It is fun to see them all in one place!
Last day of the challenge! I almost cried when I put the final pastel stroke on this painting and signed it. What a joy and a relief that I made it through 30 paintings in 30 days. It was a personal accomplishment for me, and I thank all who supported me in my endeavor. Thanks also to Leslie Saeta for sponsoring the challenge. This painting is called "Fog Roll, Blue Moon Ranch" (12" x 16"). When the fog rolls in over those mountains, which is really only in a blue moon, the scene has a calming effect on my soul. I was delighted to paint today in cool blues and cool and warm greens. Now I am in a happy place, and I plan to frame all my work for a solo show, as well as make a book and calendar of the "All Things Ranch" theme. Time to celebrate!
"In Memory of Biscuit," 8" x 10." This majestic Quarter Horse was the first horse to help us on our cattle ranch. Today I felt moved to do his portrait, and it will hang on our tack room wall in memory of his beauty, strength and friendship. Biscuit, aka Skeet Olena Sugar, was like a War Horse. He seemed to have nine lives. In his short life, he was bitten by a rattlesnake on his nose, tore his chest open on a barbed wire fence, injured his leg kicking the barn door, and fell eight feet down into a concrete well. He survived it all and seemed invincible. We loved Biscuit. But one sad morning he hobbled down the hill to breakfast and we discovered he had multiple fractures to his ankle. Had a coyote spooked him? Had he jumped over a ravine and landed wrong? We will never know. He was courageous to the end. And now he has his Pegasus wings.
Day 28: Today I made my own surface with pumice gel on gesso board and toned it a warm rusty orange. Since my vineyard scene had a lot of green, I knew the orange would provide a needed complement. I had fun experimenting! This 12 x 12-inch square painting depicts a Santa Ynez vineyard in early spring with dormant grapevines after the winter season. I call it, "Waiting for Wine."
Day 27: "Mail Order Chics" is the name of this small 6" x 6" painting. When I walked into the Santa Maria Farm Supply store this summer, I couldn't resist these little chicks, which were running to and fro in their playpen, lit up by a fluorescent pink incubator light. Of course, I had to paint them! What ranch is complete without chicks? The only snag is keeping the coyotes away...
I brought these apples home from the ranch and have been wanting to do a still life! The sun was just right this morning coming into my studio, so I placed them quickly and got going. Every week at the ranch, an organic farm box is delivered, and it is wonderful to be surprised with its contents. My mother-in-law is the best cook, and she takes the fresh produce and whips up delicious and nutritious meals with all the vegetables and fruits. Of course, the apples usually get sent straight to the horse's mouths, so I had to rescue a few for my painting!
Day 25: Our loyal border collies are intrinsic to ranch life! They help herd the cattle, keep us company and give us a lifetime of companionship. Our two borders, Penny and Peep, are happy and sweet, and the first thing they get when we leave the ranch is a bath! That's why I wanted to paint this picture of a sweet puppy getting a bath in a tub at the ranch next to ours. Our neighbors breed herding dogs, and this summer they had two separate litters a week apart--20 puppies to love...and bathe! So we helped out by drying each adorable 6-week fluff ball as it came out of the tub. This pup reminds me of our 13-year-old Penny when she was a pup. I call this painting "Puppy Bubbles."
Day 24: Today I painted a rodeo study. I did two, in fact, with the idea that I will paint a big rodeo scene someday. This was a small, local rodeo that we attended this summer at the V6 ranch in Parkfield, Calif. (which also happens to be the earthquake capital of the world, as it sits astride the San Andreas fault). My husband was enamored with the fact that cowboys could ride up to the beer truck on horseback and order a brew! This is Small Town America at its finest. Anyway, I took lots of action shots with the idea that I would paint them. So this is my first attempt, and I have some things to work out in the next one, but here it is! Size: 11" x 14"
This painting depicts my favorite scene on our way home from the ranch, when we take the "back way," driving east on Highway 166 through the expansive Cuyama Valley--through cattle ranches, miles and miles of crops, orchards, and defunct oil fields as we head toward the 5 Freeway and the Central Valley. I am always gratified to be accompanied by the glorious display of the setting sun in the giant California sky, coupled with the backdrop of these beautiful interlocking mountains, which remind me of a giant jigsaw puzzle. I call this "Sunset, Cuyama Valley." 12" x 16"
After two years, of hot, dusty and severe drought conditions at the ranch, today I wanted to revisit a time just over two years ago when the fields were lush with green grass, the trees were blooming, the Cuyama River was flowing, and the hills seemed to be alive with color. This painting is my vision of Eden returning to Ruiz Field! We did have overcast skies at the ranch yesterday, and our hope is that this winter and spring we will get some real rain to fill the river and once again restore the ranch and the rest of California to health. Think green and pray for rain!
Day 21: "The Tack Shed." This summer we hand-built a new tack shed at the ranch, complete with a large shaded area in front of it that I call the "horse-port." It is here that we tie the horses to the hitching rail and tack them up, and as a result, we have started hanging out in the tack shed as a cozy place for conversation. My son, Clay, and I spent a week in August decking out the inside with shelves, cabinets, saddle, bridle, and blanket racks and a pegboard. We even displayed our colorful horse blankets with an old wooden ladder and brought in some iron wagon wheels off of an antique plow. It feels so homey to be here!
Tough one! I wanted to paint a still life of this jar of honey with a branch from our peach tree. I chose to do it 6" x 6," which is very small, and turned out to be quite a challenge. We have beekeepers who use our ranch land to raise honey, and every year we are blessed with a giant box filled with jars of honey from every local flower...blue curl, orange blossom, sage, jasmine and more. It makes my mouth water every time I think of it. The beekeepers work hard to get this honey, and I enjoy watching them (from afar!) with their white hazmat suits, which makes them look like astronauts from outer space. The honey bee is doing well in our area, but I know its species is threatened nationwide from pesticides and other environmental factors. Save the bees! I hope you will appreciate the love and care that goes into each jar of honey every time you taste that sweet, sticky substance on your toast and in your tea. Glory Bee!
One of the things I love most about the Central Coast of California is driving through miles and miles of vineyards. They seem to be everywhere, and that's a lot of wine! I have painted vineyards en plein air (outdoors) in France several times, but this is my first painting of a California vineyard. Our ranch is in an area that supposedly has the perfect micro-climate for grapes (we actually have one row of table grapes in our orchard, but the birds seem to get them before we do). My favorite vineyard is the one at the juncture of Highways 101 and the 154, at the corner of San Marcos Pass, which bypasses Santa Barbara. I have taken pictures of it many times and started painting it earlier this year. It was a challenge, and I wasn't happy with it. So today I scrubbed the entire painting down with mineral spirits and started over. I hope this painting captures the feeling of seeing the vineyard while driving by in the car, with the sun directly overhead. I've entitled it, "Drive By Vineyard."
If you saw yesterday's painting of the giant oak tree in Ruiz Field, then today you get a close-up view from under the oak tree and looking the opposite direction (west) as the road enters the field. I was tempted to put in our cattle running toward the gate, but I liked the simplicity of the painting without them, so I left them out. It is late afternoon, and I was captivated by the pattern of the gate's shadows on the ground. Ruiz Field is my favorite place to ride, in spite of having been thrown off my rearing horse onto this hard path a few weeks ago. Let's just say my broken rib has allowed me to stay quiet and enjoy more painting time while it heals!
Today's painting is a plein air piece that I painted in the 100-degree heat at the ranch and brought back to the studio for some finishing touches. I woke up at 4:30 this morning and headed to my art studio to work on softening the clouds, adding color in the shadows, putting reflected light from the sky in the path, and giving more volume to the tree. This giant oak in Ruiz field seems to watch over the cattle grazing nearby, and acts as a gatekeeper to the hills beyond. We have ridden under its heavy branches many times on horseback, and stopped in its shade for a brief respite before climbing to the top of the distant hills or traversing the cliffs along the river. This majestic tree must be more than a hundred years old!
Last winter, I arose early at the ranch and took a ride up the Sierra Madre road with my friend Teri. We took our good cameras and shot at least 500 pictures as we climbed to the top of the ridge, marveling at the panoramic view of the Cuyama Valley far below. As the sun rose, we bathed in the beautiful soft light breaking across the rocks. When we came upon this glorious scene, it took my breath away, and I have thought about painting it ever since. The shadows were challenging, but I am happy with the result, as it has a spiritual, ethereal quality that says all is right with the world.
This painting depicts The Old Adobe, a historic structure on Highway 166 in the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Maria, just a ways down the road from the Blue Moon Ranch. The roof of the Adobe has fallen in, and there is talk of restoring it, but for now, the house inhabits a serene place among a grove of trees with wild buckwheat and wild oats growing all around it. It was probably built in the late 1800's, and served as some pioneering family's ranch house. I love to visit here, especially in the morning when the sun is just cresting the mountains and casting long shadows across the house.
This sweet heifer was born and raised on the Blue Moon ranch, and even lived with my horse Grace in a cattle pen for a week while the calf was weaning and Grace was learning to get used to cows. As the heifer calf grew, I became fond of her, as did our three-year-old nephew, Tristan, who said he was "my cow." When it came time this summer to sort cows for auction, "Tristan's Cow" was one of the ones we decided to keep for breeding stock. So now she has a permanent home on the ranch, and Tristan will be very happy when he comes back to visit! I hope he likes her portrait.
I started this morning dabbling and experimenting in celebration of selling two paintings this week. I tried out two new surfaces and painted two smaller studies. From these studies I created the finished piece entitled "Forbidden Fruit." It depicts my daughter's horse, Drifter, trying to reach the lemons on the tall tree by the round pen. He looks like a giraffe reaching up so high! Our horses all love fruit, and on many occasions they are caught red-handed sneaking through the orchard gate and eating the fruit from the apple, pear, lemon and orange trees. Thanks to my friend Sondee for capturing the photo of Drifter and letting me paint it. Hope you enjoy our horses' many antics!
About three years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to take a Jeep ride across the Alamo Ranch, off of Highway 166 near Santa Maria, Calif. The expansive ranch consists of about 1,750 acres, which has been designated as a wildlife sanctuary. The ranch holds beauty at every turn, with soft grasses, majestic oak trees, and idyllic scenes from the Wild West. I could just imagine Native Americans making their home here, and later, cowboys driving cattle across the hills and plains to the Cuyama River. Shortly thereafter, we found similar cattle property further down the road, which has now become our Blue Moon Ranch. This scene depicts our ranch at the top of Ruiz Field, as it enters the Los Padres National Forest. The road begins to flatten out a bit after a steep, 1,000-ft climb. I call this painting "ATV Trail," because we often traverse it by ATV, due to the steep and winding off-road conditions. However, we have traversed it on horseback in search of cattle!