Wednesday, December 28, 2005

When you drive over the Ravalli hill, heading north, (between Ravalli and St. Ignatius, Mt) you top the hill and see these mountains. The tiny white dots in the left hand corner are the buildings of the town of St Ignatius. From that reference point, you know how tall these mountains are. Most of the winter, you can't see the mountains because of the fog that hangs in the valley. I was lucky to see this view over Christmas holidays.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Since I talked about my photos of mountain sheep in my last post, I decided I should post something of the mountain sheep. This is a painting resulting from the photos.

In the photo, the ewe and her lamb were not on the edge of a cliff. I wanted to exaggerate the sheeps' ability to go anywhere on a rocky surface. I also wanted you to feel a little bit sorry for this lamb, and wonder if he'd be able to follow his mom where ever she went! Of course he can, their mom's don't go places the lambs can't follow. But I still wanted to create that little bit of wondering.

I used a transparent technique for this painting, thinning the oil paint down a lot so the white of the canvas shows through. The jpg here is a little dull compared to the actual painting. When I find the cd I burned of the sheep photos, I'll post the reference photo here with this post.
How do you get good photos of wildlife?
First off, you have to go where they are, secondly, you have to be quick, and third, you take a lot of photos of rear ends! Wildife is always running away from you. I bet I have 7000 photos of them running the other way!

Just by chance, I got this photo of a doe mule deer. We were coming home from Garnet, Mt, when we saw a flash of something in the forest that suggested "deer". I had the camera ready, it was turned on and working. I use a 300 mm lense. To keep the camera ready, I push the click button half way, to focus every once in a while or it turns itself off to save my battery. I learned that trick out of necessity, you don't have time, when you want a wildlife photo, to wait for the camera to turn on.

When you get that first glimpse of wildlife and you're riding in your truck, have your driver slam on the brakes and stop fast. Have your window open. Begin shooting before the truck stops, hoping you'll get something good. You can toss them later if they don't turn out. Keep shooting until the wildife is out of sight or so far away, the lense won't reach them anymore.

You might have 20 or 30 photos if you're lucky. Now take the photos home and look at them, maybe one or two of them will be a good enough photo, you can use it for reference! If you're really lucky, you might have one you can use for gifts, sell, or hang on your own wall....

The shot I posted here of this doe, was a luck shot. All my wildlife shots are luck shots! I might as well admit it. I don't have the $7000 lenses, a photography degree or any training. I do have some what of an eye for a good picture.

The other thing about getting photos of wildlife. You have to be out there trying. You have to go where they are. Robert is used to my ways. He knows when we spot wildlife, I might jump out of the truck and take off after them. He knows he might wait for an hour in the truck for me to return. Who knows how far I might go or what I might find? So my photos are not "my" photos, they're "our" photos. He's as much a part of this as I am!

When I was climbing the hill with the mountain sheep, (I'll post some of those photos one of these days!) I was shooting photos as I was climbing, I slipped and rolled down the hill. I'm kind of chubby so I roll good. The rocks were covered with melting snow and ice. I tucked the camera into my stomach and tried to roll myself around it until I came to a stop. I didn't get hurt and neither did the camera and I got shots of a lifetime! When I want to do a painting of a mountain sheep, I have a couple hundred photos to choose from.

I think, for shooting photos of wildlife, you have to have at least a 300 mm lense. I don't know anything about my lense other than that. The guy at the camera shop in Great Falls, tried to explain how some lenses are faster than others and how to keep pictures from blurring. Maybe someday, I'll learn those things but I'm not good at any of that stuff right now. I got lucky when I bought my camera. I bought it from Sam at Sam's Camera Shop in Kalispell, Mt. He isn't in business any more but he should be, he was good at what he did. When I bought the camera, he asked me what I specifically wanted to do with it. That's been crucial to my happiness with this camera and this lense. It's doing what I wanted it to do. It's taking reference shots of animals and wildlife and getting me some photos I didn't know I could take!

If you have a yen for photography, don't be afraid to get a camera and get out there and try it! The new digital cameras are great and the photos you take, provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Donna
I'm not a professional photographer. My main interest in my photos, is to get reference work so I can create paintings. Along the way in this process, I've discovered some things that might help you if you're interested in taking good photographs.

The photo of the doorknob I posted just before this one is a cropped version of this photo. Sometimes your photo is inside the image you first capture. Don't be afraid to crop your images. I use photoshop elements, it came with my computer software. It's a simple program and doesn't cost a fortune like photoshop does.

Photo hints and tips for working with an image like this.

When you open your software program and then open your image file, create a duplicate file to work with. If you change your original file, and click save, you might never get your original back. Another way to keep your originals safe, is to back them up. Burn a lot of cd's! Or store them on another hard drive. Don't leave it to chance they'll be ok on your computer forever.

For one thing, I have 20,000 photos. It's only taken me two years to have this many pictures! Back up is essential, you can't keep that many files on your computer.

It's also helful to sort the photos into files as soon as you download them. I sort as to subject matter. If I don't, I can't find a deer when I want to create a painting of one. I've tried different software, my mac comes with iPhoto. I don't like the program. I have to many photos for it to be useful to me. Some people love it, I don't. When I tried to get serious about using it, it took forever to start up. It creates files, and files, and files, and more files. It creates galleries and thumbnails and originals. If you try to find where it's put your original photo file on your harddrive, you might look for a week.

I download my photos into a download file, I then go through them with the preview program, from there, I grab each photo and put it into a file I've named for the purpose. It's a tedious system, but it works for me.

Back to the photo above, and the way I cropped it. I wanted my door knob to be a little off center. When I got the photo home and on the conputer, I realized I'd centered the knob in the photo. There was an even division between the brown on one side and the blue on the other side. I also included the knot hole in the crop, it balanced everything out.

Now someone else might crop this differently, but for me, the photo in the post below is what I liked best. I hope some of my photo tips help you to get the pictures you want! Donna
I took this photo at Garnet, the old ghost town. You can find Garnet on the road between Ovando, Mt and Missoula, Mt. I really like this old door knob and the colors in the wood beside it. I use a Canon 10d camera. This camera takes great shots when you use the automatic settings. I don't have to be a genius, I let the camera do that. I'm able to concentrate on finding images I can't live without when I use this camera.

When the time comes, I can set this camera on a tripod and do special effects with it also. It has a full range of capabilites. I use it exclusively for shooting photos of my art work. Many times, it gets a better image than my scanner does and when I have a large painting, it saves me hours of pasting images together from multiple scans.

The Canon 10d also comes with a connecting cable to your computer and good software for downloading your photos. It's as fast as using a reader card.

Not all my subjects are as still as this door knob was. I've taken the camera on mountain trails chasing deer, I've climbed the mountainside in the middle of a herd of big horn sheep, I've ridden on the frame of a log truck going down the road snapping photos. I wouldn't be afraid to take this camera on horseback into the mountains. It's that easy to use.

Of course, as soon as I bought this camera, Canon came out with the 20d. I think it's an even better camera....but I doubt I'll ever give up my 10d! I love it that much. Donna

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I found this dapple grey draft horse on the Blackfoot Reservation near Heart Butte, Mt. I've always loved the way dapples shine from a horse's coat. The abstract design of the shape of this horse captured my attention, I had to have this photo.

Two heads are better than one? Isn't that how the saying goes? That's what this pair of draft horses in my second photo reminds me of.

Speaking of Heart Butte, Mt. My cousins run the trading post there. Here are some links to things she offers for sale. Her friends at Heart Butte create some wonderful beadwork and art.

See if you can find something you like on her sites!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hang Murphy on your wall! This is a sketch I did last night using vine charcoal. I went to the art store and stocked up yesterday so I could continue with my sketching. This sketch has been cropped some, there's more white space all around the horses head and some more to the right of my signature.

These sketches are fragile and care needs to be taken of them, the charcoal leaves the paper at the slightest touch. I'm putting this one for sale on ebay today with special instructions as to it's care and longevity.

One neat thing about these sketches, when you look at them, you can see what went on in the artist's mind as they worked. Every adjustment shows. You can see where I changed his ears and neck as I went along.

When I worked for a newspaper selling advertising, our biggest job seemed to be getting people to leave some white space in their ads so the copy would show up. You see, when someone is buying an expensive ad, they'd want to put everything they could in it, their ad would end up looking like the rest of the paper and wouldn't stand out at all. That's the beauty of these sketches, they're simple. The subject stands right out. They're kind of naked, with every mistake and flaw showing, yet the subject is there. The second you look at this, it says Horse! Horse in the summer breeze!

You aren't distracted looking at colors or items in the background, it's just you, the artist, and the horse.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My cousin has a Corgi dog. She's such a funny little dog, named Corki. She loves Service Berries and goes over the mountain hunting for them. I caught the expectant look she gets on her face when she spots berries she thinks she can reach in my photos of her. These photos are about 5 inches wide and 11 inches long. Imagine them framed and hanging on your walls. My photos sell for $25 apeice. Let me know if you'd like them.

While I was looking at photos of Corki, I drew her image. Our cats have stolen my vine charcoal. They love playing with my materials. I can't find the charcoal anywhere. I'll have to buy more. I used a thick pastel to draw this picture of a Corgi looking at berries. I also used a coarse kind of drawing paper. I didn't like using it as well as I do the vine charcoal and the newspaper paper. I think the results show that, my drawings are better with the charcoal. It was still fun to practise on this subject.

Monday, December 19, 2005

These photos were taken near St Mary's by Browning, Mt. The mountains you see are in Glacier Park. This logging operation was performed by the Blackfoot Tribe to clean up a burned area of logs. I loved the drive we took each day to get a load of logs in this place. donna

I loved these photos of the machinery and the mountains together. The contrast between man made forms and God's majestic scenery intrigues me. Donna
Here's the last of the logs coming off our truck. You can imagine how huge this machine is, to be able to do this ...donna
This is how logs come off the trucks in the mill. The machine that picks the logs off, is called (and I don't suppose I know how to spell this) but it's pronounced La turn il. It's a French word , the name of the guy who invented the machine. On some loads, it can pick the entire load off at once. I got to ride in this machine while it was taking logs off our truck. You climbed up the side of the machine on a ladder to get into the cab. I didn't know the operator but Robert told me if I climbed up the side of the machine, the guy would be glad to let me ride with him. Robert was right! We had a good visit while I rode with him around the log yard. donna
I'll start my logging photos off with this load of logs Robert and I hauled. I call this photo, "Payload". When you can get this many logs on a truck, you know you're going to make some money for yourself when you get them to the mill.

Of all the jobs Robert and I have done, I liked logging the best. It sometimes meant getting up at 1 am so you could be at the woods by 2 or 3 (am) but I love being in the forest and I liked the loggers. They were polite and lots of fun to visit with. Growing up on a farm, I always heard what a rowdy bunch of people loggers were! I was kind of surprised to find I liked them so much. They can be blunt, quick to throw a punch, fast to stand up for themselves and their friends, and lots of fun! Even though they work all but four or five hours out of every day, they also have a great sense of humor.

We hauled a load of logs from Plains, Montana, right before break up in the spring. Robert always pulled a pup trailer behind him. The weather wasn't good for getting the trucks up the hill and the logging company was trying to get all the remaining logs out in one day. They didn't figure the weather would be good for hauling after that as all the load limits were going on the roads.

We were at the log loader at 2 am. We got our load on and started off the hill. Robert had chained up the truck. As we started off the hill, we were driving over roads covered with melting ice and slick wet clay. We came down the first loop and got to the steep part. Right before we came off, Robert decided to put on all the chains he had. We had 18 sets of chains on the truck and pup. He even chained up the steering axle. I'd never seen anyone do that before and I was getting kind of excited. I figured we were going to go for a ride like I'd never seen before.

He wasn't saying much when he got back into the truck and started down off the hill. By the time we hit the first switchback, we were really rolling and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it. The pup was swaying back and forth behind us, knocking down trees as it whipped from side to side, I could hear the cracking of the timber and as the pup ran from side to side, you could feel the pull of it on the truck itself.

At the switchback, we headed up the bank of the road, hitting the corner on the high side. The truck swooped around the corner, following a road shaped like the z of Zorro. We were naturally gaining speed as 18 sets of chains were barely providing enough traction to keep us on the slime of the logging road. Trees of the forest raced by my window, they were going faster and faster as we neared the bottom of the hill.

Waiting log trucks were parked directly in the road where we were to come onto the main road. The drivers were out of their trucks, smoking and visiting. Waiting for their turn to go up the hill and get a load of logs. None of them had a pup, they were all single trailers. Our pup was still whipping and knocking off timber as we came down and the drivers heard the noise. They ran to their trucks, barely pulling them out of the way before we took their spot. We were way down the main road before we got stopped to take off the chains.

The next day, another driver decided to take the run we had the day before, he pulled a pup to the same place and tried to come down. He only put on a few sets of chains and came off the hill. He lost the truck and blew up the engine, taking a ride I would not want to be on!

One other time I took a ride to the top of the mountain with Robert in the log truck. The road was created right on the line of the logging operation and a huge tree was just the other side of the line. Because of the layout of the road, the switchback was right at the tree. The switchback was so severe, and so steep, we backed the trucks in. Not an easy feat when you're pulling a pup.

When we got to the top of the hill, another log truck was there. The man driving that truck walked up to us and he told Robert, "you go down first. I'm not sure a truck can make it down from here." His eyes were so wide and round! When it was time to come off that hill, Robert made me get out of the truck and walk down. I argued with him, but he said No, you're walking. If I can't make it, I can jump out, because I'll be on the high side of the truck, but you wouldn't have a chance. Can you imagine, having to watch him come off that hill as I walked down? I felt like the rat who deserted the sinking ship. But he did make it without incident. He does know how to drive a truck!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Hay Wagon Cometh! Here's a beef cow, waiting for winter's feed to show up. She probably heard the rancher start the tractor and she knows it won't be long until she has supper! I'll have prints of this in my ebay store. Donna

Who'd ever believe a parking garage could be so beautiful? I loved the color in the underground parking garage. The shapes and reflections in the other photos are what caught my eyes. donna

Since it's Sunday, I'll take you on a tour of Hoover Dam. There are so many things there that create great photos...first photo is of the water, how can you have a dam without water? I had to photograph the ripples! My favorite photo is of the umbrellas in the lunch area. That is the fourth photo down. Others are general photos of the area, taken for their abstract and wonderful qualities! Donna
I look for horses everywhere. When the sun is just right, you can see the shadow of a horse head on Hoover Dam! It's between the red arrows. Pretend you're standing on the right side of the horse facing him broadside. The sun is behind you, streaming over your back, onto the horse. The left side of the horse is next to the barn and this shadow is of his head on the barn wall. can you see him? donna
I did this bull earlier this month, I thought I had posted him here before today but when I went looking for him, he wasn't on here...Now I feel better, he's included!
I call this little sparrow, Hoover. I saw him when we were at Hoover Dam. He was after this chip and had just lifted his foot to take a step toward the treat he wanted. He was also keeping an eye on me...hoping I'd not try to scare him away from the chip.
I'm nearly finished with this portrait of Angel. I have a few small adjustments to make and she's done.

My son gave me a lifesized cardboard cut out of John Wayne. This cut out of John Wayne has a smoking gun in his hand and he looks tough! I keep John Wayne by our bed. It's bad enough he's stuck in the bedroom instead of out fighting outlaws, but he also suffers the indignity of standing behind a rocking chair in which sits a calico rabbit with long floppy ears. Next to John Wayne is my baby picture. You'd think this is enough tribulation for him to put up with.

But no. Now there's more to the story. Robert was doing laundry today while I was painting in the studio. He waited a long time for me to come into the bedroom for some reason, but when I didn't, he finally said, "Why don't you go look at John Wayne?"

So I did, and this is what I saw....
My endeavor for this morning was this little chipmunk. I wanted it to look like he was in the deep forest, without creating actual leaves and tree trunks. I used a heavily gessoed and textured mat board. I smeared on paint in the colors of the forest. I then took a sock and smushed it into the paint and twisted it around in places. That gave me an effect of lights and darks. The textured places began to show through as tree branches and twigs, one of them even created a whisker on the chipmunk. I sketched the chipmunk onto the board in the paint, using some transparent red iron oxide. I kept working on him until he looked like a chipmunk to me. I think he's kind of a sassy little guy! I'll post him on ebay for sale. You can find him by clicking the ebay link to the side of this page. He's 8X10 and I'll list him for $99.99 in my ebay store. Donna

Saturday, December 17, 2005

I did this little sketch of a pitcher bowl while I was watching television tonight. I used a vine charcoal and a white pastel. I'm offering prints of this for sale on ebay in my store. The image size is 6X6 inches and the print comes to you with plenty of room around it for framing. Prints of this image are $9.99. You can find my ebay link to the right side of this page.....Donna

This is an amazing world we live in. I say that, never know from one moment to the next, what wonderful things are in store.

Robert and I drove truck cross country for four months one year. We were coming through Kentucky when he saw a sign and said, "What do you know about the Kentucky Horse Park? I think we're there." I looked up and to my amazement, indeed we were! This was a place I dreamed about...but never thought I'd see except through someone else's pictures!

We drove the semi down to the parking area, and wandered around the park. We could have spent two days there, but our load demanded we move on. I'll never forget the magical hours we spent learning, seeing and breathing horses!

The top photo here is of John Henry, the famous old race horse.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I love trees, I love elk, I love elk in the trees! The first photo on today's note, is a tree by Lincoln, Mt. I took this photo because I loved the way the tree stood tall against the horizon. He's proud and straight, even though he's been ravaged by fire.

The second photo was one of my regular wildlife shots, either they're running away, or I get their rear ends! You can't believe how many photos I have of wildlife rear ends. I was lucky in this one, I got them from the side....

The third photo....let's say you're out in the forest looking for wildlife. Doesn't matter if you're on foot, on a four wheeler, in a truck, this glimpse is what you're likely to get. You have to make your mind look for that tiny glimpse of an animal shape, or you won't see much wildlife!

I really like this photo of the elk on the horizon. I couldn't believe I got it as they were standing above me and I was in their full view. One second later, they were all gone!

The feedback from my elk photos was so nice, I decided to post some more. Thank you, Donna

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If you enjoy wildlife photos, beautiful scenery, and paintings, sign up for my free group. On the group, each week, I'll send a couple of jpg files you can freely use for a screensaver for your computer. Feel free to tell your friends about this group! Go to
to sign up.

Here's my pinto in the snow. It's an ACEO art card, 2.5X3.5 inches. I love doing these miniature works of art. I scanned this when the paint was wet, I just did it this morning. You see some glare from the shiny paint. I'll do a little more work on his shoulder, then he'll be finished. You can recognize him from my photos below, I used them for reference to do this painting.

I haven't yet decided if I'll post him on ebay for sale, or if I'll save him for the exchange we're doing in the Equine Art Guild for Christmas. If you love horse art, click on the link for the Equine Art Guild, there are a couple hundred horse artists there! If you paint horses, please consider joining the guild, you'll love it there. It doesn't matter what your level of skill might be, every horse artist is welcome. We have people who paint, sculpt and use unusual mediums to create horse art. One of our members is from Australia and she creates horses from driftwood! They're incredible.

Sheri Gordon runs and maintains the guild. You can see her wonderful work at Black Horse Design. She has a wonderful wisdom that keeps our group together and running smoothly.

If you'd like to learn to paint, the most excellent instruction videos and books you can find come from one of our members... the famous Elin Pendelton.

I can hardly say enough about the guild and the members in it. You can't find a more supportive group. Everyone there is willing to share what they know with beginners, from creating the art, to marketing it, you'll find good solid information every day. This group has helped my art to become better more than any one thing, (except for the practise of actually painting!) Of course nothing can change your art more than actually painting every single day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Everyone knows Montana has scenery. I have to admit, it gets to me, even though I've lived here all my life to this point. When we drove truck, over the road, I loved seeing the way the land was in other states, but when I knew we were coming home to Montana, I'd be so happy, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. I love this state. Donna

The light was fading and these photos weren't as clear as I wanted them to be. I didn't bring my tripod with me. I get irritated with myself when I leave it behind. I was fascinated with the colors that were showing on these horses. When I create paintings from these, you'll see a lot of oranges and violet colors on these two horses. Donna