Art Adventures

Posts tagged ‘semi-abstract landscape’

My backpack trip into the Enchantment Mountains proved worthy of the incredible challenge I faced just to arrive. It was extremely rugged country. Mountain goats, waterfalls, lakes, icebergs, glaciers, and sheer cliffs astounded us with views at every turn.

I am no stranger to backpacking. I backpacked as a kid in the Colorado Rockies with my family. Later, I explored the Pacific Northwest with my husband and our kiddos, once they were old enough to hike (or be carried, as the case often was…ha…). Camping out in the wilderness rejuvenates my soul. I usually feel as though I have been holding my breath and when I get into the mountains, I finally exhale, and breathe deep for the first time in a long while. Ahhhhh……there it is. I’m whole again.

When my husband suggested we hike into the Stuart Range in Washington for a family trip, however, I was a little reserved. What? No, no, not for the kids, but for me! Our boys, ages ranging from 14-20 at the time, were completely able to carry their own food, clothes, and selves deep into the great outdoors. No problem. In fact, strong, young boys with tons of muscle and energy? Hiking was a breeze for them. All I had to do was organize the food and get myself and my own backpack to the destination. Easy enough, right?

Problem. Errrr, yes. Twelve miles in and 7,000 feet elevation gain of steep, rugged wilderness awaited. I was nervous about the sheer amount of physical energy needed to arrive at the campsite. Nevertheless, excited to go, I envisioned the beauty and couldn’t wait to begin. We made plans, reserved our permit, packed, organized, and headed up. Oh, and I DID pack my watercolor journal. Extra weight, sure, but I could handle it.


Every ounce practically killed me by the end. In fact? Just the weight of my own body proved almost too difficult to bear.

Difficult. But worth every step. It was so beautiful, so challenging, so scary, and so amazing, and I’ll probably never see it again.

Here we are, in all our pre-hike glory.

Here we are, in all our pre-hike glory.

The hike started out extremely steep, rising up out of the valley just outside of Leavenworth, Washington.

Me, with my three boys and friends, on our way up to Snow Lake

Me, with our three boys and friends, on our way up to Snow Lake. Hubby took the pic. It was a little steamy, as you can tell by the boy’s hair.

Our goal for the first night was to hike in and camp at Snow Lake, a 6 mile trek.The hike in was gorgeous, steep, but not terribly difficult.

Snow Lake. View from our camp, first night.

Snow Lake. View from our camp, first night. Mt. McClellen in the background.

No worries, I thought! I can handle this! The next day we headed out for the upper lakes.

By the second mile on day two, my knee was giving me a bit of grief from the steep climb the day before. THIS day, the climb was even steeper, working our way up boulder fields,

Boulder fields

Boulder fields above Snow and Nada Lakes.

over tumbling waterfalls,

Hubby and I, posing for an "excuse pic" i.e. RESTING!

Hubby and I, posing for a pic (i.e. RESTING).


across a dam, with floating trees on one side and a waterfall on the other (we had to cross the 12″ concrete dam while water rushed over the top…yikes!!),

This was scary for me. Death by drowning on one side, death by OUCH on the other! CONCENTRATE, Sarah! The dam was slippery!

This was scary for me. Death by drowning on one side, death by OUCH on the other! CONCENTRATE, Sarah! The dam was slippery!

and over a rounded, dead-drop boulder with rebar as footholds so that hikers would (hopefully) not plunge to their death. I have no photo of that, sketchy enough that my legs quivered and I was SO NOT taking my camera out. In fact, I may have cried. That’s just a rumor, mind you.

It was hot, gorgeous, and tiring.

Some of us rested in the shade. Kid 3 tired out from helping me up the boulders.

Some of us rested in the shade. Kid 3 tired out from helping me up the boulders.

So, yeah, gorgeous, but (ouch)knee, fear of heights, and water/drowning issues came to the front of my anxiety on that day. I worked it all through, though. and was rewarded with the most amazing high-alpine location I’d ever been.

Once we arrived at Vivian Lake, we re-grouped with a water filter re-fill, lunch, and a much-needed rest.

Son 1, refilling his water with a water filter system.

Son 1, refilling his water with a water filter system.

We rested among the no-fear mountain goats and spent the next day exploring the area before heading down the following day.

We hiked the entire 12 miles out in one day. By the time I reached the truck, I could barely place one foot in front of another. My legs were jellyfish, seemingly only marginally attached to my body with painful connections called joints. My back, shoulders and neck were stiff and my feet? Ugh. Too much. Only the memories of my family in one of the most gorgeous places I’ve been, and the photos I took, kept me going through some painful muscle aches for the rest of the week. Oh, and quite a substantial amount of Advil (and possibly wine…another rumor).

This past weekend, paying homage to this amazing hike, I worked on a landscape of one of the waterfalls we found at the lakes. I wanted to capture the raw beauty of this location, the way nature molds the landscape, the resistance and strength of the alpine trees, and the simple glory of water in erosive action. I’m bringing this to you, in the hopes that you can experience a part of The Enchantments, without the pain of the hike!

Enchanted, 12x32, original watercolor on textured Plexiglas

Enchanted, 12×32, original watercolor on textured Plexiglas

“Enchanted” was created for a group show at Tumalo Art Company, and is hanging at the gallery during the month of March. It’s delightful to see in person, with collaged texture and watercolor crayons capturing the rugged feel of the cliff bands surrounding Vivian Lake.

Enjoy the new work, and find it and other paintings of mine at Tumalo Art Company, and Hood Avenue Art.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and events! Contact me to receive my newsletter so that we can meet at showings and to receive notifications about classes. I will be planning a workshop painting class in the fall of 2017. I will post more when I know the dates. Every one of my paintings is available as a print, and I sell signed greeting cards of all my images


What does the word game Bananagrams share with an artistic journey? Bananagrams can be like art (or life?) in that sometimes you have to re-scramble what you have and create something new. The goal in the word game is to use every letter tile in your possession and assemble them into interconnecting words. At times, in order to use every last tile, you need to take apart the words you’ve connected and assemble them differently. Other times, you may need to discard a tile back into the drawing pile in the hopes of drawing a better letter. I’ve played plenty of Bananagrams lately, both with my boys over the holiday season, and with art.

How do you play Bananagrams with art, you ask? Experimenting, then selectively choosing what works and what doesn’t. Discarding techniques that don’t feel right, and re-evaluating/re-assembling those that do. Let’s say you’ve been painting in a realistic style for a while, when it becomes apparent you need to change things up. Realistic styles may be better suited to some artists, but maybe you are needing a different message. Impressionistic work, with vibrant colors might fit. So you try it out and experience an exhilarating “aha!” moment. This, THIS is what you’ve been waiting for!

My artwork has gone through major changes. For many years, my transparent watercolor paintings were traditional, realistic portraits on 140# cold-pressed paper. Every eyelash, hair, wrinkle, and detail was depicted on a muted, deeply washed background.

Why would I change the above style? It works, doesn’t it? It did, but as time and circumstances change, so does a person’s art, or reason for creating art.

Creating art is a continuing journey, and artists find themselves through experimentation of styles, media, themes, and technique, ideally narrowing these down to a bounty of work that speaks the artist’s message clearly and cohesively. It is a natural, tried and true method of becoming a successful artist.

In 2013, because of changing circumstances in my life, I no longer chose to paint in a realistic manner. Although I still painted with watercolors, I changed my surface on which I painted, along with my style, my theme, and my palette. An abrupt change like this is not for the faint-hearted. Sure, it’s invigorating and challenging, but can be frustrating, scary, and takes time.

During the resulting three-year experimentation, I tried several styles.

Wishes, 20x16, $750

Impressionistic style with vibrant hues

I enjoyed painting almost all of them, and liked them initially, but eventually noticed they didn’t fit what I was trying to say. The painting above, for instance, is bright and impressionistic, but felt jarring and didn’t convey the serene beauty of the connection between the girls. I knew I needed to try something different. After many months and many more paintings, I stumbled upon semi-abstract landscapes. I taught myself the technique.

Soon after, I realized my recent paintings had been about inner strength and power. True grit, introspection, steeling yourself for battle, having tenacity, and calming the soul with those inner powers. These themes reoccur frequently in my life and I feel they resonate with many people. I decided to focus on that idea as a central theme in my new work.

In 2017, I’m challenging myself to build a solid, cohesive body of work, necessary to becoming a successful artist. In that vein, I’m working hard to develop artwork that collectors can easily identify, central around the theme of inner strength. To do so, I’m focusing on the following 6 criteria, on the advice of renowned gallery owner and writer, Jason Horejs:

  1. Subject Matter: Landscapes
  2. Style: Semi-Abstract
  3. Theme: Strength, Serenity, and Inner Power
  4. Palette: Neutrals with areas of saturated hue
  5. Medium: Watercolor and Gouache on Plexiglas
  6. Presentation: Float frames, wax coating

Since September, 2016, you have seen the new direction in my work. The choice I’ve made to paint landscapes in a semi-abstract manner feeds a theme of inner strength and calm more appropriately than does a literal, realistic painting. Strangely enough, it’s much more difficult for me to paint in a semi-abstract manner than it is to paint realistically. There are so many decisions to make on how to fill the space. The process is challenging, intuitive, and engaging.

Here is an example of my new direction, and, coincidentally, my first painting of 2017:

The Source, 16x32, watercolor and mixed media on Plexiglas

The Source, 16×32, original watercolor and mixed media on Plexiglas

What is SO COOL about this painting is that the mountains are created around a long strand of netting, which flows down into the foreground, creating a gully or river. There is a feeling of power, strength, and fortitude through use of color and composition. “The Source” implies both the source of water, and an inner source of strength.

Choices, detail

The Source, detail

Paper squares, string, and tissue are layered into the gesso base to give the painting an amazing texture. Plus, look at those COLORS! Yum. Neutral with a pop of saturated blues and oranges. This is what I love about my “new” style. It has more imagination, more power, freedom, and suggestion. I feel like I can sit and look at the work for days, seeing something new every time.

Playing Bananagrams with my artwork, i.e., completely changing my style in 2014, then tossing out what didn’t work, keeping what did, and embracing semi-abstract neutral landscapes, has proven to be a challenging, meaningful change. Follow me this year and see where I go!!

Enjoy the new work, and check it out at Tumalo Art Company, Hood Avenue Art, and other venues. The Source and other new work is currently installed at North Soles Footwear in downtown Bend, OR.

Follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and follow this blog to be informed of amazing new paintings and events! Contact me to receive my newsletter so that we can meet at showings and to receive notifications about classes. I am planning an upcoming workshop on Textured Watercolors in February, 2017. Let me know if you would be interested in the 2-day class. Every one of my paintings is available as a print, and I sell signed greeting cards of all my images.



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