29 June 2010

See You Soon Alaska!

Here was the view leaving from Anchorage, with the mountains poking through the clouds which sit at 10,000 feet. The power of these mountains takes on a whole new dimension when seen from above. You could see the glaciers and snow with the ridges as sharp as razors.
I got really nostalgic watching the mountains disappear. Nostalgic for something that isn't even mine or my culture, but somehow took a hold on me and left me with a powerful and peaceful presence.
I wasn't able to update the blog the last few days in Alaska because I went to the town of Talkeetna for the weekend and then the internet wasn't working before I left early yesterday. I have enough material to write a blog entry every day for a year in just describing all the wonderful and exciting encounters I had. It rained the last few days, but the night before I left I did go down to the river and paint under the rain at midnight (of course it was still light enough to paint, it doesn't get dark!).
Tomorrow I will post some paintings from Alaska now that I'm back in Orlando and can take the time to get some good photographs of them.
I just want to thank Alaska in all of it's glory and each and every person that I came into contact with there who truly made the trip so fun and perfect. It's funny how in Alaska even a Yankee can feel right at home!

26 June 2010

Alaska Outhouse Style

I know this has nothing to do with painting, but I just can't resist bragging about the outhouse at the Denali Education Center, it's great! Not only does it not smell due to good ventilation piping, it's homey. Seriously, going to the bathroom out in the woods is always something to deal with and they have managed it well. There's good reading material, paintings on the walls, a light and a styrofoam seat that never gets cold.
I'm really liking life here at the center. Everyone is friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the park- they're good at what they do. Today a group returned with a bus load of kids and park rangers that had been backpacking out at the far end of the park and they shared some of their experiences. It seems like there were hoards of mosquitos and that they got to see a lot of wildlife. The kids help the rangers collect data for the park and learn about being out in the wilderness.
I spent my morning hiking along the Nenana river and set my easel teetering easel up on some rocks along the bank to paint. At first I was a little nervous, thinking that if a moose or grizzly wandered up I really had no route for quietly slipping away and jumping in the raging river wasn't looking like a plausible option.
I didn't let these thoughts keep me from painting, though and I dived in. After awhile I realized that I wasn't alone out there as a group of guided rafters started floating by. One of the rafts even came close to shore to see how my painting was going and the guide told me that I could have a free raft ride anytime! What a fun and unexpected day.
I have yet to meet an unfriendly Alaskan. I even asked one why Alaskans are so friendly. His response was that really they're still pretty rural people. I guess country people know the meaning of hospitality.

25 June 2010

A Day on the Nenana River

I painted on the river as the sun was going behind the mountain, finishing up about 10 p.m. This is such a little haven!
This morning I was going to walk the river to look for a place to paint, but got sidetracked and ended up painting in the woods and didn't get back to the river until evening time. When I came back this evening the river was significantly fuller with a faster flow than this morning leaving no room to walk along the rocky banks at some points.
Today you could feel that summer has arrived here in Denali, it was hot and sunny and what was left of the snow we saw here last week has melted away and is washing at breakneck speed downstream, headed for the Bering Sea.
I had a wonderful day meeting people at the center, going for a moutain bike ride up the ridge which overlooks the river and the Education Center and I even went to "town" to get some groceries and painted twice.
I think I'll head down the river first thing in the morning to see what it looks like in the morning light. There's so much wide open space, even being surrounded by the tall peaks of these mountains, I feel as though I need a bit more time here and a lot more canvas!

24 June 2010

Denali Education Center

Thanks to Jill and the Denali Education Center I get to stay here in the woods on the Nenana river and the edge of Denali National Park for my remaining days in Alaska. Immediately when I arrived (via 6 hour gorgeous bus ride from Anchorage), everyone greeted me and made me feel at home, as if I had always been here. They showed me around, including their center where they host all kinds of events and is home to wonderful local art, their "beach" on the Nenana river and the largest solar panels around which heat the water for the Elderhostel. All in all an amazing place!
Tomorrow I plan to do some hiking and lots of painting and am looking forward to getting to know this spot over the next few days.
This picture was taken a midnight, just to give you the idea that it really doesn't get dark here this time of year, even if the sun does set, it comes back up a few hours later. All this daylight gives the sense of many days all crammed into one.
Yesterday we hiked up the Russian River through some forest full of bear signs to a series of waterfalls where we saw the first salmon running. I feel so lucky to have had the chance to see this, this is something every human should witness in my opinion. To see these salmon jumping and swimming, negotiating the fierce currents with all their strength just hits home how that is what they have to do. We can do the things we need to do and even if it feels like swimming upstream sometimes, we add all the feeling of this is too hard, I can't do this, I don't want to, etc. when really all there is to do is keep swimming.
Alaska is a powerful and wild place, rich in life from the little that I've had the chance to see. Making little paintings might seem silly in the bigness of this place, but in a way it could be just right and what there is for me to do in my short time here. And besides, I'm really enjoying it!

21 June 2010

Seward, AK

One thing I didn't think about when coming to Alaska was about how much boats are a part of life here. In Seward there is a lot of fishing going on (we got to eat freshly caught halibut on our campfire grill tonight, amazing!) and so there are boats in all shapes, sizes and colors here.
In the morning we went to visit Exit Glacier where we hiked right up to the bottom of the glacier to experience it in it's enormity.
After hiking down we decided to paint a view of it from Resurrection river. The view was stunning, the composition complicated, but as I began to paint the snow covered mountains, I felt that mayhem would ensue! Painting snow covered mountains could really make someone want to pull their (my) hair out, trying to understand the shape of the mountain and following the countours of the snow and land. I didn't let mayhem ensue though, I just squinted hard through the whole painting and really enjoyed it by the end.
In the afternoon I got my group to drop me off by a run down looking ship yard, I couldn't just let it go by. I had to go and paint there, so I did.
It was hard knowing that I only had a few hours and not weeks here, so I chose a boat and set up. The best thing about seeing boats on land is you get to really experience their full shape and how enormous they are out of the water. I loved being able to see their undersides and having to crane my neck to take in all of the cables, pulley and wires: it was truly invigorating and so new and exciting.
Tomorrow morning we'll be moving on to the other side of the peninsula to Homer. I hope we'll get lucky and have another sunny day.
The next time I have internet I'll post some pictures of paintings. So far I've really just wanted to share a few slices of the Alaska I've been able to see.

19 June 2010

The Kenai Peninsula

The last 2 days have really been a lot of driving. We took yesterday morning to see Fairbanks and then started heading south. We stopped along the way to camp in the most gorgeous mosquito infested bog I've ever seen, and then were off early this morning in order to arrive in Seward by this evening.
Pulling into our campground on Stoney Creek, we were greeted by the most delicate of rains and puffy, wet clouds hanging on the moutains. Tanya and I set up to paint on Stoney Creek (where we are camping for the next few days) and just went for it. Even with the umbrellas, everything got wet and after awhile mixing paint became work with the added water turning it into a sticky mess.
I stopped myself at a certain point to look and see what I had done, and I realized that I was taking to long to get in the big idea and being too literal about it. The whole thing about this rain and fog on the creek with the mountain is the mood, and to capture the wonderful mood of the whole thing. Whether or not I was successful with the finished painting, I had a mental shift where I forgot trying to get this painting "right" and just went for it. And above all, I just really relished in the wet, cold, beautiful Alaskan moment.

17 June 2010

Alaska, we made it!

Here we are with our RV in Denali National Park painting the view of Mt. McKinley. I warmed up with a watercolor at the table before going out and braving the artic winds. It's incredible, I mean I don't know if there are words to do justice to this Alaska. I just couldn't picture this place, and now I know why: I've never experienced anything like it. The great vastness of the tundra landscape takes away any illusions of grandeur we may have as humans and reminds me that we are just a small part in the chain or the web of life, and being out here making little paintings of all this hugeness is just humbling and completely inspiring!
It's true that it doesn't get dark, but we keep waiting for it to.. Eating dinner in our campsite at 11 pm while watching the sun moving slowly to the horizon tricks us into thinking that if we just stay up a little longer it will be dark. The only thing to do is force ourselves to go to bed and when we do get to bed I just pull the covers over my head pretending that it's night time and dark out.
The best part of all this daylight is we just don't feel in a hurry. There's plenty of time to hang out, eat and paint. Paint, paint, paint, it's awesome! Life full of daylight really makes me reset my brain to the setting "all the time in the world"!
I haven't posted any pictures of paintings yet, but will do so in the next few days. Today we're in Fairbanks after a few days in Denali. It's a lot warmer here, but full of the biggest mosquitoes I've ever seen!
This evening we'll be headed south to check out the Kenai peninsula, can't wait!

13 June 2010

The Red Shed

The Red Shed oil on panel 8x10"
I found this shed down a dirt road outside Orlando. I like to just drive around sometimes with no idea in mind and see what I come upon. I liked this falling down shed in all its redness amongst what can otherwise be the overwhelm of summer green.
I was sure I was in the country, but so many people stopped to talk, that you would have thought me in the city. But I guess that's the difference between city and country, a lot of times country folks like to stop and chat.
The first thing everyone said is how ugly this shed is and that they hope the next hurricane blows it down once and for all, but I had sympathy for the unknown owner of the shed,
thinking if it were my place I would love to have a shed just like
this one.

08 June 2010

Sarasota Paintings

Wow, Sarasota is fun and gorgeous! I had such a fabulous time and just couldn't get enough of painting, I could have really stayed longer. I also learned a lot about painting in the wilds on the Myakka river. The number one rule is NO wearing sandals, the fire ants think that you've brought a buffet just for them! I spent a lot of time in sandals (resulting in little yucky welts all over my feet..) and no matter how hot it is, spending all of that time jumping around and scratching is just distracting! I also learned to always bring a bathing suit. It's so hot right now that even going swimming with the gators seems like a good option for cooling off. The other thing is that I had to give up my romantic notion of being out alone in the silence of nature. The birds were cackling so loud sometimes, with the gators chiming in with grunts, that it was like being in some kind of animal city, it really got that loud. At one point a snake slithered by, passing right under my easel. I seemed to be in the midst of an animal super highway, and they seemed to take no note of me. It was wildly fun and exciting.
Live Oak and Elderberry, Myakka 8x10" oil on panel

I saw this tree while out walking on the river and just had to paint it. Even though a scene with the actual river in it seemed like the thing to paint, this tree with its deep shade and moss seemed to really capture the place for me.

General Store, Old Miakka 7x11", Oil on Panel

F-250 6x8", Oil on Panel

The last painting I want to share with you kind of completes what I see as the group of Myakka paintings. I was thinking about this painting all week, but was too intimated by all of the chaos in the woods to attempt it until the last day. I almost gave up on this one as I was painting, overwhelmed by all that is going on in those woods. But kept at it and just told myself to squint down and to try and see the pattern of darks and then those wild bright lights standing out. I'm glad I stuck with it and next time I will jump right in instead of thinking about it so much before hand!

Myakka Woods, 11x7" Oil on Panel

Thank you for reading, I know this was a long one, but I am excited to share these paintings with you. You can see more paintings on my website by clicking here. You can also buy any of these paintings directly from the website by clicking on their title in the email or by contacting me at kellyaskey@gmail.com

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