socks rocked! The Thorlos tended to get sweaty. Next trip I’ll take more Smartwool for the field and a few Thorlo light hikers for around town.

Loved the Patagonia fleece for comfort, but will probably replace it to reduce bulk. It took up a lot of space in my duffle. The Travelsmith jacket was great. Too bad they don’t make it anymore. The only problem was that the patch pocket got caught on something and ripped loose.

I love, love, love my Icebreaker 100% merino wool thermals! The top and bottom together take up less space than one piece of the other brand. I didn’t need them very much, but found them very comfortable when I did wear them.

It’s interesting how things are going full-circle for some outdoor gear. All there used to be was cotton and wool. Then the new, improved synthetics came along and, overall, they were an improvement in weight, performance, etc. But I’m finding that the new cotton and wool products work as well, if not better, and are not made with petroleum by-products.

The MetroSafe 2000 purse was good, as usual. Very functional, practical and unobtrusive.

My old standby neck scarf and hat did the job, also as usual.

Camel ride at Arburd Sands
Camel ride at Arburd Sands

The luggage came through fine. It was nice to have the lower rigid-side compartment on the bottom of the big one for odd, ends, extras and art purchases. It’s a rolling Sportsman’s gear bag from LL Bean. The small one, which Bean doesn’t make anymore, holds the camera equipment, toiletries bag and the minimum needed to survive a day or two without the big bag.

ART THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

There is a common foundation from which all the arts rise, and that is the need for self-expression on the part of the artist,-expression of his own personal experience, whether it be by words, as with literature; by sound, as with music; by pigment or with plastic shape, as with the graphic arts. But there is a further condition attendant upon this expression of which we do not always take account, namely, that the artist’s personal experience must be emphasized by strong feelings, by enthusiasm, by emotion, or the result is not art.”

Notes on the Art of Picture-Making by C.J. Holmes, Slade Professor of Fine Art, Oxford University, 1909

Here’s the Gear; Reviews When I’m Back

"Me in Mongolia", Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve

To conclude my postings about fieldwork, here’s a partial list of the gear that I’m taking to Mongolia next week. Everything has to meet certain requirements of function, weight and cost. This isn’t extreme travel (read anything by Tim Cahill for that), but we will need to be self-sufficient and ready for dramatic swings in weather since Mongolia is landlocked with no marine influence. Rain shouldn’t be an issue, but cold nights and wind are likely based on my limited past experience. Days should be nice, even hot, at least early on.

My fond hope is that this and the previous posts will de-mystify getting out into the field by providing specific information on one way to do it.

Most of the following has gone with me before, but there are a few new things, which I’ll start with:

Thermals- Icebreaker 260 100% merino wool long-sleeved top and leggings. Not cheap, but half the bulk of what I used to have.

Pants- LL Bean Pathfinder Ripstop Cotton; less bulky than jeans; my husband loves the pair we bought him so much, he’s getting two more, so I decided to try them, too.

Shoes- New Balance 644 “sneakers” (645 follow-on); for around camp and town

And, going with me again:

Boots- LL Bean Gortex Cresta Hikers; they say you can wear them out of the box and I found that to be absolutely true. These are great boots!

Socks- Thorlo Light Hikers, daytime warm; Smartwool for cold and at night as needed; they don’t itch, so I don’t have to take silk liner socks anymore

Layers- Patagonia fleece pullover, purchased used at Wilderness Experience consignment shop, Berkeley. Black, lined jacket (see photo at top) from TravelSmith; purchased for first trip to Kenya in 1999, so no longer available, but still going strong; have only had to mend torn corner of front patch pocket.

Purse-MetroSafe200; has a steel cable in the shoulder strap and all the zippers close forward so no one can slip it open; it goes into my daypack, which is one of my two carry-ons; Peace of mind in unfamiliar cities in any country.

Neck- a long blue kaffiyeh-print scarf that I picked up somewhere; more versatile than a bandana; muffler when cold; face or camera protection from dust; wet rag or washcloth; style points in photos, like above

Hat- canvas, foldable, 360 brim from The Australian Outback Collection; took a few tries to find the right one; also gets style points (see photo above); and a baseball hat to get my hair up and out of the way in camp when showers are unavailable

So, why care about “style points”? Because part of being a working artist who intends to make a living is marketing and one’s “story”. Part of mine is the trips I take, which my friends, fans and buyers get to share. Pictures of me are part of it and I don’t want to look like a dork.

the Sleeping Bag- I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate mummy bags. It affects my sleep and I never seem to really adjust since I’m a curl-up-on-my-side sleeper. Bless their hearts, LL Bean makes one of the very few rectangular down bags for my kind of field use. It’s rated to 20F.

I do have a couple of different Thermarest pads, but the tour company provides one, so mine stay home this time.

Luggage- I have a pair of LL Bean rolling duffles that have clamshell top openings. I love them, but they aren’t available anymore. My big bag, their Sportsman’s Extra-Large Drop Bottom Rolling Gear Bag, however, is. I got it because even the larger of the two clamshell duffles won’t hold the Thermarest pad. Not long enough. The smaller one is carry-on size. It gets the camera equipment and just-in-case basics. The daypack has the laptop, documents, book, food, etc. and my purse.

Last post until I manage to get on-line in Mongolia.

Cheers!

ART TIP OF THE DAY

“I don’t mind hard work. You’ve got to work hard to generate something. I don’t think there’s any secret to success if you show up in the right place, at the right time and you put in a lot of time and effort and energy – you’re going to get something out of it. It’s not brain surgery.”

Ryan Seacrest, ex-actor, now host of American Idol and Dick Clark’s heir apparent as “America’s Host”