ROAD WORK – Which Way Are You Heading? (And Good Luck With That!)

Roadrunners, two-foot long, toothpick skinny birds traverse the desert southwest on four-toed feet that leave X-marks in the sand to mark their passage. Made famous by their starring role in Wiley Coyote cartoons, these comical critters are faster than greased lightning and meaner than junk-yard dogs, but nobody gets everything in life, and roadrunners can’t stay aloft very long. Hence their propensity for running, like Olympic hopefuls, across whatever ground.

Pueblo and Hopi tribes, and probably those who came before them believed roadrunners to be “medicine birds”, protectors of the People. Seeing a roadrunner kept bad spirits from haunting one’s day. I feel privileged to share my turf with roadrunners, and I’m a firm believer in that old wisdom. Why? Roadrunners eat snakes. The bird can kill a coiled rattlesnake with a swift, whip-like snap of the tail followed by a brutal and repeated bashing of the snake’s head. I have an irrational fear of snakes, especially rattlers. Bad spirits. Herpetologists can argue the value of snakes all they want without convincing me. (I am totally irrational about this. I willingly took a B in a biology class my senior year at Texas Tech rather than attend lab the day we messed with snakes.) Roadrunners must eat something, so I say, whatever it takes. Bon appetit.

Jim and I have lived in the mountains long enough to qualify as mid-level amateur trackers, and seeing those X’s trailing across the ground always brings a smile to my lips. In Indian and Chihuahuan Desert Mexican lore, seeing a roadrunner brings good luck, and seeing one’s tracks is even better. Because of the symmetry of the roadrunner’s footprints, it’s hard to tell which way those X’s are headed. This misdirection throws those evil spirits for a loop, which means us good guys can go on about our day unmolested by the things that haunt us. (At the very least, seeing tracks implies the possibility of one less rattlesnake slinking around.)

Not knowing exactly which way the fierce, funny looking roadrunner went adds a little laughter to my day: Long as I’m hiking these lovely high desert mountains, does it really matter whether I’m going up-mountain or downhill?

May you track good fortune, wherever you are headed today. May you be protected from bad spirits by a disproportionally designed bird that stumbles through the air but moves like a racehorse. May you laugh out loud as you travel.

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ROAD WORK 8in x10in watercolor © Lindy Cook Severns

Need protection? ROAD WORK is available as a small matted reproduction or card in my online store. No cage necessary.

Moving On

My Big Bend Artist blog, as well as my Outlaw Pastelist blog have moved to my website. The word press blogs will still be here for a few more weeks, but to keep following me, you’ll need to travel to https://www.lindycookseverns.com/blog/

Sorry for the inconvenience, but I couldn’t keep managing so many different venues, and I think you’ll enjoy the simplicity of the new location.

Thanks for reading here–I will be able to post more regularly on the new site. Promise.

Now, I must fly away… hopefully, you’ll follow me!

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Sunset on Land Untamed

Sunset on Land Untamed 36x24 oil Lindy C Severns web
SUNSET ON LAND UNTAMED  36″x24″ oil on rough linen  © Lindy Cook Severns 2017
 

In the Texas borderlands, we tread vast landscapes under immense skies.  The farther from towns and highways and power lines you go, the larger the land; the farther you go from city lights and pollution, the broader the sky.  Drive a few miles from any Far West Texas community and you find yourself alone with Nature, and out here, Nature is a wild giant, equally prepared to entertain you or to kill you.

 

I, of course, prefer to be entertained. And nothing entertains me more than rounding a corner onto wild country.

 

The Marfa Highlands, a high desert plateau flanked by Texas mountain ranges sprawl across waving grasslands sparsely dotted with yucca, sunburned prickly pear and languid cattle. It’s beautiful country, and with such broad horizons, it’s hard to imagine its borders drop hundreds of feet into the wilderness home of that giant, where Pinto Canyon sinks beneath Chinati Peak and runs toward the Rio Grande in a breath-taking series of sheer cliffs and rolling mountain meadows.

The land is privately owned. In Texas, we respect that. But so long as you don’t leave the road, you’re not trespassing. The two land rural road narrows to one lane of packed dirt that becomes impassable if it rains. As it winds down to the Rio Grande, the “road” gets a little harrowing. There’s no phone service, and you are very much alone with that wild giant. Have a flat tire, and you’d better be able to fix it yourself. In this part of the desert southwest, if you break down and start hiking, you very well might die of exposure, or thirst, or snakebite before the next truck happens along to save you. This country takes for granted that those who travel its back roads have survival skills to back up their adventures. But it’s an artist’s dream landscape. Drive toward the big river late in the day, when sunset splashes a rainbow of color across the borderlands, and you have yourself a painting. Enjoy!

Artists note: I chose a high grade, roughly textured linen canvas for my painting of this rough country. Successive layers of transparent color helped me show the complexity of this wild canyon, and add the glow of that Texas sunset to my large oil painting. Fun to paint…hope you find pleasure looking at it. Visit my website to see more views of Far West Texas and the desert southwest.

$7500

Currently available at Old Spanish Trail Gallery & Museum outside Fort Davis, TX

custom framing by Midland Framing and Fine Arts, Midland, TX

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Dawn Bloom and Ghostly West Texas Enchantments

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DAWN  BLOOM  18″ x 38″ pastel  Lindy Cook Severns

The Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park rise without warning from the harsh Texas borderlands. No other mountains in the continental USA dare extend so far south, so deeply into the Chihuahuan Desert. Few other Texas peaks so boldly pierce the sky.

Some say the name “Chisos” comes from a Native American word for “ghost”; others insist the mountain range’s namesake is the Spanish hechizos, “enchantment”.  Whatever the source of their name, these ghost mountains enchant the spirit.

At daybreak, the mountains shimmer with the special magic of desert mornings. In the desert, sunrise marks a time of grace, a respite from the night’s bitter cold and the day’s brutal sun. We drove up on them one October morning just as the yellow light of dawn seeped into the sky behind the line of mystic-blue peaks. Around a small bend in the seemingly endless park road from Marathon to Panther Junction, a party of Texas-tall sagebrush ambushed us. Every gray sagebrush wore a headdress of lilac blossoms, and the crisp air was giddy with fragrance.

We pulled off the deserted road, parked and spent some time captive to the enchanting blue-on-blue spirit mountains, soft yellow sunlight and aromatic sagebrush tossing bouquets of violet into the sky. Not a bad way to start the day.

When I paint a landscape such as this, I try to recapture the moment. I paint the feel of soft sunlight warming the desert after the night cold-soaked it, the pungent aroma released when you brush against shoulder-high sagebrush, the awe inspired by mountains bravely linking heaven and earth. When you look at this large pastel painting, I hope you feel that enchantment.

Ghosts can be friendly.  Pause. Savor the moment and let these ancient elders shimmer into your spirit.

Purple Chisos at dawn from Old Ore Rd

A different view of sunrise on the Chisos Mountains, this one from near Bouquillas Canyon. Ghost mountains only reveal their colors to those who take time to savor them!

See more enchanting visions from Big Bend National Park and Far West Texas on my website any time of day.

Want to know more about art and artists and life in the Texas borderlands? Subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

Untamed Texas Sky

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UNTAMED TEXAS SKY  16″ x  20″ pastel  Lindy Cook Severns 2017

Spend any time in West Texas, and the sky will become a character in your life story. In the remote ranch country of the Texas mountains, even a clear blue sky is larger than life, and its vast sweep over the vast land can overwhelm you.  So when thunderstorms build and billow and rumble over the mountains, the wild sky is impossible to ignore.

Lightning strikes spark wildfires that rush across mountains so rugged, fire fighters often must stand by and watch flames run until the fire burns through all its fuel. Hail batters tender plants; reckless wind thrashes through the pines and uproots brittle oaks.

Yet we sunburned, wind-parched West Texans yearn for such skies, even as we fear them. The high desert is always thirsty. Raindrops are precious visitors: If they come with fearful baggage, so be it. We’re tough out here, willing to take the bad with the good.

The stormy West Texas sky is something more than weather, though. It is beautiful, so breathtakingly lovely, artists and photographers travel here just to experience the ever-changing panorama of blue. As for those of us who live under it, the beauty of the untamed Texas sky makes up for its wild ways.  The West Texas sky churns with the unpredictable energy of Life. The hand of God.

That life force at work is what I try to show when I paint a storm building over the mountains. That’s what I seek to share with you. Enjoy!

To see more of my skyscapes and desert landscape paintings, visit my website http://lindycseverns.com

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Dancing in Pinon

 

Hummingbirds begin arriving in the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas in early spring, after their annual winterfest down south. These early birds are often solo acts, so we get excited when we spot one. The feeder gets streaked with algae and mold long before these scattered travelers empty the sugar water my husband so thoughtfully provides them. Jim obediently cleans their feeder for them, so they hang around, delighting us with their energetic flights.

A few more appear in June. Jim grumbles, but hangs a second feeder for them. Come July, we’ll watch three or four hummers politely dining together while others hover in a holding pattern, waiting their turn at their favorite feeder.

In late July, all hell breaks loose around here. The Rufous clan arrives in a colorful frenzy, and there goes the neighborhood. Rufous hummingbirds are feisty, athletic fliers who don’t believe sharing nor, in waiting in line. Our African Grey parrot delights in watching their antics outside his window. (While he’s a bit offended when they buzz around his red tail feathers, he forgives his tiny avian cousins enough to go into mourning when they migrate back to Central America each autumn.)

One August morning, with assorted species of happy hummers practicing their aerobatic maneuvers through pine branches overhead, I grabbed my camera, squeezed against the tree trunk and started snapping shots. Most weren’t very good shots. (I’m an artist, not a photographer.) Out of a hundred photos, less than a third even had a hummer visible. (Thank goodness for digital photography!) But by pretending to be a tree trunk while holding down the shutter button, I got a pretty good sense of what it is to be a hummingbird, swooping and soaring, looping and diving through velvety green pine boughs on a lovely summer morning, on a lovely mountainside.

The lovely thing about being an artist is, I can create something out of not much. So, while my photo of these little creatures is a color-smudged blur, in my painting, the hummers are dancing their rapidly beating hearts out, celebrating another splendid summer here in the Texas mountains. As am I.

Be a hummingbird today: Dance like nobody’s watching, then sip as much sweetness as you dare.

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DANCING IN PINON   5″ x 7″ pastel by Lindy Cook Severns 2016

To see more of my paintings from the Davis Mountains and beyond, visit my website http://LindyCSeverns.com

 

 

 

 

 

Sunset’s Mountain Majesty

Visual familiarity breeds complacency in artists, as well as in “normal” people. We see, we appreciate, then we go forth in search of something new to see. I’m often as guilty of doing that as anyone else. I have a chronic case of wanderlust.

The difference, in my case, is that I live in a scenic canyon in one of the most stunningly dramatic parts of America. (People travel from foreign countries to spend their precious vacation time driving the 20 mile route we take to the post office.) I enjoy 360 degree beauty every single day, yet I don’t always paint those days. Artists love experiencing a novel, unanticipated new view of life, and I’m no exception. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence for me, as well as for all the constantly wandering cattle hereabouts.

And yet…I never go a day without a quiet gasp of delight when I see a patch of morning light illuminate just one rock cliff on the mountain we call “home”, or watch the midday sun wash the deep, rowdy reds of the volcanic boulders tumbling down its face a gentle salmon color. I don’t jump up and down and scream or anything–I simply stop what I’m doing, thinking, feeling for a heartbeat or two and savor the amazing beauty of the world around me.  But do I paint it?

Perhaps to apologize to Brown Mountain for the neglect it must feel, having an artist around who has painted Blue Mountain, Sawtooth, Livermore…Big Bend National Park…Hill Country…even western Canada more than she’s painted big Brown, one day in late spring I ordered the biggest Gessobord panel I could fit into our truck after framing. (See the science behind my artistic choices at work here?) And, while waiting for said archival board to arrive, I started courting Brown Mountain. Artist seeking a serious painting relationship. Loves big canvases. Will paint in oils. Adores splashy sunsets on volcanic mountains. No smoking, please.

Before FedEx dropped my board off the truck (and I mean Literally Dropped) Brown Mountain responded. Without any modesty, the mountain stood there, naked under one of our big West Texas sunsets waiting for me to snap some glamour shots. Which I did.

I went back and ordered a few more pricey tubes of Holbein’s professional oil paints, luminous colors worthy of my summer love, Brown Mountain, which is actually red most of the time. And I started painting the mountain I see every day from my “driveway”, our road to anywhere.

Oils drive me a bit crazy because I generally use a traditional technique of applying a layer of paint, letting it dry, then applying a thin glaze (a wash) of transparent color over that. Again and again. While the actual time at my easel is about the same for an oil or a pastel, the drying cycles of an oil pretty much take forever. A big oil takes a little longer than that. I found myself finally finishing this oil landscape painting Sunday afternoon, July 3rd, and had an appointment in Midland with my framer on Tuesday, so after church, I pulled a six or seven hour final session at my easel, applying glazes and teensy details like stems of grass. It’s the most fun stage for me, other maybe than starting a painting.

As I painted, I mulled over titles. Sometimes I have the title before I begin, but not on this one with its intimately familiar subject. I like my title to give the viewer not only a path to enter a painting on, but also, a tiny insight into my soul, into my inspiration. I lose sleep thinking up titles. Humming “America The Beautiful”, the rousing patriotic poem we’d sung as our closing hymn at First Presbyterian Church in Marfa that morning in honor of the Fourth of July,  I painted one more stem of grass. And suddenly, my painting was complete and I had my title: “Sunset’s Mountain Majesty”

Wanderlust aside, if you are lucky enough to be an artist living on a red volcanic mountain in Far West Texas, land of fiery sunsets who really needs to travel just to see some purple mountain’s majesty? Not me.

Thanks, Brown Mountain. This may be the start of something big.

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SUNSET’S MOUNTAIN MAJESTY by Lindy Cook Severns

SUNSET’S MOUNTAIN MAJESTY

30″ x 40″ oil on archival panel by Lindy Cook Severns 2016

$10,500

Old Spanish Trail Gallery and Museum, Fort Davis, Texas

This original oil painting was custom framed by Ramon Gonzales, Midland Framing and Fine Arts, Midland, Texas

 

 

 

The Earth, The Sky and the Mountain Between

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THE EARTH, THE SKY AND THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN  12″ x 16″ pastel Lindy Cook Severns 2016

 

THE EARTH, THE SKY AND THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN

Mitre Peak rises from semi-arid ranchland outside Alpine, Texas. The landmark mountain, which is shaped more than less like a child’s drawing of a mountain, gives its name to the popular  camp beneath it. My sister attended Mitre Peak Girl Scout Camp every summer from the time she was six. Kat completed her scouting years in the high desert of Far West Texas a counselor, then went on to attend Rice, a verdant green campus but with no horses grazing the grounds. She’s traveled the world, lives in the mountains above Calgary now, and if you ask her for her short list of favorite places on earth, “Mitre Peak” will spring from her lips right in there with “Paris”. To those who know it, the mountain holds magic.

That mystical pull of the mountain is what I wanted to share in this pastel landscape painting. The sky, as if auditioning to be a backdrop for a Hollywood blockbuster, wears the colors of the setting sun; wildflowers and Indian summer grasses flash like jewels displayed on brown velvet earth. But it is the mountain, Mitre Peak, with its simple, stereotypical mountain silhouette that lures you into this painting. The bishop’s hat of a mountain, with its vow of silent mystery, unites the earth and the sky into a place we call “Far West Texas.”

And I call Far West Texas, “home”.

The least I can do is paint it.

See this painting and other Big Bend country and Far West Texas landscapes on my website, Old Spanish Trail Studio, and at the Museum of the Big Bend on the Sul Ross campus in Alpine, TX during the 30th Trappings of Texas Invitational Fine Western Art and Gear Exhibit mid-April thru mid-May 2016. (During the exhibit, contact head curator Mary Bones for more information about this original pastel painting.) {SOLD!}

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Untold Story

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AN UNTOLD STORY      7″ x 14″ pastel landscape painting copyright Lindy Cook Severns | on this winter morning in the Texas desert we explored adobe ruins and watched fog creep across the Chisos Mountains

 

On a foggy winter morning years ago, we came upon adobe ruins outside Big Bend National Park. As ruins go, they weren’t the Parthenon. Even back then, not much remained of the weather-worn homestead. Sand banked into the corners of low, crumbled walls; the skeletons of interior bricks suggested a narrow second room. A break in the earthen walls marked where the single door once opened, a trailing of low brick suggested a modest courtyard or perhaps, a room that was never completed. Crumbling adobe brick framing the bare, wind-swept floor were the only indications that this ruin had ever been any different than the hard-packed desert soil surrounding it.

Yet, it was different. You could just sense that. It once was a home. A refuge scratched from the desert, each brick shaped by someone’s hand. (There are no home improvement stores in the wilds of the Chihuahuan Desert.) Most likely the man–or man and woman–whoever built the modest dwelling had also crafted the brick for it out of the very dirt it rests on.

It’s isolated, remote, even by desert standards. No other structures within miles. “They” certainly would’ve had to haul in water, and haul it a very long way over very difficult terrain. There’s a trickle of a spring a few miles away, but to reach that, you temporarily surrender your life to fate and hike a narrow trail above a deep, rocky draw. They would’ve lived without heat in the winter, and with little local fuel to feed a fire. They certainly would’ve worked under the blazing Texas sun without as much as a fan in the brutal desert summer. If they had children, they would’ve warned them to beware of rattlers, cougars, coyotes and falling to their death from those treacherous cliffs. Heaven only knows how they scraped out a living, even back in the days before overgrazing destroyed the tall grasses. It was a hard, hard life for whoever lived there.

Grey on adobe ruins Jan 2016

African Grey Parrots are not indigenous to the Chihuahuan Desert, but even our resident animals sense the mystery of Place.

A friend who joined us there this year asked if we knew “story”. We don’t. Perhaps someone knows it, but as far as we tourists are concerned, the story is untold.

Who built it? Whoever he/she/ they were, they had the soul of an artist. The vanishing ruins rest beneath awe-inspiring cliffs; the adobe foundation overlooks the mystical Chisos Mountains. Stand inside that foundation, and you can catch a sunrise that will steal your breath. Stand there long enough, and sunset will stop your heart. Stand silently, and the desert speaks to you. Whoever the story belongs to would’ve heard it. Would’ve appreciated the stark, lonely beauty of that place. Was that beauty enough compensation for the struggle to survive in the desert?

I believe life is so interconnected, not only do we absorb the spirit of places, but places absorb the life force of those who walk that ground. Places speak without words, share their stories, share them with little encouragement to those who will listen. You may not be able to decipher the history being recounted. You can’t even get a good photo of those ruins anymore. Each wet spell in the desert dissolves yet another row of adobe. Earth to earth… even in the desert, nothing lasts forever. But their story remains, in every crumbling adobe brick, every echo off those high rock cliffs, every wisp of fog floating from the distant mountains. And so, I return, year after year, to hear it, and to whisper “Vaya con Dios, mi amigo… and thank you for your hospitality…whoever you were…”

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In painting “An Untold Story”, a miniature pastel on a 7″ x 14″ archival board, I chose the long narrow format so I could hint at the vast sweep of sky and Chisos mountains that the residents of these crumbling adobe ruins would’ve seen each morning when they stepped out the now non-existent doorway into the desert.

To check the availability of this pastel painting, or to see more of my Big Bend landscape paintings from Far West Texas, visit Old Spanish Trail Studio, my website.

Midland Framing and Fine Arts, Midland, TX does the exquisite custom framing I use on my original landscape paintings.

The Rusty Rabbit, Alpine TX currently hangs this one! (Jan. 20, 2016) Contact the gallery, or contact me for more information.