Friday, March 18, 2016


"Near Panther Creek"
8" x 10" en plein air   oil/linen

As we approach the plein air season I am reminded of this particular painting done on a crisp morning in Big Bend National Park. I had parked at the roadside pullout and hiked about a hundred yards from the road so I wouldn't be bothered by anyone. I just wanted a quiet morning spent alone with Mother Nature, a blank canvas and my paint.

As I worked through a series of Notan sketches trying to finalize my design I happen to notice a park ranger parked next to my car standing in the bed of her truck with a pair of binoculars scanning the scene I was about to paint. I didn't think anything of it really. Right before my first stroke of paint I glanced over my shoulder and she was gone.

Thirty minutes later I noticed the ranger was back and she was on top of her truck with her binoculars again. She noticed me looking at her and we exchanged friendly "hello" waves with one another.
Then she climbed down and drove off.

For the next hour I was busy painting and not paying attention to much else except I had grown accustomed to hearing the ranger's truck coming up the road, parking next to my car and then down the road she would go. Except now it seemed her trips were becoming shorter and shorter.

With my completed painting stashed away in a RayMar box, I started to scrape dirty paint off my palette when a shadow across my palette startled me. Janet, the park ranger, was in a bit of a panic and before I knew it she was grabbing my stuff and pushing me up the hill towards the parking pullout. Turns out she had been keeping eyes on a mother cougar and her two cubs all morning as they made their way up the canyon directly towards me. She thought they were going to turn and head towards their den, but on this morning they continued up the canyon and I was directly in their path.

Safely out of the way I sat with my new best friend and watched as the cougars sniffed the area I had been standing in ten minutes earlier. I often wonder what would have happened that morning if Janet hadn't been looking out for me. 

With that in mind, for all my art friends heading outdoors this Spring to careful out there.