“The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time — a time to contemplate your immortality. A time to forgive, to be forgiven, and to make a fresh start. A time to awaken.” -Frederick Lenz
Monday, December 21st is going to be a great day. Not only is it the Winter Solstice but about an hour after sunset you will be able to witness the "Christmas Star". The Winter Solstice will be the shortest day of 2020 and the longest night. It is also the first day of winter. Mankind has always celebrated the Winter and Summer Solstice. Think of Stonehenge and numerous places in North America where Native Americans would mark and celebrate the solstices. It is winter, but it is natures birth of a new year.
The Christmas Star is the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. It is said to be the bright star that led the three wisemen to the newly born Jesus 2,000 years ago. The last time we had a winter star as bright as this was 800 years ago.
We live in an era of digital time, and there never seems to be enough of it. But we should not overlook nature's time and fail to celebrate the Winter Solstice. For many years now, I have found someplace quiet to celebrate, to forgive, to be forgiven, to think about my mortality, the past and consider the future. Sometimes it’s cold; sometimes it’s overcast, but the sun will set and I know after the longest night, the sun will rise again. The days will get longer and it will be a time to awaken.
Happy Winter Solstice.
To read more about viewing and photographing the Winter Solstice and the Christmas Star click here.
If you live in the St Louis region we may be in luck for witnessing and photographing a Winter Solstice Sunset and the Christmas Star. According to the Weather Channel Forecasts the evening skies will be clear. It will be cool, probably about 30 degrees after sunset. I've been told the Christmas Star should be seen about an hour after sunset. I suggest you find a flat place such as a field or park where you can view a low horizon for both events. Hills to the west could block both the sunset and Christmas Star. In the St Louis area two of my favorite locations are the Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area (just north of St Louis where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers meet and the Busch Wildlife Conservations Area (St Charles County south of St Charles off highway 94). One of the benefits of both these locations is you can find numerous places where you can park you car and set up your photo equipment close by. It's always nice to have a warm car as you wait.
If you want to take photos a tripod is needed, especially for the Christmas Star. I like wide angle photos for the sunset and telephotos shots for the Christmas Star. I also like to have a lake or an interesting foreground feature in the sunset photos. Set your camera to AUTO ISO and the cameras exposure system will get you in the ball park. You will probably still need to make some cameras adjustments to the exposure. You may want to read up on exposure compensation in your cameras user manual if you are not familiar with it..
I hope you take a few minutes this Winter Solstice to find a quiet place to celebrate nature's years end. Let's let go of this year with a fresh start. Don’t live the same year over and over and call it a life. Starting with this Winter Solstice, awaken to a new life growing with hope and promise.
"The brook would lose its song if we removed the rocks."
It was a cold, overcast, and there was snow on the ground that March day I moved to the Ozarks. Leaving the warm spring of Galveston, Texas wearing only a tee shirt, I wasn't a happy camper. Little did I know it would be one of the best days of my life.
I fell in love with the Ozarks. I love its rugged hills, valleys and crystal-clear streams. I love its clear blue sky and it's green, green forests. The Ozarks molded me, intoxicated me, and seduced me. I’ve moved around, but I’ve never moved out of the Ozarks. I never will.
I’ve been photographing, painting and drawing the Ozarks since my high school years. Now I want to share it with you. Join me on a journey, both back in time and into the future, as I share with you "The Incredible Ozarks" in future blog posts, on my website and through social media.
Let' start the adventure in the Richland Creek Wilderness area, a truly a wild place, a narrow valley filled with gigantic boulders, waterfalls, hardwood forests and most important, a wild clear running creek that flows most of the year. It is located in the southern Arkansas Ozarks, south of the Buffalo National River. It flows north and empties into the Buffalo River at “The Narrows”
near Pindall, Arkansas. The headwaters of Richland Creek is a true wilderness area, one of the few left in middle America.
“Above all Siddartha learned from the river how to listen, to listen with a still heart, with a waiting, open soul, without passion, without desire, without judgments, without opinions.” ― Hermann Hesse
Confluence Sunset II, 12X24 Acrylic on board
Have you ever given rivers much thought? They are always there. We cross them all the time in our travels without giving them much thought. “A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move.”*
Ozark Spring Creek, 6X12 Oil on board
People are like rivers. We start out no more than a trickle and as we age (grow, mature) we widen and deepen. Sometimes we burst our banks, when we are full of ourselves. Other times we may stagnate or even dry out. Sometimes others want to dam us up, confine us and use us for their own purposes.
Falling Water Falls in the Arkansas Ozarks, 12X12 acrylic on Canvas
I’m a river person wanting to flow free making my own way through life. Sometimes my life runs clear and true and other times it becomes muddied or even eddies back on myself. I have lived most of my life in the Ozarks and love the Ozarks because of its rivers. Every time I cross a river, or even a small creek, I slow down to take a look. I want to know how it is living in the moment.
Confluence Sunset on the Missouri River 18X24 Acrylic on Canvas
Today, in our real lives, we are caught up in a flood. A flood so great we cannot even imagine our future. Envision yourself a droplet of river water, have faith this too shall pass, and we once again find our place in life.
*Aidan Chambers, This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”--Martin Luther King, Jr.
These are unusual times. While our day-to-day routines have changed pretty dramatically, it’s important to remember that we can still seek joy, peace, health and beauty.
I know many are disappointed that almost every organized activity you can imagine has been canceled or postponed. Every spring I look forward to the first art shows and other art related events. This year I was personally excited about showing my new series of paintings, INCREDIBLE OZARKS, at various art fairs, but that’s not going to happen. Since we are going to be out of our routines, now is a good time to break some old habits and start a few new ones. It may be awhile before you see me in public again. No, I haven’t decided to shelter-in-place. My wife and I are now artists-in-residence.
Social distancing doesn’t mean we need to stop everything and become hermits. The Outdoors is still open for business. There is no reason we can’t go for walks, hike, explore, and observe spring coming into bloom. There is nothing more beautiful than the INCREDIBLE OZARKS spring with Redbuds and Dogwoods. With all the rain, the waterfalls are flowing, and the trees will soon begin to leaf out. If we happen across other nature and outdoor lovers, we’ll be friendly, but keep our distance.
We have so many places to hike, waterfalls to see and secluded trials to take while watching the magic of winter turning into spring. The Ozarks is blessed with MDC Conservation Areas in every county. If you and your family want to enjoy spring, here are three websites to research, the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources-State Parks. My favorite source for places to hike is AllTrails.com. It’s a great resource with photos, detailed descriptions, maps, difficulty ratings and reviews from other hikers. Best of all this is free.
Just a heads up, while the trails may be open, many facilities are closed including public restrooms, visitor centers, and public campgrounds – plan accordingly.
Here is a list of a few more ideas to inspire you this spring:
Staying home could be the best way to spend time with your children, and help them build confidence and character during a stressful time. No one knows how long the Coronavirus will last, but it may be the best thing to happen to you this spring. Have a Happy and Safe Spring.
Good ideas are common – what’s uncommon are people who’ll work hard enough to bring them about.
Snow days were the best as a kid. How could you not love spending a school day building snowmen, sledding, having snowball fights, and making snow angels? As an adult, it's much easier to get annoyed with the chores a snow day brings, like having to shovel the driveway, digging your car out of a snow bank or the stress of driving on the icy roads. But why focus on the negative when we can put on our snow boots and go out to enjoy the beautiful snowy weather?
As an artist and photographer, I look forward to snow days. Snow turns the grimy, gray days of winter into a beautiful landscape of white.
“Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless.”
Mankind has always celebrated the Winter and Summer Solstice. Think of Stonehenge and numerous places in North America where Native Americans would mark and celebrate the solstices. It is winter, but it is natures birth of the New Year.
Happy Winter Solstice.
“Everything that is made beautiful and fare and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.” -Rumi
“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination” -Roman Payne
I love the Ozarks. I love its rugged hills, valleys and crystal-clear streams. I love its clear blue sky and it's green, green forests. The Ozarks molded me, intoxicated me, and seduced me. I’ve moved around, but I’ve never moved out of the Ozarks. I never will.
I’ve been photographing, painting and drawing the INCREDIBLE OZARKS since my high school years. Now I want to share it with you. Join me on a journey, both back in time and into the future, as I share with you "My Ozarks" in future blog posts, on my website and through social media.
Let' start the adventure at Hawksbill Crag at the very head of the Buffalo National River, in NW Arkansas. Hawk's Bill Point is a small rocky point where you can overlook the entire headwaters of the Buffalo River. If you hike a couple hundred yards you can get this dramatic view of the point and the overhang. It is at least a hundred feet to the ground below. This painting is based on a photograph taken in the early 1980's and recreated as a painting in 2013.
Notice that autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature. - Friedrich Nietzsche
It’s going to be a beautiful weekend to drive down to Elephant Rocks and Johnson
Shut-Ins. Sunny, but cool both Saturday and Sunday. You can spend the day exploring the autumn colors then join me for an exhibit and reception of my paintings,
PAINTING ELEPHANT ROCKS – ONE YEAR, THIRTY PAINTINGS.
On Saturday, November 2nd, there will be reception at the Battle of Pilot Knob Historic Site (five miles from Elephant Rocks) from 4pm to 7pm. Come see my exhibition. Free snacks, drinks and good conversation.
On November 3rd, from 1 to 3PM, I will give a talk about my experiences spending a year photographing and painting Elephant Rocks. I will discuss how to photograph the rocks through the seasons, what time is the best, what to look for in a photograph and then how to turn the photos into paintings. If you have photos or paintings of Elephant Rocks bring them along to share and discuss.
Paintings of Elephant Rocks State Park is a new series of landscapes created over the past year by artist Garry McMichael. It is a series of paintings of a unique granite geological formation located in the Arcadia Valley about 1.5 hours south of St Louis. There is nothing quite like this rock-strewn landscape anywhere else in Missouri or Mid America. Giant boulders of pink granite rocks appear all over the landscape and in the nearby Ozark hardwood forest. Throughout the centuries, green and gray lichens and mosses have only added to their shape, texture and beauty. It's a painting project I’ve been working on for over a year to capture the state park throughout the seasons.
PAINTING ELEPHANT ROCKS – ONE YEAR, THIRTY PAINTINGS will be on display from November 1st through 30th. Additional Elephant Rocks paintings will also on exhibit at the Fort Davidson Café just across the street from the Historic Site. Good food and wonderful paintings.
Painting Elephant Rocks will be on exhibit
Starting November 1st
At Battle of Pilot Knob Historic Site*
Pilot Knob, Missouri
Exhibit will run from November 1st to 30th
Reception, November 2nd 4:00pm to 7:00pm
* located 5 miles from Elephant Rocks State Park
Energy Vortex's are really within each of us. If you want to experience an energy vortex all you need is a quiet place where you can hear your heart and feel a breeze on your face. That’s what Elephant Rocks offers. It's a far better place.
As far back as he can remember, he has had an interest in rocks and geology. “Rocks have personalities, just as family and friends do; rocks are people I know,” he said. “Some are bright, colorful and make me laugh. Others are secretive, dark and foreboding, keeping all their secrets to themselves. Some rocks are as smooth as a new baby’s skin, while others have sharp edges and carry the scars of a million years.
“Some rocks work together, forming teams, stacking together, while others are loners. Like people, rocks fail, they crack, they slowly erode and they break under natures heavy hand. But don’t ever underestimate a rock. They have strength and the ability to endure in a way that people can only wish for. We can learn a lot from rocks,” he added.
As an avid student of still life painters and their subjects, McMichael said he is always intrigued by the subjects that are chosen. Most still life painters select everyday things such as fruit, flowers, simple utensils and kitchenware.
“In the 18th century, it wasn’t uncommon for painters to create paintings of the game (rabbit, quail, fish) they hunted for nourishment. They would often include their trusty musket and knives in the paintings.
One of Garry’s favorite still life painters is Giorgio Morandi, a well-known Italian still life painter whose subject was wine bottles, tin cans, bricks and simple boxes, all painted white, gray or black. He painted hundreds of them in his little apartment by the light coming in his windows. They were all titled Natura Morta, with the year each was painted as part of the title. Georgia O’Keeffe was famous for painting bones, horns and antlers, with and without the New Mexico landscape.
“I first saw rocks stacked on top of each other on a Canadian fishing trip,” McMichael said. “They are called ‘cairns,’ and have been used for centuries to mark a trail. I saw them again as works of art stacked on the North Shores of Lake Superior.”
Like Morandi and O’Keeffe, he was immediately attracted to painting these cairns because of their simplicity, textures and gracefulness. Not only does he paint them as still-lifes, he’s beginning to see them as part of the landscape, and rocks in general, as the landscape.
Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. ― Stephen King
Let me tell you about “talent”. In college, I had a close friend who was also a photographer and very “talented”, maybe more talented than I. We both loved NW Arkansas and the Buffalo River County. We literally spent weeks floating the river together. Through the years we went separate directions becoming professional photographers. He moved to Jasper, Arkansas near the Buffalo National River where he earned a living doing photography and other odd jobs, but he only did what was needed to get by. He liked smoking pot and drinking Arkansas moonshine a wee bit.
I too, moved to Arkansas. I worked every day, first for a newspaper and then as a freelance photographer for national editorial magazines. One day I got a call from National Geographic contracting me to spend a week photographing the autumn colors of the hardwood forests in the Buffalo National River region. To work for National Geographic and photograph the fall colors of the most beautiful place in the Ozarks was a dream of a life time.
Since my old friend lived near the Buffalo River I dropped by telling him of my assignment and asked if he would like to spend a couple days together as I worked in the area. I told him where I would be camping and asked him to join me that evening.
He did join me, and on a cool crisp autumn evening we had dinner by the campfire, reliving old times and drinking just a bit too much. Later in the evening my friend informed me I didn’t deserve to be doing this assignment. After all, he was more talented, a better photographer than I, and he knew the Buffalo region better. He’s proclaimed he should be shooting for National Geographic. Never mind I had been sending samples of my work and developing a relationship with National Geographic for years, just hoping to get this opportunity. It was an uneasy moment, and we were old friends. I let his comments slide as we decided to call it quits for the night. But the next morning I suggested this wasn’t going to work out and we needed go separate ways. I would go on to do several more assignments for National Geographic. My friend was died in car accident a few years later.
So much for “talent”. It’s totally worthless unless you are willing to put a lot of effort into it.
To see More of my American Landscapes
Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping… -Simon and Garfunkel
I am so fortunate. God gave me the gift of imagination. All my life I’ve seen ideas, opportunities, things that others don’t. As an artist I can go to a location and see subjects, compositions, light, color, and contrast as few do. It’s not just talent and training, it’s a gift.
But imagination, concepts and ideas are just half the battle. The secret is “follow through”. Concepts and ideas without “follow through” have no value. Consider an entrepreneur, like the late Steve Jobs, without follow through Apple wouldn’t exist. Show me one person whose life hasn’t been affected by the follow through of Steve Jobs.
It’s the same with artists. Monet’s Water Lilies would not exist without his obsession to paint them. The same can be said about the hundreds of paintings of Norman Rockwell’s nostalgic Americana, or Georgia O’Keeffe’s Southwest Landscapes, or Mark Bradford’s contemporary America. Follow through, it’s the gift of all great artists.
Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…
Why do I paint rocks? Don’t think of them as rocks. They have personality just as family and friends do; rocks are people I know. Some are bright, colorful and make me laugh. Others are secretive, dark and foreboding, keeping all their secrets to themselves. Some rocks are as smooth as a new baby’s skin while others have sharp edges and carry the scars of a million years. Some rocks work together, forming teams, stacking together, leaning on each other, while others are loners. Like people, rocks fail, they crack, they slowly erode and they break under natures heavy hand. But don’t ever under estimate a rock. They have strength and the ability to endure people can only wish for. We can learn a lot from rocks.
"Whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done” -Van Gogh
Seeking perfection is part of the process being a great artist.
Purchase Double Arch Cairn
"An arch consists of two weaknesses, leaning one against another, make a strength." -Leonardo da Vinci
In my search for Cairns I sometimes come across stone arches. Far more complicated than stacking stones, arches require more dexterity and patience to build. In my few attempts to build an arch, I have found myself wishing I had three hands. I think I’ll stick to painting them.
Perhaps Arches should be built by a couple or as a family project which would seem appropriate. An arch built of rocks is like a family. Every rock/everyone supports each other, and as in a family, everyone works to make the family whole. Engineers may talk of the importance of a “keystone”, but in my mind every stone in the arch is the keystone. Take one out and you may still be able to build an arch, but it is much diminished.
"Building Trust” is a painting based on a rock arch I found on a Huzzah Creek gravel bar in the middle of the Missouri Ozarks. Built by someone whose patience I can only appreciate.
Today a fellow artist accused me of being obsessed with painting rocks. My immediate response was, “No! I’m in the process of creating a body of work.” But of course, my friend is right. Here are a few thoughts reflecting on obsession and creativity.
“Be obsessed or be average.” -Grant Cardone
“Until your mission is an obsession, nothing will change.” -Robin Sharma
“A great artist has a unique vision – obsession. They are someone willing to fail flamboyantly.” -Jerry Saltz
“When passion meets inspiration, an obsession is born.” -Anonymous
“Good requires motivation, great requires obsession.” -M. Cobanli
“Your job is to get your audience to care about your obsessions.” -Martin Scorsese
“Follow your most intense obsession mercilessly.” -Frank Kafka
“To succeed, work hard, never give up and above all cherish a magnificent obsession.” -Walt Disney
“Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.” -Anonymous
“May your obsessions be impassioned and long lived.” -Garry McMichael
Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do. -Edgar Degas